Photo: Escape Wheel. Taken by me.
Today is Escape Wheel‘s official release, and Editor Jane Ormerod wants to make sure you can get your hands on a copy, as do I, because I want you to read my poem, “Elephant in the Room.” Therefore she sent the following information, which I am sharing:
Website book page
Our preferred way for people to purchase in the US is through our store at bookshop.org. For those that don’t know, bookshop.org was set up as a competitor to Amazon and helps support small publishers and local bookstores. You can buy any book through it.
Escape Wheel can also be ordered through your favorite bookstore, and through Barnes & Noble, etc.
Internationally, it is available through Hive.co.uk, Book Depository, and all Amazon sites such as amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and any bookstore.
Our main facebook page is here.
Now you know. What are you waiting for?
Photo credit: Andreas Horlitz, Archiv Stift Admont, Stiftsbibliothek Admont. 22 September 2005. Wikimedia Commons. PD.
I was happy to learn recently that Editors Rudri Patel and Beth Burrell of The Sunlight Press had accepted my poem, “Again Rubbed (Not Quite) Smooth,” for publication. I was a little worried when I read in their About section that they “want to hear the ways people turn toward light and hope” because I do not generally write about this. But they also said they were interested in how people “respond to the darkness and navigate unknown spaces,” which is right up my alley. So I sent in one ultimately happy poem and two sadder ones, and they chose the grimmest. Who knew?
This poem grew out of a strange and unsettling experience. I realized that a relationship I had thought was caring but just didn’t work out was actually traumatic and abusive. It was upsetting to come to believe that someone I once cared about only wanted to hurt and control me and that I had fallen for his act. It was surreal to have to rewrite my life to reflect what I believe to be a more accurate understanding, and for a while I felt unsure about all my relationships.
But some good did come from this experience. First, knowledge is power, even if it doesn’t feel that way at first. I have belatedly learned a lot and put the experience behind me. I also got two poems out of the whole thing, one of which is “Again Rubbed (Not Quite) Smooth,” in which the idea of the palimpsest becomes a metaphor for the way we all have to rewrite our lives all the time.
I look forward to having my palimpsest poem published in The Sunlight Press, and in the meantime I will enjoy checking out their poems, whether light and hopeful or otherwise.
Photo: Escape Wheel. Taken by me.
Today my copies of Escape Wheel, the 2020 anthology from great weather for MEDIA, arrived. The cover is unexpectedly lovely in the same way the poems of the preceding volume, Birds Fall Silent in the Mechanical Sea, are. I have been savoring those poems while I awaited the release of Escape Wheel, and I look forward to savoring this volume now it is on my coffee table.
I wrote about Escape Wheel and the poem I have in it, “Elephant in the Room,” here. It is appropriate that it arrived this week, just after my mother’s death, because it is about death (a significant elephant in all of our rooms) and the passing of generations. At the same time, it is strangely fun and whimsical, often recalling childhood play. I felt I took a lot of risks in writing it, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had had a hard time finding a home. I’m thankful to the readers and editors at great weather for MEDIA for embracing its eccentricity, and I hope readers of the volume will follow suit.
Photo credit: Construction netting and shadow. Taken by me.
Samantha Edmonds, Fiction Editor of the Doubleback Review, has just emailed me the welcome news that the review has nominated my story, “Elf Houses,” for Best of the Net 2020. Because both Doubleback and the Best of the Net anthologies are affiliated with Sundress Publications, my story cannot win (to prevent perceived conflict of interest), but it could be a finalist.
I wrote about “Elf Houses” here and here. Because my mother died Sunday, I want to say that although the story is based on the darker side of my childhood, my mother was a kindhearted person and a survivor of child abuse who battled PTSD and other mental health issues and tried to be a loving wife and mother, though she did not always succeed. No one was ever prouder than she of any success I might have, and I miss not sharing this one with her.
I was pleased to see that my story, “A Trip to the Seashore,” is out in Coffin Bell, issue 3 no. 3. I first wrote about the story here. In the interim since the story was accepted, I have been reading stories from earlier issues, and I find I am in the company of a rich variety of talented, melancholy, and spooky writers. So many thanks to the editors, and please go check out the journal.
In “A Trip to the Seashore,” as in other stories I have written, children’s literature plays a role. The daughter of the family has been influenced by a series of tales about “the Longagos” and their simple, happy doings–I was thinking of the inveterately racist Bobbsey Twins books (my mother’s copies, which I read as a child, were from the era to which I’ve linked). The family’s journey in my story is a dark counterpart to the uncritical brightness of such tales.
It seems fitting that today, July 4th, I decided to mosey over to Coffin Bell and discovered that my story about the disastrous consequences of greed, inattention, and not enough love anywhere had been published. I hope this is not the direction our country and our world decide to go in, but I am not very optimistic.
If you are celebrating, I hope you will stay safe and constructively critical. We’re having a quiet dinner at home.
Photo credit: Anonymous, Jellyfish Swarm. 31 July 2014. Wikimedia Commons. PD.
Dramatization of Schubert’s Erlkönig
Please go see and hear this haunting dramatization of Schubert’s Erlkönig, which was part of the inspiration for my story, “The Perfect Doll.” Ever since I studied this song in conservatory (music history and piano class, I think; I’m not a singer), I have had a thing for it, and I love the way the paper cutouts capture the spooky tragedy of the story in this YouTube video.
