Buttons! Buttons! Everywhere!

Buttons! Buttons! Everywhere!

Friday, December 17, 2010


A long time ago, in a far away place.... Okay, so it was about six or so years ago in Washington, D.C., I attended a writers retreat put on by Algonkian Conferences and a man called Michael Neff. I arrived at Dulles Airport after dark and took a cab to the cabin which was located in a state park not far from D.C. For a moment I thought the cab driver was taking me someone to kill me as I had no idea where I was going. He didn't, but over the next couple of days I wondered if it wouldn't have been less painful.

Ten students, both male and female shared two five bedroom cabins along the edge of the Potomac River. It was lovely and we were all hopeful. We would spend a full week there, writing, critiquing, etc. The first day or two Michael Neff read us the riot act, explaining that most writers never go far because they give up, or worse yet just don't write. To tell you the truth, his attacks or (sharing of information)had the ten of us banding together against him like warriors. It took us the entire week to realize the value of what he had to say. We really didn't know anything!

We were cocky, over confident and just too green to realize we didn't know what we didn't know! But Michael Neff became the second (my husband was the first) of many to give me good, sound advice, advice that moved me step-by-step to where I am today.

Because of Michael Neff, a year later I attended and pitched a book in one of his New York Pitch Conferences. It was a book I hadn't even written but got a nice response from two publishers for a book that didn't exist! What I learned from the conference and from Michael, was how far I had to go. So I started on my degree, a degree that will culminate in May with a terminal degree and wrote a book! For that I will be ever grateful to Michael Neff.

Funny how people come and go in your life influencing you without you even understanding the effect they have had on you. Because this is the Christmas Season I want to blog about several of the people that have influenced me in my life, then ask you to reflect on and then thank those that have made a difference in your life!

For more information on Michael Neff's New York Pitch Conference see

Aloha from Kauai!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Whole Lot of Nothing

For all of you poor people stuck in that ice cold weather, here's a photo of what we are looking at and doing. A whole lot of nothing! And, please feel sorry for us...it's only 78 degrees:)

I've been spending the mornings writing a few short stories that I'm sending out shortly. A couple of fun contests are coming up. Take a look!

100 Words or less...www.100wordsorless.com....due Dec 18. A real challenge to get a tight story in a few words.

Dreamquest...www.dreamquestone.com...Fiction & Non-fiction...Due by Dec 31.

The Warren Adler Contest...www.warrenadler.com...due Jan 15, 2011.

Have a good one!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kauai or Bust

The short version of how we finally managed to get to Kauai on a much needed vacation goes something like this.....

Cancer..prayer..surgery..prayer..blockage..prayer..big leg swelling..prayer..sonogram..prayer..no clot..praise..fluid sac..prayer..no cancer..praise..surgery..prayer..no Kauai.prayer...Kauai!!!! Praise!!!

Today was the first we've been able to really do nothing! No writing today. No work. Just sunshine, beaches and looking out to sea! Thanks to all of you who sent prayer our way! We wouldn't be here without you!

Already met a lovely woman, Judy and her wild man boyfriend, Dar. Judy is a poet, so we had a chat about books and authors we both enjoy! Very nice couple!

Also, my dear friend, Susan Jones of www.charmofthecarolines.com had a very successful weekend with the Tours of Antebellum Homes and authors that were hosted in Columbia, Tennessee last weekend. Lenore Hart and David Poyer were two of the invited authors. Susan opened her home to them as well and from what I understand a good time was had by all! Read about it on her blog!

Also, if you are serious about writing don't forget to sign up for Hope Clark's, Funds for Writer's online magazine. www.fundsforwriters.com You can get her wonderful subscription for 1/2 price or just $7.00 if you order before December 21, 2010. A must have for the latest articles, opportunities and contests! So order now!

And for you novice opera buffs, learn something new about opera from Gail Martin's website, http://operatoonity.wordpress.com! Start the new year learning more about some art form! You'll be richer for it!

Friday, November 19, 2010


Sometimes as writers, we expect that everyone will like everything we write. We have such a strong desire to be published that we are angered when the plain white post card with a stamped, "We can't use your work at this time. Thank you." drops into our mailbox, (email or post), and announces that yes, you are a crappy writer and this rejection note proves it.

Then we might pout, or call a fellow writer to try and suck some sympathy from them. We just know that there is a cad on the other end of that rejection letter, some jerk who probably didn't even read the wonderful piece of prose we wrote!

But what I've found, already, in my short career is that as a writer, we must listen, absord and understand what the rejection letter really means. It's not a personal attack. It is a rejection of the work. Maybe it was not aptly suited for the place to which it was sent. Maybe it was not written in a format that best displays the work. Maybe it's been done. Maybe the poor publisher is so overwhelmed that they just can't read one more work!

I had such was a rejection just a couple of weeks ago. At first, my disappointment was palpable. I say that, because I was alone and I swear I could feel the blood thumping through my veins as I read it. I was hurt, as a rejection of any writer's work cuts to the bone, (even though we won't admit it). Then I read the rejection again. I was the lucky writer who had an editor tell me what they didn't like about my story. They gave me helpful insights of what was expected for their publication. They were brutally honest! But they gave me something more. They gave me a second chance to write it!

Guess what? I did. I rewote the article. I received a reply that it was accepted! So, I guess the moral to this story is, save all the rejection postcards as you'll need them to remind you that as a writer, you will be disappointed. Not everyone will like everything you write, but write anyway, or maybe it's better said, rewrite anyway!

Have a good week!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

General News and a firm Graduation date

I've been conspicuously quiet as between concentrating on my school work and my husband's "procedure" have been keeping me quite busy. Now don't start calling me, he's fine, I'm fine and life is good!

That said, I'm on the verge of completing the educational portion of my paper and am running full bore at my book editing. I want to acknowledge the Des Moines writing group once again, as well as my friend and mentor, Sara, my writing buddy, Gray, my edit eyes, Marty, Chris, the New York agent, and my sister, Sue. Between all of their generous and honest critiques, I've finally found a structure for my book that makes sense!

Having never written a manuscript before, I didn't understand that structure is so closely related to the movement of the reader through time. Having a firm grip on that idea now, I am plodding ahead!

Also, I have just received news about graduation. Should the Creative Writing Office get all my information in on time, I should be graduating on May 22, 2010 with my MFA! Yippee! For those interested please see the following website for details! http://wilkes.edu/pages/754.asp

Thanks for all the prayers and thoughts! You guys are pulling me through this wacky and wonderful time!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dark Agents

Okay, I'll admit I'm less than knowledgeable on the process editors and agents have in choosing what books they decide are winners and losers. But even a beginning writer understands that we don't have the expertise to know what we don't know!So....with that, I've been reading everything several blogs on editors and agents. One in particular I really enjoy is Janet Reid's "Literary Shark" at http://queryshark.blogspot.com. She is shameless in her honesty, but a hoot!
For newbie writer's like me who are willing to take a good kick if my writing isn't up to par, sending a query to Janet Reid is like hitting a gold mind. If she like's your work, she likes it. If not, you are relegated to the "slush pile" quicker than a muscle twitch. So what has this to do with anything?
Well, I'm working on a pitch that I hope to throw in front of her sometime in the next 60 days. If I can keep her from puking....I win! If I can't, then I get some good critique I hope I can turn into a teachable moment....I win again!
Point is, learn from what the pros tell you. They know good work when they see it. They also know what won't sell. Learn from them. Don't take their critiques personally. Their thoughts make your writing better one way or the other!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Deciding on a Voice

One of the things that hit me when I first went back to school was the true lack of knowledge I had on point-of-view when writing a story. I remember well our first professor, Mike Lennon, the very talented author who is now working on Norman Mailer's autobiography. We were standing in the cafeteria, me nervously mingling with the other new students, he engaging in conversation with another professor.
All of a sudden he turned to me and said, "Do you know what point-of-view in story is?" His white bushy eyebrows were furrowed into a question mark. I,in my usual deer-in-the-headlights fashion, stood open-mouthed, my gaping hole filled with a half-eaten piece of pizza, and blurted, "Huh?" He whirled back the other professor and said, "See? They (meaning me) don't even know the basics." The disgust in his voice washed over me and I shuffled away, head down, a long piece of mozzarella still clinging to the side of my mouth.
Fast forward to now. I am just completing my educational piece (well, maybe completing) for this semester. I've had to dissect point-of-view (POV)and structure to the point of ad-nauseum. But you know what? Professor Lennon was right. I didn't know squat. I'd start writing a story with one point-of-view and then change the point-of-view without even realizing it.

Here's an example.

Emily's watched her mother move to the kitchen window. Maureen hated days like this, days when gray covered the sky like an unopened umbrella.

The story starts out with Emily's POV, but snaps into Maureen's POV. How do you know that? As the POV character, Emily cannot know that Maureen hated the day unless her mother had used dialoge telling her such. Everything thought must come from Emily's point-of-view for the reader to understand story. When the author changes point-of-view, they must use distinct triggers so that the reader will understand the point-of-view has changed. The better use of the second sentence to keep it in Emily's point-of-view should have been:

Emily's watched her mother move to the kitchen window. She knew her mother hated days like this, days when gray covered the sky like an unopened umbrella.

See,even being blonde and married to a pollack, I AM learning something!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Even Generals Don't Know Everything

I'm in San Jose, California with a retired Brigadier General. The General is a natural leader and recently has been encouraged to write her memoir. She had about 3/4 of the book written and had a publisher very interested in getting the book into print. But they wanted the book NOW! They also wanted to have control over the entire process and that can be difficult for someone who has been in charge for so long.

Without clear understanding of what the process entailed and no real explanation to the General, she found herself confused and a bit put out by the fact that both the agent and publisher wanted to "take over" her life.

I had the opportunity to share insights I have learned through my Master's program with her, such as an inside look at how and why agents and publishers want to "assist" us with our books. I explained that WE have the book idea, THEY have the expertise to know what the reader wants and how to get it in the hands of the reader. But, you might say, IT'S OUR STORY! I can't argue that, but if you are so tied to you work, your memoir and won't accept an expert's view in how to make your work marketable, then WHY are you writing a book? You are probably not that good!

So my advice to anyone who wants their baby published. Kill the baby. Let experts guide you. You don't have to lose the integrity of your book, you just need to be open to changes that make your baby sellable.

The General is a humble and very kind woman. She felt that the publisher wanted to "take control" of her life. The fault of her trepidation is not understanding what the "buying of rights" by a publisher means. She thought they'd have total control over her, thus she felt compelled to say no. Now she is more informed and ready to push ahead in the publishing world.

Writing a book is just one of the many cogs of the wheel when it comes to gettting a book published. It's a process and a tough one at that. In the end, it is rewarding to share with others the knowledge I've learned from my Master's Program. After all, isn't passing it on something we can all do?

What's your take?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pass it On

Trying to catch up on so many things, but I wanted to stop and give a shout out to several people I've met on the road lately, people who are ready to take the next step in their writing career.

In St Louis there was a man who drove the National Car Rental bus and shared with me his desire to write a book. In his face I could see a dream and it was beautiful.

Then in the trade show booth next to me in Orlando, I shared the premise of my manuscript with a wonderful lady who brought me to tears with the story of her sister's abuse by an uncle. She said she had felt so helpless, even though she had only found out about it years after it had happened. She wants to read the book when I finish edits. I was very moved by how the subject of my book had affected her.

Today on my way here to California, I sat next to a veteran who got choked up when I read him one of my favorite writings, called Passage. It's the story of a soldier I saw taken from a plane in a coffin.

Last week in Alaska, I went into a section of the convention that had different crafts from Alaskans. There in a corner was an old man with a stack of books in front of him. When I approached him, he smiled so brightly I just had to stop. I picked up his book and realized he was one of our nation's last living Code Talkers, one of the bi-lingual Navajo Indians recruited by the US Marine Corps in World Two to transmit secret tactical messages. Code talkers transmitted these messages over military telephone or radio communications nets using formal or informally developed codes built upon their native languages. Their service was very valuable because it enhanced the communications security of vital front line operations during World War II.(Info from Wikipedia)

I thumbed through the book, put it down and then left. Just outside the door I realized that I might be walking away from history and worse yet, a fellow writer, without offering some form of support. About two years earlier I had been in Alburqueque and book a book that I had signed by seven Code Talkers, so I knew the value of preserving this history.

I walked back in, bought the book and had the man autograph it for me. Just $15.00. The old man shook my hand so many times my arm almost fell off. He smiled widely again as I left as I stopped once more to thank him for his service. He was weeping.

I just don't know what my purpose here on earth is, but somehow, some way God is allowing me to use this writing thing as a way to encourage others.

As a writer we are never alone. There are thousands of people that have a dream of writing something. They just need a little encouragement.

I have seen so many of my new writing friends offering advice, patting me on the back and networking to help me find my way. Most writers have people in their lives like I do that offer that word of encouragement, or want to read our writings. Maybe it's time to pass their generosity on to someone else.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Last Frontier

Just back from our recent Alaska journey. (This one went without a hitch!) I'm on my way to St Louis, then to Orlando for a week. October is a wild month of travel, but right now the most important crush on time is my educational paper and edits, both due by early December for my MFA program. I'm taking every minute to read and write so blogs are scarce at this point.

Quick update though. Tate and Amanda live in a wonderful albeit remote area of Alaska. They are hunting, fishing and really enjoying a simpler life. Michael & I loved it there, though Alaska is a bit remote for someone as high maintanence as I am:) A great journey for us though!

As for writing, I'm in crunch time so I'll be changing photos but doing little talking until early December! Bear with me. Some good things coming!

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Great Outlet for some new writers in MFA programs

Also, if I'm being a bit quiet, it's because my travel schedule and assignments are overwhelming right now. Last weekend I had the best time with my siblings, (minus oldest brother, Milton, but we know how odd he is:)We visited the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. It was great. But the best moments came as we shared laughter sitting around an outdoor fireplace at the Residence Inn. It made me realize how precious the love of family and friends is. Each of my siblings has some very special quality that I want to emulate. It was nice to be able to let each of them how much they mean to me.

Anyway, I've been browsing Writers Market for an outlet for a short piece of work when I came upon this! Might be a great place to get a clip for any of you in an MFA program! Here's the full poop!


P.O. Box 93613
Los Angeles CA 90093-0613

Phone: (323)336-5822
E-mail: submit@thewritingdisorder.com
Website: www.thewritingdisorder.com

Covers: Quarterly literary magazine featuring new and established writers. "The Writing Disorder is an online literary magazine devoted to literature, art, and culture. The mission of the magazine is to showcase new and emerging writers--particularly those in MFA writing programs--as well as established ones. The magazine also features original artwork, photography, and comic art. Although it strives to publish original and experimental work, The Writing Disorder remains rooted in the classic art of storytelling."

Quarterly literary magazine featuring new and established writers. "The Writing Disorder is an online literary magazine devoted to literature, art, and culture. The mission of the magazine is to showcase new and emerging writers--particularly those in MFA writing programs--as well as established ones. The magazine also features original artwork, photography, and comic art. Although it strives to publish original and experimental work, The Writing Disorder remains rooted in the classic art of storytelling."

Freelance Facts
Established: 2009
Multiple Submissions: Yes
Guidelines available online.
90% freelance written
Circulation: 1,000+
Byline given.
Pays on Pays on publication.
No kill fee.
Acquires first North American serial rights.
Queries accepted by mail,e-mail
Sample copy online.
Responds in 6-12 weeks to queries, 3-6 months to ms.
Publish time after acceptance: Publishes ms an average of 3-6 months after acceptance.

Buys mss/year: 1-3/year

Submission Method: Query.

Pays with a copy of annual anthology for those published within it.

Pays expenses of writers on assignments: No

book excerpts
personal experience
photo feature
comic art

ethnic, experimental, fantasy, historical, horror, humorous, mystery, novel excerpts, science fiction, serialized novels, short stories, slice-of-life vignettes, comic art. Does not want to see romance, religious, or fluff.

How to Contact: Query by mail or e-mail. Publishes ms an average of 3-6 months after acceptance. Submit seasonal material 6 months in advance. Accepts simultaneous submissions. Responds in 6-12 weeks to queries, 3-6 months to ms. Sample copy and guidelines available online.

Payment & Terms: Accepts 1-3 mss/year. 7,500 words maximum. Acquires first North American serial rights. Pays contributor's a copy of anthology to writer's whose work has been selected for inclusion.


novel excerpts
science fiction
serialized novels
short stories
slice-of-life vignettes
comic art

Does not want: Does not want to see romance, religious, or fluff.

Buys 1-3/year mss/year

7,500 words maximum.

Reviews GIF/JPEG files.

Offers no additional payment for photos accepted with ms.

Buys one-time rights.

Needs: Quarterly literary magazine featuring new and established writers. "The Writing Disorder is an online literary magazine devoted to literature, art, and culture. The mission of the magazine is to showcase new and emerging writers--particularly those in MFA writing programs--as well as established ones. The magazine also features original artwork, photography, and comic art. Although it strives to publish original and experimental work, The Writing Disorder remains rooted in the classic art of storytelling." Wants avant garde,free verse,haiku,light verse,traditional.

How to Contact: Query by mail or e-mail. Publishes ms an average of 3-6 months after acceptance. Submit seasonal material 6 months in advance. Accepts simultaneous submissions. Responds in 6-12 weeks to queries, 3-6 months to ms. Sample copy and guidelines available online. Acquires first North American serial rights.

Also Offers: Annual print anthology of best work published online. Pays contributor's a copy of anthology to writer's whose work has been selected for inclusion.

"We are looking for writers currently in writing programs--both students and faculty."

Monday, September 13, 2010

I'm Back with some new contest!

Note the photos of Michael & I motorcycling our way through Kentucky and Indiana! Great weather. Roads that seemed like they had just been paved for us. Winding backroads just too pretty to describe and rest, lots of rest, which we needed. Enjoy the photos, but take a look at a few contests that might be just right for your work!

From Hope Clark's Funds for Writers (You mean you haven't subscribed yet?)

Submit up to 25 The Danahy Fiction Prize is an award of $1,000
and publication in Tampa Review given annually for a previously
unpublished work of short fiction. All entries are considered
for publication. Each entrant also receives a one-year
subscription to Tampa Review. Postmark Deadline: November 1, 2010.


First Prize $1,000
Second Prize $250
Third Prize $100

One Act Plays of up to 70 minutes may be submitted. Plays can
have previously been produced but not professionally. Deadline
November 30, 2010. Winners will be announced in January of 2011.
If you want a critical analysis of your work please enclose a
cheque for $50 made payable to Bottle Tree Productions.

From Poets & Writers

Best Innovative College Writing- http://jadedibisproductions.com/platypus_prize.html- College Writing Anthology- Seeking excellent work from any college student of any age.

Seems to be a lot going on out there in the publishing world. Write your best piece, edit it until it hurts, then seek out a few places to send it in, who knows maybe you'll find yourself published!

So, If you find something to share with us, share it, won't you?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Just Back From Vacation

Just a quick note with more to follow in the next day or so. Just back from a spectacular ride through Kentucky,(mostly). Timing was such as we were unable to visit special friends along the way. Weather and life just gets in the way. Will post photos and a new contest tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Structure and Story

I'm in the middle of writing my educational paper for my MFA. The pressure is on to write something intelligent that makes difference to another writer who might be struggling with the same issue of "How does a Writer put together a story to make it interesting enough for the reader to keep turning the page?"

Well, as I'm reading and studying this issue what I'm finding is that there is no magic bullet. Every writer does their own thing. But with that said, I am finding there are certain structures that every writer uses. Here's two ways a writer can construct a novel.

1. You can write a braided story, in other words, you have two or more stories that do not seem connected in the beginning of the book but ultimately come together near the end to make sense of all stories. A book written in this vein might be Paul Hardings Pulitzer prize winning book, Tinkers.

2. You can frame a book, in otherwords, start the book with an action scene, then flashback or forward for most of the story, then wrap back to the original scene to end it. That is the structure I have chosen for my novel.

3. You can write chronologically where everything happens in an orderly fashion. There is a starting point and everything in the story follows in an orderly fashion.

The reader ultimately decides what works for them. Do you have any other structural styles you'd like to share?

Maybe you

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Get to Know "The Beast" and a couple of contests!

Just sharing a photo of "The Beast", the latest addition to the household. As you know I've just finished my stint in Orlando and have my feet up on a chair at the Hyatt hotel at the airport awaiting my return home. It's been a great show for work and I've had the priviledge to work with wonderful staff! This also gives me a chance to say hello to so many vendors I've come to know over the years.

One surprise was a great conversation I fell into with two gentlemen and a lady I have known for quite awhile. They all are important people in their own fields. As I discussed my writing endeavors, I found out that the two gentlemen are writers, on efiction, one non-fiction. One has had several books and articles published while the other has many connections for his books. The lady was interested in agenting. While this all seems co-incidental, I have realized that not only does God have a plan, but that so many people we writers come into contact with are as passionate as we are or have connections that are valuable to one another!

So I guess what I'm saying is, open up a little more about what you are doing. Support those who need your help, but don't be afraid to ask if they might assist you as well! These people are so happy to do so! Now get out there, will you?

Today, take a look at a couple of contests you shouldn't miss!

The 19th Annual Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award
$100,000 for a book!
Postmarked by Sept 15, 2010
www.cgu.edu/tufts or call (909) 621-8974 Big prize!!!!

Kate Tufts Discovery Award- Prize for a First Book
$10,000 prize.
Postmarked by Sept 15, 2010
www.cgu.edu/tufts or call (909) 621-8974

John Steinbeck Award for the Short Story
$1000 prize. Must be unpublished and up to 6,000 words. By Nov 1.
www.reedmag.com. $15 reading fee includes copy of 2011 issue.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Calm Before the Storm

Made it back from Portland,Oregon late on Friday and jumped on the motorcycle ffor an impromtu motorcycle weekend. We left in the pouring rain and drove 3 hrs to Dubuque where we had a great dinner and took a deep breathe. The next morning we rode the Wisconsin River Road (very scentic) north to LaCrosee,stopping at both The House on the Rock and Taliesin (Frank Lloyd's Wright's home and burial ground.) I'll share more of that later as it has a great book connected with it.
We stopped at Wilton, WI to a place that used to be called "Pies Are Square". Years ago when we bicycled most of the Wisconsin trails this was one of our favorite stops. The pies were always fresh and made in a square pan. The shop also sold vintage items making it a very unique place to stop. Well, as everything is, it had changed owners. No worry though, they were delightful, the sandwiches good, but they were out of pie! To top it off, one of the delightful women that worked there said now, "Pies are round!"
We stayed in Lacross that night then ventured back home on Sunday, enjoying the fresh smell of cut grass, cow pastures and river water. All in all, it was a much needed rest for us both. I'm headed off to Oralndo tomorrow and will get back home on Monday of next week. Then Wednesday to California, home Friday. You can see what the month of September is going to be like!

Remember when I said one of my goals is to encourage other writers? I had a great opportunity to do just that on Sunday evening. A good friend of mine, Dr. Jeff Miller and his lovely wife Kim, were on a radio show promoting his new book "The Road to Happiness is Always Under Construction." He'd let me know so I tuned in via the internet. As I sat listening, I heard that listeners could call in and ask a question. Having read the book and being a fellow writer I know the importance of supporting each other, so I called in with a question.
After the show, Jeff sent a lovely message to me thanking me for the support. It's as simple as that fellow writers. Don't be too busy to give a fellow writer a lift. Who knows when you might need one! Have a good day!

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Little Help From Your Friends

Sometimes a writer needs a little help from their friends. I spend a lot of time alone in an empty hotel room. You’d think with that much time I’d be able to get a lot of work done. Yet, with my job, I have to rise early, stand on my feet for hours and by the time I get back to my hotel room, I’m wiped. Right now in this semester, I’m reading 7 or 8 texts and responding to the way they show this writer how to structure her story. I won’t even get to more re-editing of the book until late September.

I’m itching to write, but a good writer must read as well. I just finished some great books, which I’ll share in a few days. As a little break, I’m looking for a market for a couple of short stories. Often before I send them out I send them to friends who have volunteered to critique them for me. It helps to get someone else’s view of my work.
If you find yourself in this dilemma, why not try out a few of these sites. They just might be the kind of help you need to get that first story out the door!

This site is free but accepts donations. You can write any genre and both give and receive reader feedback.

This is a free e-zine. The authors provide personal feedback to any author who queries and offers suggestions on how to improve the work.

This is a forum that has a Q & A sections, jobs and a critique area for novels, non-fiction and scripts.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Just got back from "The Breakers" hotel in Palm Beach, FL. It's a lovely property, but trying to choke down a $45 hambueger becomes too much for someone like me. The property sits on the ocean, (which I only saw in a drive-by) and is a wonderful resort. I got to visit with a good friend who is a property manager for a Palm Beach family. That was great to see him.

He took me to a restaurant that sat on a small marina. We had a great dinner, so I returned there the next night with two of the girls who worked in a couple of booths around me. When we arrived, a jolly man named Randy, (who looked like a sea-faring Captain) cajoled us into joining a table of strangers. We all laughed and had a great time. A lovely woman named Nancy was digging in her beach purse and pulled out a small yellow plastic shovel and gave it to me. Probably because I told her I'm a writer. She knows about the shoveling of tale tales we do. She herself is an artist. She was a delightful lady. I promised I'd carry the little shovel with me, so if you see it in photos from time to time, you'll understand why!

Because I have been having technical difficulties with my computer, I haven't been able change photos from my camera or pull my contests for you. This should be corrected in a day or two, so hang with me!

In the meantime, keep writing!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What a Trip!

Here we go with yet another klutz adventure! I’m on my way to work today—really—in the office and everything. I had forgotten that I would be attending a co-worker’s father’s funeral and Had dressed like I was marching in the Mardi Gras parade. Neon pinks and greens, white pants. I couldn’t have been any more obvious unless I had added those bright colored beads that women get in New Orleans when they flash their boobs at men.

I might not have mentioned that I was almost 60 miles from home. In Des Moines, which is where I commute to when I am in town. Most of you can picture me driving along in the car at 72 mph, radio blaring, wind whipping my hair up through the moon roof of the car, singing off-key to some country song I don’t really know the words to. I’m five minutes from work and in the left lane of traffic when I realize I’ve forgotten proper attire. I see the exit for Mills Civic Parkway, (Walmart lives there and is the only store open at 6:40a.m.) Without so much as a concern for anybody around me, I crank the wheel hard to the right and cross two lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic, careening off the exit like I had it planned all along. Trust me, I could read the many gestures and lips other drivers sent my way.

I dash from my car and begin a quick chase through the store looking for anything appropriate for the event. I gather a black dress & top to cover the bulges, nylons (it’s like 100 degrees) and a pair of flat shoes that looks like a snake swallowed my feet. All totaled I spent about $4.37, but I certainly was more presentable.

Well then I get to work and my work partner, Anna says it’s getting to be time to go.
“I have to change. I’ll just be a minute,” I say and head off to the bathroom with my new garb.
I fling open the bathroom door, put my rubber soled shoe onto the shiny tile and begin a slow split to the floor, whacking my head on the wall in front of me and sending my new duds flying across the room. My right knee slams to the ground, while my left leg heads west. I come down hard on my right elbow and all !@#@! pounds splay across the bathroom like a newly butchered chicken!

And there I lay surrounded by my Wal-Mart clothes and thinking, “What just happened?” I mutter a few words like, “You are such a klutz” and “Get up, you fool, get up!” Like most people would do, I look back at the floor. I feel a pop in my back. I’m blaming the floor, but I don’t have my glasses on so I can’t see anything there. I pat my hand all over the tile then think, “I better get up in case someone comes in and sees me splayed across the room like bad carpet.” I rise slowly, accessing the aches and pains I am already feeling, but content that I neither have outward scars or blood and nobody has caught me looking like Andy Rooney!

Two seconds later, from a stall at the back of the room I hear, “Did somebody fall? Are you okay?” Then from another stall, “It wasn’t me, I think it was Ginger! Are you okay, Ginger?” Then they begin chattering back and forth about my fall. I hear the toilets flush and duck into the first stall more out of embarrassment than anything.

These women are terrific, but have me all but dead. I assure them I’m fine and get on with my changing. Before I am out the door, HR is there with a hundred forms for me to fill out. They all but call an ambulance!

I slink back to my desk and Anna who is waiting our departure. I explain what happened, sending her into stitches and promptly to our boss. We finally get to where we are going. We greet our co0worker amidst a room full of co-workers and his family. I give him a big hug with my condolences. Anna saddles up to me and whispers in my ear.

“You might want to pull off the price tag.”
“Price tag?” I say. “Where?”
“The one dangling under your armpit,” she says. I saw it across the room when you gave Rod a hug. So did everyone else,” she giggles.

I stumble my way to the car, as the pointed toes of my cheap shoes catch on every carpet thread in the funeral home and every stone in the driveway. I look like a bum after a big night of drinking. I head home. No sense fighting my bad luck anymore today. I put the window down and let my hair fly around the car. I stick my arm out the window and make waves in the passing wind.

WHACK! A field beetle doing about 200mph slaps me right in the nook of my arm. I jerk the arm in the window so fast; I hit myself in the face. I decided to pull over to the side of the road, roll up the windows and call Michael. I’m going to sit here until he comes and gets me. So if I don’t answer your phone calls for the next few days, I’m probably still waiting for him. I’ll get a blog out though! It will be from my Ipad

Now for the latest contest from Hope Clark at Funds for Writer's. (You really should subscribe!)

Deadline September 30, 2010. An annual award for the best
unpublished short fiction on any theme up to 5,000 words in
English. The author will receive $1,000, and the winning story
will be published in The Chariton Review. Three finalists will
also be published in the Spring issue. All U.S. entrants will
receive a complimentary copy of the Spring prize issue.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tinkering with Life

Had a great birthday thanks to my great family and friends! Received a ton of cards and calls. Like I'm a somebody! It was great! Had some dear friends from Elkhart spend a couple of nights with us. Deb & John were on their way to Sturgis, S.D.

Don't tell me you haven't heard of Sturgis? A gazillion motorcycles descend on a small town and create havoc for a week. Most trailer their bikes in. Wooses. (no offense John) The area is spectacular this time of year. Mt Rushmore, Custer National Park, buffalo and prairie dogs all excited about the tourism. I'm not that brave. We took off for Galena, IL instead. Great food, fun shopping and just our luck, rain. Thanks to Jim Dout for the new Harley rainsuit he left me when they moved! I was dry as dry could be. A great weekend! Now here's short book review on a new book!

I've been a little busy. Tinkering mostly. Finished my second required text for my critical paper, a Pulitizer Prize winning book called "Tinkers" by Paul Harding. Wow! Talk about a confusing mix master of beauty in prose!

Here's a quick rundown. The book opens with the main character, George, a clockmaker. He's dying of cancer. Eight days left. The reader enters as George is hallucinating. Wild stuff nightmares are made of. As he calms a bit, his father, Howard, who died years ago is introduced. Howard was a tinker, a man who visited homes with a wagon full of items housewives and farmers might need. Sort of a salesman, repairman, shoulder to cry on kind of guy. Howard is also an epileptic whose wife is tired of nursing him.

The book is framed with George dying, but the story is interspersed with Howard and George's relationship. The stories are woven back and forth leaving the reader sometimes not knowing where they are or with which character they are with. Thrown in for good measure is a how-to of clock fixing.

I was pretty much confused through the whole thing, but kept being drawn back into the story because of the spectacular use of language. This was a first novel and it wins the Pulitizer Prize! Pretty amazing feat. I finished the book yesterday having underlined and marked up the whole thing. Than I sat back and thought about it.

Maybe the author meant the reader to be drawn in and confused as that was what Geroge was going through as he lay there dying. It was also what Howard went through as he wet through a seizure. The author was tinkering with the reader! Pretty amazing stuff here!

Monday, August 2, 2010

When Life Gives You Ideas

Fast week last week. Kansas City, St Louis then Myrtle Beach. Don't let anyone tell you that flying all the time is fun! Here's my latest adventure. Recently I purchased a "Body Bugg". (www.bodybugg.com) to try and give me some motivation to lose a bit of weight. The Body Bugg is a calculator of sorts. It monitors, via a black armband you wear on your upper arm, the amount of calories you burn in a day. At night you log on to your Ipad, (thanks guys!) and put in everything that goes into your mouth. The thing then gets plugged into your computer and syncs to calculate how many calories you ate and how many you burned!

When it quits screaming, you've done okay. Well, I got on a plane to Chicago from St Louis. I'd been working all day and was feeling full of energy. For those that know me, that's not always good. I get to my row on the plane and there' a distinguished looking man, a bit older than I am sitting in the tiny seat next to me. He lets me into my seat. I take off my jacket and my Body Bugg shows. I see him looking at it, but at first he says nothing. Curiosity finally wins him over and he says, "What's that thing on your arm?"

I say, "A jail monitor."

"What did you do?"

"Murder." I say matter-of-factly.

He gets quiet and turns away. A few minutes later he looks at me and says,
"You look like a nice enough person. It must of been a long time ago."

I read the hope in his eyes, but I can't resist.

"Yeah, it was. 'Bout two weeks now."

His eyes widen. "Why are you on this plane then?"

"Going to meet my parole officer in Chicago. She thinks I'm a flight risk."

He cranks his head sideways and gives me a good long look.

"But you're on a plane, doesn't that mean you are a flight risk?"

"Naw," I say. "The police put me on this plane. Actually I was more of a driving risk. Got out of Colorado ten days ago in a golf cart. Made it clean to the Oklahoma border before someone stopped me."

"Why did they stop you?"

"I still had someone's clubs on the back end and there wasn't a golf course for two hundred miles."

By now, I'm barely able to contain myself, but the business man is so intrigued I just have to play it out.

"Yeah, even stopping for gas didn't raise anyone's suspicion," I said. "I told them I lived just down the road and had forgotten my purse. Everyone helped me out."

"How did it end?"

"How do these always end, Mr.?"I said straigh faced. "Speed trap."

He stares at me for the longest time wondering if he heard right, then bursts right out laughing.

The trip the rest of the way was hysterical and gave me a great scene for a book! When he got off the plane, he walked right up to my work partner, Anna, and gave my "parole officer" a big hug! Here's to a great flight , Bob!

And THAT's how scenes can be made!

Here's a contest from Tom Howard! Enjoy!

The $5,550 Tom Howard Poetry Contest for Verse In All Styles and Genres, plus The $5,550 Tom Howard Short Story, Essay & Prose Contest are now open for entries.
You'll find full details at respectively http://poetrycontests.exactpages.com (you will need to scroll halfway down the page for the Tom Howard Contest) and http://shortstorycontest.0catch.com

An exclusive site for the Tom Howard Poetry Contest is http://tomhowardpoetry.bravepages.com

An alternative site for both contests: http://www.winningwriters.com (you will need to click the contest of your choice at the top right or top left).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Those who know me well have to laugh at the fact that I am no stranger anywhere I go. That gift most probably came from my mother, Glenna, but I'm quick not to claim that as my family members, (five sisters and three brothers) all get great joy out of calling me "Glinger." I don't make too big a fuss over it as I know there's not one of them that can look in the mirror and not see their mother staring back at them:) They try pawning off her bad habits on me, but I'm adopted and that stuff is hereditary.

So, today I'm in St Louis for work. I board a plane, or should I say three planes, to make my way to Myrtle Beach. I'll be here until Sunday. It's been hot and muggy and I'm dressed in a suit, or I was dressed in a suit, until like most menopausal women, I get too hot and pull into a parking lot of a school and strip off everything I'm wearing clean down to my underwear, crank up the air conditioning and flop my head onto the steering wheel of the car while I refresh myself. Doesn't everybody do that? Work with me.

Yes, you know what happens next. I hear a giggle outside the car, look up and there stands two teenage girls pointing and laughing hysterically! Only me:) I did manage to pull on my travel clothes right away and screamed out of the parking lot toward the airport, gravel spewing across the lot like the Louisiana oil well! What next?

Note the picture today. It was in the window of a store and I thought it was so interesting I just had to snap a photo. Artists of all kinds intrigue me, whether they are painters, glass blowers, dancers or writers. Their works make life a bit easier to digest and add a richness to the blah days we sometimes have. Enjoy! Got to get to bed! Lots of work to do tomorrow. Watch for a contest!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I Need More Time!

The semester for the final two terms of the MFA is up and running. I'll be reading a boatload of texts and have begun doing research for my educational paper. More editing as well on the book. Travel is up as well, but I work well under pressure!

With that said, as a writer I'm always trying to "find" time for writing. I get up at 4:30am and read my Bible, and have to be out the door by 5:45am for work. I have a 1 hr drive time each way to work (when I'm in town). I listen to a radio pastor on the way to work and usually an audiobook on the way home. As of last week, (I have my first full week in now), I am making time (1/2 hr) for exercise. I try to catch up on my blog, answer emails and look for markets to send work out to. I'm usually in bed by 10:30pm.

When I'm on the road, I can squeeze out time on the plane, but if you've noticed, I don't have time to cook, (Michael does it all), clean, (Michael and our once every other week cleaner does it all), do laundry, (Michael does it all), etc. He is so supportive of this time in my life, but I'll owe him BIG:)

Anybody out there got any tips on where and how I can fit in 30 more minutes of writing without dying of no sleep? What do you guys do? I could use some advice here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Friends and a Note on Writing an Author's Bio

Yesterday, I had lunch with my good friend and work partner, Anna, and two women from a company we work with in Des Moines. It was about 115 degrees, I swear. Okay, maybe only eighty-nine, but it sure felt like 115.
Anna and I arrive a bit early and get a table. One of the women flies through the door a few minutes late and says, "It's so hot outside my armpits are growing orchids!" With that, the most hilarious lunch of my life takes place. These three women tell stories until my sides are splitting. New friendships are born, reminding me of the many friends God has given me in my life.

I heard from one via email yesterday and it made my day. Nile App, my adventure friend, my spiritual buddy, someone who I've always admired, dropped a note to me. We shared a few back and forth emails, catching up on each others lives. Though we haven't seen one another in years, she's always in my heart, a friend who's shared countless treks through woods, marathons, canoeing, you name it! And the emails gave me a great idea for a story. You never no where you'll find an inspiration or a freind for that matter. Both experiences made me realize the value of the people we make, new or old. Call a friend today, or drop a note. Don't let too much time go by. Now on to work!

Preparing for publication requires an writer to have an authr's bio. A bio can be used to introduce the writer to an agent, editor or publisher as well as be used in the writer's book. It need not be long or braggy, but it should have these key points.

1. Include your "clips" or published articles. If you have no credits, skip this part.
2. Name any contests or awards you have that relate to the work you are submitting.
3. If you belong to any large organizations relating to writing, such as the Mystery Writers of America or the Romance Writers of America, mention that. It shows you are committed to writing.
4. If you have a "platform" or a following of any sort, list it. For example, my friend Gail Martin wrote a comical book about a small opera guild in Hankey, Pennsylvania. When she was finished, she took all of the research materal she had and started a blog called 'operatoonity." She suddenly finds herself doing interviews with opera stars who contact her! Now that's a platform!
5. If you've attended an MFA program, list that as well.

Now get writing that bio! You'll be needing it soon!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Graduation Night

Having not quite finished the rest of the Graduation story, I return for just a moment. The photo above is of five of our mentors on stage acceping an award for one of our classmates, Aleysha Harren for winning the first Eutruscan Press prize. Aleysha is an officer in the United States Navy and was unable to attend this residency due to her service. We were all proud of her to have won! From left to right: Mike Lennon, David Poyer, Kaylie Jones, Bob Mooney & Phil Brady.

The final evening of the residency was exciting. We had a wonderful dinner with lots of laughter nd encouragement from everyone around us. As the time came for the degree to be bestowed on us, we were called to the stage with our mentors who read  for the sudience their experience working with us. I was very humbled by Sara's generous and kind words about me and my work. With the applase ringing loudly, the granddaughterof Jack Jones, (author of From Here to Eternity) awarded our degrees. What a great feeling! It made all of the hard work of the past eighteen months so worth it!

When I left there that night I realized one of the things that would be important from then on if I were to become a serious writer was goal setting! My friend Gray and I have committed to writing goals and then holding each other accountable to attraining the goals.

Over the next few blogs, I'll share them with you and maybe even spur you on to set attainable goals for something you might have always wanted to do! My first one pertaining to writing is:  

             1. Write for at least thirty minutes a day.

So here I am 4:30 A.M. clacking on the keyboard. I can't be a writer unless I write. What is it that you've put off doing?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Film, Play and Fiction Opportunities!

Just came from a wonderful dinner for my job in Seneca Falls, NY. I got to watch the sun set over a spectacular vineyard ( Ventosa Vineyards) that is set on the shores of Seneca Lake. Then I remembered I had to come back and post a scholarship and a contest that are available for film, plays and fiction that I don't want you to miss! So check out these opportunities before it's too late!

The UFVA sponsored Carole Fielding Student Grants are not tuition-based scholarships, rather they are grants for production or research proposals. The deadline for submisstion of application is December 15th, anually, and is open to undergraduate and graduate students in film & television. Faculty sponsors must be UFVA members or must be from UFVA member institutions. Categories are: Narrative, Documentary, Experimental, Animation, MultiMedia, and Rearch.

 Application Deadline

 December 15, 2010

 Number Of Awards  5

 Maximum Amount  $5,000

 Website Address  http://www.ufva.org/

 Scholarship Description

Up to $4,000 can be awarded for production projects, up to $1,000 can be awarded in Research.

Guidelines and current application are available at the UFVA website:

 Students pursuing MFAs in a variety of areas are eligible:

 film directing • production • screenwriting

playwriting • fiction writing

 The scholarship can be used towards tuition and expenses, and is open to students pursuing an MFA

From Hope Clarks website, Funds for Writers http://www.fundsforwriters.com/





Grand Prize - $1,500. Staged reading at the 2011 Festival (25th

anniversary: March 23-27). Full production at the 2012 Festival.

VIP All-Access Festival pass for 2011 and 2012 ($1,000 value).

Publication in Bayou.

Top Ten Finalists - Names will appear on website. Finalists will

also receive a panel pass ($60 value) to attend the 2011 Festival.

Submit unpublished, never publicly performed one-act plays up to one

hour in length. Deadline: November 1, 2010. Plays must not have

been previously produced, published or performed, including in a

formal staged reading.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Back to Normal

Well, life is good. I'm back, a bit more rested, and in New York (upstate) for the next few days. All of the paper work is in for the completion of my thesis and the contracts for the MFA have been sent. The kids got their housing today in Alaska. Just the townhouse they wanted. 2 bedroom/2 bath with room for a pony:) or at least the two dogs. Still no car, but they are working on it. Life is an amazing journy when you know who's guiding the way!

A couple of contests you should be looking at before the deadlines arrive:

Glimmer Train Short Story Contest-Deadline July 31, 2010. http://www.glimmertrainpress.com/writer/html/index2.aspead

 Fan story- aseries of contests www.Fanstory.com

Have a great day!

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Little Detour and a Big Saga

Any parents out there will certainly appreciate this little tale. I'll call it "Excursion".

As I'd told you, Last Wednesday I headed to New Orleans for work. The show I attended was to finish on Saturday, July 10 and I would be homeward bound. Michael had come along with me, lazing by the pool reading as I worked. Tate and Amanda had left our house on July 1 and were making their way to Tate's next Coast Guard base in Kodiak Island, Alaska. Before the kids left we made sure they had new tires on the Hummer 3 truck they drive ($900) and a tune-up ($400). All was well.

In New Orleans the 110 degree weather kept me sweating, which makes the whole city smell like garbage. Anyway, Thursday night we get a paniced call from Tate....and a parent's worst night mare....a message.
"Mom, Dad, call me immediately! We have a crisis!" Naturally my phone doesn't work in the convention center and Michael's phone wasn't turned on until later. When service finaaly comes, we have 15 frantic, "Call me!" messages. Any parent out there knows the dreaded feeling, where your skin crawls across your body and your heart stops.

We finally get to Tate. His voice is trembling. Here's the conversation.
"Mom, Dad, the Hummer blew up! I mean we were driving down the road about 55-60 mph, we hear a little pop! and we get worried so we hit the OnStar button and ask them to run a diagnostic. They tell us that it should be okay to make the next 15 miles to Whithorse, Yukon Territory, Canada to have it looked at. So we drive on."

Right about now, Michael and I are thinking, "Here we go. They were probably driving 100mph pulling that trailer and hadn't checked the oil since they left our house." (Parents, you know you'd be thinking this.)

They continue. "So Mom, we drive a little further and all of a sudden, (That's how trouble always arrives, isn't it?), smoke starts coming out of the engine, flames are shooting up all over the place. I get the car to the side of the road and tell Amanda to grab the dogs and get out. (This is where we see God's hand in things.)
We jump from the car and before we even could pull anything out, a young man named Eric (no, they didn't ask his name right then) pulls over, jumps out with a fire extinguisher and puts out the flames. (Really? A fire extinguisher? Who carries those?) Eric then gives the kids a ride to town. Onstar gets them a tow truck and has the truck and trailer towed to Whitehorse. By then it's too late to do anything more than pass on the bad news to the parents and figure out what to do next."

On Friday, Tate startes making calls, first to our agent, Larry, whom I'm a little bee peeved at. All he does is give Tate a phone number for some woman in New York. Here's the catch. In Canada there is no "Progressive" agency, so Tate couldn't get any insurance adjustor until "New York" approves one. But the lady in New York is three hours ahead of the kids time and not answering her phone. They leave twenty messages. Phone calls are flying back and forth between the parents and the kids as we try and help them. They had planned in an extra day or two to get to the ferry that would carry them across the bay (14 hrs) to Kodiak with the trailer and dogs. (Did I mention 2 dogs, pit bulls?) The ferry was to leave last night (Sunday) at 9:30pm.($700)

Long story short here. The agent finally gets to the kids at about two on Friday (NY time). She tells them she'll have an adjuster there shortly. She does. The adjustor looks at the vehicle and says he'll probably suggest they total the car, but must have permission from NY  before Tate and Amanda can be sure what to do next. Guess what? New York lady goes home. It is Friday afternoon after all and it really doesn't matter that two kids are stuck in the Yukon Territory (who knew that place even existed?) now until Monday.

Here's the caveat. The kids had taken what they thought was enough cash and were going to use credit cards for gas, hotels, etc. (Yes, probably our credit card. Don't judge me.) Well, in Canada, don't ja know, they don't like using credit cards because they are too cheap to pay the fees. (Kinda like the Dutch in Pella.) So they are very short on cash. They can't use there debit card either. They try to get a rental car. Can't take them out of Canada. We are talking about 800 miles yet to Anchorage, then another 5 hours to Homer where they are supposed to jump the ferry. They have enough money to eat. the young man, Eric and his wife drive Tate around to look for a vehicle, etc. Poor Amanda is stuck at the hotel with the dogs who take to loud barking and pooping on the floor if they are left alone. (You get the picture.)

On this end, Amanda's folks are trying to wire them money to buy a vehicle. ($12, 900) ( Nope. It was too late on Friday. They closed.) We told them to leave the trailer and we'd get them and the dogs tickets on a plane for Kodiak. They could go back later and retreive the truck. Had it all set up, but WOW! did you know that from May until September the airlines in Canada will NOT fly pets. They need the cargo space. Slap that solution.

Now it's late, late Friday night. The kids have run out of cash. They have no options left except to wait until Monday or Tuesday to see what might happen. Tate has to report before then to get housing. So at 2am on Friday night, Saturday morning, Michael and I hatch a plan. We'll fly Michael to Anchorage, get a truck with a hitch, and drive to get the kids, return to Anchorage, store the trailer in Anchorage on a Coast Guard base, fly them to Kodiak and that should solve the immediate problem. He gets set to leave on a 2:40pm flight on Sat. I will close the show at 3pm, he can cab it to the airport an hour or so sooner. Next glitch. He did not travel with his passport. I always do. Change of plans. I'm going to Alaska!

Just an hour before the show closes, I make Michael tear down my booth while I rush to the airport. I fly to Anchorage (total flight time from New Orleans about 9 1/2 hrs). I did mention that I only had 2 hrs sleep, right? I make a million phone calls trying to set up a rental car. ($47) No car allows towing. Enterprise finally reccommends Alaska 24 hr rental. They don't answer the phone. Enterprise reccommends 24 hr Auto Rental (see photo). A wonderful young man named Jesse booked me a truck then came to get me at the airport with one of his army buddies in his buddies personal car. They were so wonderful and  sweet young soldiers to boot. I take the truck (broken windshield, cigarette burns in the seat, almost bald tires, no gas) but Jesse assures me the truck will make it without issue. ($385 for 2 days)

It's about 7:30pm Alaska time. I haven't eaten. I haven't slept but 2 hrs. I pull into the gas station just around the corner from the rental place, fill the truck, ($63.87). I look at a map. (There's only one road, the Alaska Highway) and start the 800 mile journey. No sooner had I put my foot on the gas pedal then does the "engine light" come on. I drive back to the auto dealer where the boys decide maybe I shouldn't take the truck. They are really so sweet, but they have no other vehicle to give me. Knowing my quandry, (they probably smelled it on me by now) they make a bunch of calls to try and help me. Finally they find a young man named Shawn at the Alaska 24 hr auto rental who says he has a car. The boys give me a ride and I sign up for the rental. (now $525). Shawn is so kind and reduces the $1000 plus rate down to $525 and allows me to drive across the border. The truck is huge. (broken windshield, decent tires, cigarette burns in the seats. Really, all the vehicles in Alaska look like this. I'll explain why in a minute.

About 4 hrs later than expected I hit the road. Or should I say, it hit me. Little known fact about Alaska and the Yukon Territory. At least little know to me. The one road they have is littered with humps and bumps and gravel and holes like the Department of Transportation had actually planned them out. I felt like I road a washboard the entire way. I didn't make it past about 60mph the entire way. Good news is, it stayed light for 19 hrs. I drove and drove and drove passing few cars, but loads of mountainous beauty. It felt like the northern equivilent to the Kentucky backwoods. I heard a banjo planning in my head more than once.

Gas is a real issue. I took everybodies warning and stopped at any hole in the wall when I saw a station open. I drove and drove. Every fillup is around $85.00. By now I've been sleep and food deprived for about 40 hrs. I'm starting to see things. I swore I saw a cluster of  Moose. It looked like a bunch of antlers. Okay, it was late, I was hungry, it was probably one moose and a bunch of sticks. Now I've got to pee. No worry folks, just stop your vehicle, cop a squat right in the middle of the road because you aren't going to see a car....ever.

I drive and drive. It's 2:30am. I have crossed the Canadian Customs. The agent asks, "What are you doing in Canada?" I reply, "Here Iam to save the day, you know it's Mighty Mom, she's on her way!" She stares for just a moment, then waves me on. Like this happens every day!

The roads change to dirt, like Canada can't afford pavement. Then again, their health care is not so great either. It's raining. I arrive in Beaver Creek. The sky is finally a shade of dark like just before the sun really disappears. I'm not good in the dark and I'm fried. I pull into a small "hotel" lot. The sign says full. I ask if I can use the restroom and park in the driveway. (Very loose term) The bathroom is shared amongst the twelve rooms. You can tell it must be all men who use the toilet. (Floor puddles, the seat's up)

I get into the back seat of the truck and pull the stolen United airlines blanket over me. (I knew I'd never find a hotel.) The seat belt is poking into my belly, and I've wadded up the clothes I brought with me. (I did mention that New Orleans temperture was over 100 degrees.) It drops to forty. I have a pair of short socks over my feet, my sleeveless top rolled into a pillow and the stolen United blanket covering me. I sleep for two hours. At 4:30am the sun beats through my window and wakes me. It's light so I must be rested I think and hit the road again. I ride on torn up and gravel roads the rest of the way arriving in Whitehorse at 10am. Michael is near panic at home, helpless. I have no phone service. I think they use tin cans up here.

The kids are ready. Tate takes the truck and hooks up the trailer, empties what they can resuce from the Hummer, while I grab a quick bite to eat at the hotel. We take off again. I'm in the back seat listening as the kids go through everything that happened. I was so proud of them, but they had just run out of solutions. The road is getting worse and worse. It's still raining. The dogs are getting car sick. I'm getting car sick. Tate stops and lets me drive. I drive all by about 50 miles back. We arrive last night into Anchorage at about 1am. No one has slept. We did find a hot dog at a gas station. 16 hrs again. They have missed their boat. The hotel won't allow dogs so Tate sleeps in the truck with them. ($199) At 4:30 Amanda wakes Tate and they work rearranging the trailer, taking the things they will need in Kodiak. I stay out of their way until 6:05
am. Tate is booked for a 7:10am flight to Kodiak. He is to go ahead, get checked in and try to get housing. Amanda will follow at 3pm with the dogs. That will give her and I time to get the trailer to the Coast Guard base. I say, "Buddy, you've got to get to the airport." "Mom, I've got to finish packing then take a shower yet!" Oh, I see this coming. "Son, you'll miss your flight! We just paid $300 to get you a ticket. You'll lose it if you don't get there. You need time to check in (3 bags $125) and go through security. By now we were hemmoraging money.

Next thing I see is a suitcase being heaved into the air and my son's temper going off. He's changing his clothes in the parking lot. Amanda is silent. This kid is no match for me. I'm a Mom. "Son, you can throw a fit, but you better drag your butt into that car...Now!" Amanda has booked him on Alaska airlines which it the first airline we get to. I drop him off. He apologizes. He's a good kid, just really frustrated with everything that has gone on and by having to leave Amanda behind to handle the dogs. My flight is scheduled for 2pm. Amanda's for 3pm.

I watch Tate walk away with three huge bags draped over him. He looks like a pack mule. He has hugged me so tight and thanked me so much still apologizing for getting mad. I understand. I slide some cash into his hand. I watch him walk away and I want to run after him and hold him like he was the little boy I still remember. "It'll be okay, Som. God is in control."

I go back to the hotel and Amanda has received a call from Tate. Alaska Airline has no reservation for him. Amanda gives him the confirmation number. It's for another airline. He is down to less than 30 minutes to takeoff. He has to run the entire terminal to the other end of the building with the luggage. He makes it. Amanda gets the directions for the Coast Guard station. 15 miles away. I suggest we stop by the airport to buy her ticket so another mistake can be avoided. The dogs have to have special paperwork. She will fill it out. We'll have plenty of time to drop off the trailer, drop off the rental car, feed and water the dogs, shower, eat. She comes flying out of the terminal. "The 3pm flight is sold out. the only flight is at 9:55am with room for the dogs." It is 7:45.

We drive like maniacs to the Coast Guard base. I would not be able to do it without her as she has military ID. We have a nice young man help us put the trailer near a woodline. He leaves us with a warning. "Yeah, we've had a few things broken into and stolen, but I'll try and keep an eye on this for you." We race back to the hotel to get her luggage. I feed, water, and drug the dogs. I want to take their drugs myself. We rusah to the airport where the line is long for Amanda to check in. She rushed out. We circle the airport to the baggage claim area. She runs in the dogs one at a time, then rushes out to gather her luggage and hug me goodbye. I watch her run away. I am grateful she makes my son so happy. I sit in the truck and praise God for getting us here safely, for the kindness of so many strangers and for the new life ahead for the kids.

I get back to the hotel  by 10am. My flight is at 2pm. I finally shower, find food and drive the truck back to the rental place. John, Shauns' dad, drives me back to the airport offering to help Tate and Amanda when they have to come back to Anchorage next week to buy a vehicle. I am so amazed by the kindness of the Alaskan people.

I am in San Francisco writing this tonight. I have a four hour layover and will leave here at 11:55pm Pacific Time. I fly from here to Chicago, then Des Moines. I'll arrive at about 7:50am where my buddy, Anna and my boss, Mike will meet me and take me to work. I'll work today and Michael will come up and pick me up tonight. I'm hoping to sleep on this next flight though I did catch myself snoring from Anchorage to here.

I'll take Wednesday off to get my packing done for my upcoming New York trip on Thursday.  Forgive me for such a long blog, but as a parent you'd have done the same thing. Don't forget about Alaska 24 hr car rental if you ever get to Anchorage. Shawn and his dad John are the best!

I will never forget this adventure! The scenery was spectacular as were the people. Though I had no time for anything more than running, it was good to be with the kids (captive audience). Alaska is beautiful as is the Yukon. Neither have good roads. No place for motorcycles either. Still a place to see before you die!

P.S. I returned the stolen United blanket on the flight from Ancorage to San Francisco last night:)! I'm home and sleeping for the next two days!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Attitude is Everything

I am on the road in New Orleans. I'm already beginning the reading and research for the next step of the MFA program. B

Back to the residency a bit as I'd like to share the wonderful experience of having a professional outside reader commentate on my writing. My read was Literary Agent, Chris Tomasino of the New York Tomasino Literary Agency. Her photo is above. She has a great reputation in the business world and has represented authors like ?????? She not only read my book, but had another agent read it as well. They pooled their thoughts and presented me with a six page review!

Boy! I think I was the luckiest student in the program as some students received a one or two page review. The school gave us our reviews on Monday night, allowing us to digest the information or run off wailing into the night! I read mine, took a walk, got on my knees to thank the Lord for Ms. Tomasino's great review and had a great night. With that said, it was no love fest, Ms. Tomasino pointed out what my Des Moines reading group saw, (yeah, Des Moines!) then proceeded to give me advice on how to fix the issues I have been having with structure and time. The honesty I recieved from such  gracious lady is s appreciated! On Thursday,  I got to sit with Chris face to face and talk through her review. it was an incredible experience, one I am going to learn from! http://www.tomasinoagency.com/

So with that, as you write, learn not to take critiques on your work personally, Learn from the experts and keep a good attitude. the writing life is a long lonesome road full of ups and downs, but so well worth it!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

More on the MFA Program

The photo above is of Phil Brady, author and poet. http://www.philipbrady.com/. One only has to hear Phil recite one of his works like ,To Prove My Blood: A Tale of Emigrations & The Afterlife (Ashland Poetry Press 2003) and By Heart: Reflections of a Rust-Belt Bard (University of Tennessee Press 2008). Also he co-authored an edition Critical Essays on James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man with James F. Carens (Twayne, 1998), to know you are in the prescence of a genius.

On Monday and Tuesday of the residency, we spent out days in craft classes working on the business side of the writing world. We learned to craft good pitch letters (known as query letters), author bio's, and synopses (short descriptions of out work.) Learning this part of the process gets a writer thinking about what to do with the work once it is ready to be published.

We worked on punctuation and had the MFA program explained in detail for us. We also had the pleasure of listening to Phil Brady, a poet and orator, one of the few brilliant people who recites every work he has from memory. Everyone loves this class.

Monday night we watched screenplay writer and producer, Michael Mailer's (Norman Mailer's son) film, The Golden Boys, which starred Rip Torm, Bruce Dern, Mariel Hemingway and David Carradine (his last film). It was an honor to have him share the film with us. http://www.michaelmailerfilms.com/past.html

On Tuesday night we listened to readings from poet Tony Morris, authors David Poyer,  John Bowers, poet, Christine Gelineau, YA author, Cecelia Galante, authors, Lenore Hart, Robert Mooney, Nancy McKinley and poet, Phil Brady. What talent!

More on the rest of the full week coming later.

For work, check out the website  for The Santa Fe Writing Project. http://www.sfwp.com/ This site is for the craft of writing and hosts a contest you are sure to like. Get to it!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Residency Days Two and Three

Writers love these kinds of days when the pressure is on and you don't want to make a fool of yourself. On the first few days we get to listen to our classmates, as well as the classes before us and behind us read cuttings of the work they have accomplished over the past semester, It's exciting standing in front of everyone, hoping they like your work, but wondering if you'll ever be as good as the works coming from others.

I had the priviledge of reading first, a task I didn't mind though I probably whined a bit about it to someone:) The room stills and everyone gives you their full attention. You read, looking for the body language that says they are interested...or not. When you are done, you wait again, ever insecure about the work you've created. The crowd always bursts into spontaneous applause, like you're a somebody! It's the greatest feeling!

You walk to your seat, a little less afraid of why you chose to put yourself in this kind of debt or put yourself through this kind of self-doubt. Then a fellow writer leans over and puts their hand on your knee and says, "That wowed me!" and you thank God that he has been there all along, pushing words from your head into your hand. That's what writers do! The MFA program is about the commaradarie that only other writers can understand. They know you have leveled your guts and thrown out everything you have for the readers praise or pity.

Speaking of writers, the photo today is of Kaylie Jones, author and daughter of Jack Jones who wrote From Here to Eternity. Kylie is a wonderful author in her own right. Her latest book is a newly released memoir titled, Lies My Mother Never Told Me. A good read!  Visit Kaylie at http://www.kayliejones.com/. How lucky are we to be able to share wonderful conversations and friendships with writers like Kaylie!

Check out the latest contest from Hope Clark's  Funds for Writers!  If you haven't yet joined Funds for Writers, this is the month to do so! You won't regret it. It's full of great advice, fun and contests that will test your writing stamina! Go to http://www.fundsforwriters.com/ .






The Competition is open to any writer, regardless of nationality,

who has never been the author of a published novel (authors of

self-published works may enter, as long as the manuscript submitted

is not the self-published work) and is not under contract with a

publisher for publication of a novel. Only one manuscript entry is

permitted per writer. All manuscripts must be original, previously

unpublished works of book length (no less than 220 typewritten pages

or 60,000 words) written in the English language by the entrants.

Murder or another serious crime or crimes is at the heart of the

story. If a winner is selected, Minotaur Books will offer to enter

into its standard form author's agreement with the entrant for

publication of the winning manuscript. After execution of the

standard form author's agreement by both parties, the winner will

receive an advance against future royalties of $10,000. Deadline

November 13, 2010.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Talent, Talent, Everywhere!

For anyone who wants to be a writer, consider a low-resdicency MA or MFA program. I started at Wilkes University not understanding the scope of what I'd learn with mentors and authors whose fame was not bragged about. Last Friday night, I had a Master's Degree bestowed on me by the University amidst such famous authors as Jeff Talarigo, author of The Pearl Diver and The Ginsing Hunter, both spectacular works,  Kaylie Jones, author of her new memoir, Lies My Mother Never Told Me, and my mentor, Sara Pritchard, author of Crackpots & Lately.

The photo above is of John Bowers, author of the new book, Love in Tennessee and brand new "tweeter". Take  look at their books and enjoy the website they all have! Tweet@JBowersAuthor
 More in a day or so!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wow! What a Ride!

I'm back home in Iowa and ready to get back on the horse tomorrow! Short post today, but just a note to tell you all I had an awesome experience which I'll start sharing tomorrow! My boy and his wife are visiting for the next few days as they head to their next base in Alaska, so I need to devote a bit of time to them. But starting tomorrow evening, I'll walk you through the past week, it's ups and downs and the culmination of receiving my Masters in Creative Writing Degree.

Thanks to all who have been so supportive! I could feel your prayers! Oh and I LOVE my IPAD!!!! Having a ball with it!
Talk to you shortly!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

News From Wilkes University!

Just a quick post to day to keep you up to date. First, to be amongst other writers is such a blessing! Everyone is chatting about their projects and the tough semester we just came out of. The support  here is incredible!

I was the first reader yesterday for our Master's Capstone! It was exciting to read a piece of the book and get such a great response from the audience. My whole cohort that read yesterday was outstanding! We enjoyed a program with "the new kids" last night then our cohort went for pizza, catching up on each other's lives.
Today we head back for more readings all day and one craft class on "Social Networking for the Writer". Should be fun! Tonight the mentors, all fabulous authors in their own right will be reading at Barnes and Noble. This is the part we all love! The days are long, but so fulfilling! Just to be amongst other writers that understand how tough the writing life can be is encouraging!

The photos are all from campus. Sara Pritchard, author of "Crackpots" is my mentor. We had the photo above taken after my reading. She's a peach and a very talented and caring friend!

Monday evening we get our manuscripts back from our professional readers with notes and comments! That's when the "fun" begins! I'll be in touch!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What to do with a Bidet

I find myself in some pretty exotic places. Kansas City, St Louis, Minneapolis. While I'm travelling I often come across things I've not quite had the pleasure of seeing before. Imagine my surprise to find a leg shaving device.  I think every hotel in America should have. They call it a bidet. (Really, I've seen them before.)

The bellman made a big deal of showing it to me. "Why there, Madam, is your private bidet!" As if I'd be inviting in a host of others to watch me while I use it. It made me wonder. Did others have a private bidet or did they have to share it with the room next door? Did they use it for shaving their legs like I did or did they do something much more ominous with it?

I was curious, so I asked the bellman. "Sir? Does every room have a bidet or must they share it.?" 

"Oh, no Madam. Only certain rooms have a bidet," he said shaking his head rapidly back and forth. For a moment I thought he was having a seizure and almost lurched at him.

"Certain rooms?" I asked inquizzitivly? I began to think that maybe they saw extra dirt on the back of my pants when I arrived. I twisted in front of the mirror inspecting my trousers. No dirt. A speck of a chocolate raisen, but no dirt.

"The special rooms, Madam," he said as though I had ridden the short bus with the tinted windows to the hotel. "For special people." He grinned widely and moved slowly toward the door.

I get out a lot, but I'm still scratching my head on this one. Did he know me as a child? He seemed to look at me the way my siblings do in that knowing fashion that shouts loudly...."You're adopted! You're special!" (You  know who you are:)

Is it just because I think outside of the box? Honestly, what use can two toilets in the same space really be? What,  are we taking our spouses in there with a glass of wine while one does number two then moves to the butt shower while the other one does their thing? Is that a romantic night out?

I just don't get it. So I used the ceramic dish for somthing quite appropriate. Shaving my legs. It had a little fountain that shot right up to the ceiling with faucets that showered me with both hot and cold water. It was a good use for something so silly. Don't judge me!

I'm headed to school tomorrow! Pray for me as this will be a tough week. Proudly and though God's grace I'll come home with a Master's Degree in Creative Writing. Blogging might be scarce as the days are long, but I'll see what I can do! Have a good week!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

School is Right Around the Corner, Plus Flashback Tips!

Residency is only a few days away and I'm getting anxious to get out there and finish this part of the program. A lot of the people I started out with are taking another semester to finish their projects so they won't be at this residency. Several more are stopping at this point to get on with the lives they've put on hold for the last year-and-a-half. I've decided to move on to the completion of the MFA or Master's of Fine Arts. It is the terminal degree, in other words, for this subject, it's as far as one can go. It will take oe more year, but as fast as this past year has gone, I believe it's worth it. Michael and my family have been great encouragers and God's grace in my life has been something I can hardly understand.

So tonight, I'm sitting here goig over everything I need to take with me to make sure I'm ready. I can confess I'm a little bit scared, but then again that only drives me to my knees. I'm a whole lot grateful to know that for some unknown reason, I can do this! I'm a writer!

Now for work. Flashbacks are a tool writers use to show the reader a part of the past while telling a story in the present. You give the reader a sense that they are going back by using transistions, or signals, that they are where you, the writer, meant them to be. If they find the transistion jerky, it may stop the reader from continuing. I should know as I've made this mistake:) Learning to make smoothe transistions can propel the reader back to a time where the memory of the character is clear.

For instance, here's an excerpt from my book Tobique. Emily is the main character. John is her grandfather. I've italisized the flashback for effect.

The Tobique, too, appeared changed, its waters emptied of the shaven logs that once bumped, lurched and latched into diving pools for the adventurous children of Plaster Rock. Its flow shifted easily, as though unfettered and unhurried by the long gone, surging timber.

Groups of dandelion puffs floated above the water, bobbing across the water like parachutes, touching, rising, then sinking into the face of the slow-moving current. The gliding seeds united with various drifting debris in shallow pools along the shoreline. Standing above the red banks of the river, the tiny clouds of white reminded Emily of Reverend Pike’s mushroom clusters of saved souls.

She cocked her head to remember the strains and steady beat of clapping hands of those who stood on the river banks to sing hymns of praise as sinners were washed clean in the river.

A fish jumped, then splashed a sphere of reentrance, the movement sending a circle of water rippling toward shore. Emily imagined tiny fish along the river’s murky edge. She closed her eyes and felt the many summers of joy spent wading there while polliwogs flitted between her toes. Though the wind was gentle in its blowing, she huddled her arms close to her body and allowed a warm memory to cover her.

In late spring he always took her fishing. Trout. Downriver, she and her grandfather donned tall green rubber boots and waded into a shallow cutting of the river. The morning was crisp, the water cool through the rubber, chilling her feet like the water bottle her grandmother used to bring down a fever.

They’d stop to pull fiddleheads from the green clumps lazing along the banks of the Tobique, the scroll-like ferns punching from the soil. Emily filled her tiny bucket with the treat that went so well with fresh fish, then followed her grandfather to the edge of the river.

John tugged the handmade canoe to a felled log, securing it in the shade for seven-year-old Emily to play in while he fished. He rubbed his callous hand across the top of her head, shaking it back and forth as he cautioned her about respecting the Tobique. He shared stories of the near-misses of his own mistakes on the river, and of his baptism beneath the watery skin. He settled her in the boat and prepared his lure before pushing into the quick moving current.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Two Contests from Funds for Writers

This week is a bit crazy! I worked today, am off tomorrow to get packed and ready for my residency at Wilkes University. I have to take two copies of the final manuscript with me, as well as the other projects due. It's exciting and a bit scary all at once. The blg will be light for a few days, but I'll always find time to drop a note and let you all know how things are going. For now, don't forget to check out Funds for Writers where these next two challenging contests came from. Have a good night!





Can you produce a masterwork of fiction in three short days? The

3-Day Novel Contest is your chance to find out. For more than 30

years, hundreds of writers step up to the challenge each Labour

Day weekend, fuelled by nothing but adrenaline and the desire for

spontaneous literary nirvana.

1st Prize: Publication*

2nd Prize: $500

3rd Prize: $100

*The first prize winner will be offered a publishing contract by

3-Day Books after the winner announcement in the January following

the contest. Once the contract is signed, the winning novel will be

edited, published and released by the next year's contest. 3-Day

Books are distributed by Arsenal Pulp Press. Paid registration must

be in the mail by the Friday before the contest (Sept. 3, 2010).






One first place winner receives $1,000 and publication! Two

honorable mentions receive $100 each. Deadline September 10, 2010.

Submit one piece of creative nonfiction, not to exceed 10,000 words.

Writing must be original, written in English.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What a Weekend!

Just got home from a working weekend, but what a great time! First the Emerson Drive Concert on the most fantastic night I've seen in years, then Friday night a dinner with the 50 plus year graduates from Logan Chiropractic College. It was wonderful hearing how these doctors have done so much for so many people all of these years. Then last night I attended a formal private Chris Botti concert. He is a concert trumpetist who used to open for "Sting". The music was magical and the evening truly enchanting! Take a look at his website.

Hang in there with me. Tomorrow, I'll have a few new contests to share!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friends and Family

I'm in St Louis. The campus I am on is so beauiful and full of surprises this weekend. We were treated to a private concert with the great country band, Emerson Drive, who wowed the crowd! After the concert we ate a six foot birthday cake celebrating Logan College of Chiropractic College's 75th Anniversary! Dr. George and Liz Goodman were the kind and generous host of this fabulous event. I was invited to a dinner tonight with graduates who had fifty or more years in chiropratic. It was an amazing time listening to the encouraging words of these warriors. Tomorrw night we get to attend a concert by Chris Botti, jazz trumpeter. It'll be a black tie affair wth some wonderful new friends.

But today, I learned the true measureof a family that loves each other. My whole life I have felt somewhat responsible for being the family "instigator". A middle child of eight kids, I was often the tattletale or the one that stirred the family trouble pot. I never felt as needed as I saw my oldest brother, Milton, being, as committed and faithful as my second oldest brother Kent, has always been, as adventurous as my oldest sister, Peggy is, as smart and gentle as my older sister, Sue, is, as quietly full of grace as my younger sister Beth is, as fun as my youngest brotherJ eff is or as tenderhearted as my youngest sister Tanya is. I always felt a bit left out, like I had to try so hard to make anyone notice me. Of course, my family didn't help that feeling by telling me I was adopted!

But last night, a package arrived with a gift for my graduation from all of them. It was a new Ipad! The gift was something I wanted so much, but I had no idea that they were going to give one to me. My husband had kept the secret, so the package was a complete surprise. As I tore the paper from the package, I felt like  a "special" little girl, a feeling I can never remember having as a child. As I held the computer in my hands, then read the hilarious note, I bowed my head and praised God for my siblings. I must have cried for a half an hour. I felt so unworthy and humble receiving such a wonderful gift from this precious group of extraordinary people.  I honestly cannot believe I am worthy of their love.

When I was a child I could never forsee the grace God would bestow on me, but now, on the eve of my graduation, here he is again, surrounding me with his love through my generous family. I shall never be able to explain to them the depth of their gesture. I feel so encouraged, so loved and I just wanted to take this moment to tell everyone!

What a great day! No work tonight as I'm still crying:)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Here's a Short Story Titled "Invisible"


Nobody saw her.

Midnight. She heard the struggle. A muffled scream. Someone gagging like hands were choking away life. A final gasp, then a body slumping to the ground. She didn’t move from beside the dumpster, instead burrowed deeper into the discarded plastic bags.

“Come on Billy. He’s dead.” Feet shuffling. New leather clapping on the alley pavement, tapping quickly toward the street.

She waited, her breath shallow. Silence.

She pulled herself from the trash pile and shuffled from behind the bin to the body.

Merely a boy. Brutally beaten. Shot six times. Barely recognizable. Pockets turned inside out as though the perpetrators were searching for something. Slumped against the dumpster, his head pushed forward to his chest. One hand flung back against the cement wall, a tattoo of a snake needled in his wrist. Still bleeding. She looked closer. Familiar.

Brrriiinnnggg! Brrriiinnnggg! Brrriiinnnggg! Brrriiinnnggg!

She craned her head around, eyeing the cell phone lying in the middle of the alley.

Six hours later she was on the street, the night behind her. Forgotten. She arrived at Benny’s Bakery and gathered the Pepsi he always had waiting for her outside. She waved at him through the window. He gave a nod.

She had a brace choking her chubby neck. Her legs were wide and covered with white pants that looked like someone had sprayed dirty snow over orange rinds. She limped along, one foot bound in a sneaker, the other covered only by a grey athletic sock. When she walked, she drug her left foot as though she were hobbled. She carried a Pepsi in her left hand and brought it to her lips, sucking in a tiny sip, pulling it from her face then pushing it back to her open mouth immediately for another draw. It was like watching a wind-up doll, walking, sipping, walking, sipping as though her arm had to pump the can to her face in unison with her leg.

When she stopped, she’d sniff the air and look around, her big nose bobbing up and down like she was tracking an escaped prisoner. Now and again, she’d lift up her sneaker and dig at dog poop that wedged itself in the one rubber sole. She’d pound her leg on the pavement, trying to free the last clump, then give up and limp on.

People raced by, heads down, never eye contact. Most afternoons she’d wait at the bus stop pretending she had somewhere to go, someone to see, something to do. When she was hungry, she’d dig in the trash cans in the subways, always full of discards. She only remembered ever being hungry once in her life. Before.

She’d been on the street for six years. She got in the car the day she buried them, but never drove home, leaving the car near the river. Empty. Nothing to go home for.

Kevin had been twelve. Jenny seven. Her husband Tom arrived home from work two hours past his normal time. Sweating. Cursing. Mad. His boss, Bill Jansen wanted to hire his son to take over the Sales Manager position, currently held by Tom. Tom was expected to train the punk, then work for him. There’d be a raise. He’d quit. Walked out, leaving Bill and his son open-jawed.

“You’re nothing !” the kid yelled at the back of Tom’s head. “You won’t get away with this!”

She’d gotten up in the middle of the night, unsettled. She’d gone to the driveway to get the purse she’d forgotten in the car. Sleeping pills.

The sound of glass spewing everywhere. Screams. Gunfire. She stood with her face pressed to the front window. Paralyzed. Two bodies dressed in dark clothes plummeted down the stairs and out the back door, she’d told the police. A sliver of light from a flashlight illuminated one of the men’s forearms. Tattoo of a snake. No faces. She pressed into the darkness of the front porch. Nobody saw her.

The bedrooms, splattered with her family’s blood. Pin dots of crimson decorating the daisies in her daughter’s room, the little girl left hugging her Barbie. Kevin, hiding in his closet, crouched, arms hugging his knees, head gone from his shoulders.

Her husband riddled with bullets, sprawled like a slaughtered deer, head flapping back on the bottom of the bed.

Pictures. Pictures. Flashbulbs. Yellow Tape. Lineups. Silence.

“Do you recognize anyone, Mrs. Slater? Were there any distinguishing marks?”

Silence, every day since.

Brrrriiinnnggg! Brrriiinnnggg!

The sound startled her. She slipped her hand into her torn pocket. She stared at the screen, its face lit with numbers. Dad. She punched at the buttons until she heard him on the other end.

“Is he dead?”


“Billy? Is he dead?”


“Who is this?”


She stared at the phone. Searing pain. The voice. She’d heard it at the funeral home. Bill Jansen. Paying his respects.

For six years she’d replayed that night in her head. Restlessness had saved her life. No clues. No suspects.

The tattoo. She forgotten the tattoo. Billy. He’d reached out to shake her hand at the funeral home, a sliver of a tattoo on his left forearm peeking from under a crisp white shirt. How had she missed that? She forgotten the tattoo.

It was close to midnight before the light bounced back and forth across the alleyway. Her shadow hugged the doorway, cloaked in dark. The flashlight passed without noticing. His back was facing the street when the baseball bat struck. Once. He slumped next to the dumpster. She pushed at him with a shoeless foot. He moaned. Rolled. She made sure he saw her before the next blow. A smile. He lifted his hand to shield his face. A snake tattooed on his forearm. Again. Again. Again. Again.

Nobody saw her.

Brrriiinnnggg! Brrriiinnnggg!


“Hey, is Billy there?”

“I just found him in the alley beside Benny’s Bakery on 34th and 7th. His phone was laying beside him. He’s conscious, but maybe I should call the cops.”

“No—I—uh, I’m his father. There’s money in it if you wait with him. I’ll be right there.”

Twenty minutes later, a car door slams. Footsteps tapping the pavement toward the dumpster.


A flashlight slaps the body. Billy’s crumpled face beaten beyond recognition. Arm thrown back against a pile of garbage bags. Tattoo of a snake on his forearm. Lifeless.


First hit behind his knees. He crumples.


A bone bursts through his skin. Blood spurting, then streaming a path to his feet. Eyes roll back in his head. Flutter close.

Whump. Whump. Whump.Whump.

Morning news. Two bodies found in an alley on 34th and 7th. Father and son. Beaten to death. No motive. No clues.

Pictures. Pictures. Flashbulbs. Yellow Tape. Lineups. Silence.

She shuffles to Benny’s Bakery. Seven-thirty a.m. She picks up a Pepsi he’s left outside for her. She waves. He nods.

She limps along, her Pepsi in her left hand, sucking in a tiny sip, pulling it from her face then pushing it back to her open mouth immediately for another draw. It’s like watching a wind-up doll, walking, sipping, walking, sipping as though her arm has to pump the can to her face in unison with her leg.

People race by, heads down, never eye contact.

Nobody sees her.