I can’t remember the call that inspired me to write this story. Probably it was a Christmas horror anthology. But I combined my mild disgust at the Elf on the Shelf Santa spy with the elves from pagan traditions like those in the Erlkönig or the Wild Hunt and imagined an earnestly Christian family confronted with the pagan Yule.
As usual I had a fun time writing it, only to realize I had once again, without really intending to, produced something on the edgy side. But, as usual, it has found a home. After placing Theda and Me in Horror USA: California on Soteira Press, I look forward to appearing in another anthology from the press, A Monster Told Me Bedtime Stories, due out August 1. Thanks to Rachele Bowman and any other editors and readers at the press who were involved in selecting “The Perfect Doll.”
I hope you are all healthy, happy, and productive in these difficult times. Now go watch the Erlkönig video!
Photo credit: Jake Vanaman, George Floyd protests in Charlottesville, Virginia featuring Black Lives Matter. 30 May, 2020. Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0.
Just a note to say how honored I am that Poetry South has reposted my Etheree for Heather Heyer as part of the journal’s show of support for our current national protests for justice and equality. I have written about this poem here, here, and here.
This may be a good time to add that although Heather Heyer’s is the only death connected with contemporary protests that I have written about, this is not because I am privileging the plight of white women like myself, but because I am not presumptuous enough to try to capture the pain and struggle of Black people in this country and around the world. It is truly an endless, staggering history of wrong.
My flash fiction, “‘Difficulties on Theory,'” about a closeted Darwinist, is up today here. Find my name on the left and click on it, and you can read my story. It will be out in print in February, 2021. Although I was not respectful in my portrayal of the youth minister who recommends intelligent design to the protagonist of my story, I am respectful towards his fundamentalist father, and his girlfriend is earnest and well-meaning, if misguided.
Before the ascendancy of the current occupant of the White House, I believed it was important to find common ground with fundamentalists. While I still believe they should have religious freedom, I am alarmed at their willingness to jettison democratic values and institutions to impose theocratic fascism. While many people want to unite the country, the damage done by those who sacrificed all human decency for political power will not be quickly undone. It seems to me no coincidence that the ancestors of many of these people were supporters of slavery and segregation.
On this Juneteenth, I hope that the call for union will not once again, as after Reconstruction, entail throwing minorities under the bus. And as COVID-19 continues to ravage the U.S., especially in states that have rejected science to follow our fascist leader who does not lead, I hope we can forge a new way forward, one where those who embrace fundamentalism will no longer be allowed to endanger the rest of us.
Photo credit: Unknown source. Charles Darwin. Wikimedia Commons. GFDL.
One day a young man in my neck of the woods approached his teacher and asked, “Can I talk to you about anything?”
“Yes,” said the teacher, anticipating something along the lines of “I’m gay.”
But as it turned out, it was something else, something just as bad. The young man believed in evolution. He hadn’t been able to bring himself to tell his girlfriend or anyone in his family the truth about his orientation.
I don’t believe I have ever met this young man, but his plight seemed to call out for a story, so I portrayed a wholly imaginary character from a similar background in a similar predicament.
This story was a hard sell, perhaps because I did not treat fundamentalist Christianity respectfully. But it has found a home at last with cc&d (short for “children, churches and daddies“), which bills itself as “The Unreligious, Non-Family-Oriented Literary and Art Magazine.”
With lightning speed (less than 24 hours), cc&d’s Editor in Chief, Janet Kuypers, accepted my flash fiction and offered publication in at least a print and online issue, but possibly in several collections as well. I am grateful to her for providing a home for this piece, which I feel is deserving despite the number of years it’s been kicked around.
Photo credit: Unknown source. Charles Darwin. Wikimedia Commons. GFDL.
Photo credit: Department of Transportation. Federal Highway Administration. Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty. Office of Natural and Human Environment. National Scenic Byways Program. 1991-. Historic National Road – Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. 1995-2013. Wikimedia Commons. PD.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that my poem, “Stones in a Glass House,” which I discussed briefly here, is up on this page of Lucky Jefferson 365. Only a few days ago, Editor NaBeela Washington had written 365 contributors warning us to expect delays. From my experience with her in Lucky Jefferson‘s writing workshop, I sense that she is a caring person, so it is natural that she would be involved in addressing the current movement for change with a new digital zine, Awake, that “seeks to amplify the experiences and perspectives of Black and African American writers in American society.” But she is apparently also an efficient person, since she was able to get the 365 poems up in what seems to me a timely fashion. Thank you, NaBeela Washington, for taking time to publish my little poem while engaging positively in the global movement for much-needed racial justice.
When I wrote “Stones in a Glass House” I was thinking about my husband and me growing old in our house, which was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. I was thinking about the kind of calm togetherness we are experiencing (for the most part). But there was also the image of being in the glass house and seeming to have the potential to do something shocking, but at the same time being trapped by the prospect of self-destructive consequences. Just for good measure, I added in the idea of the irresistible force and the immoveable object–another paralytic image fraught with unrealized potential for powerful action.
The rocks in my poem are not only peaceful and wise, they have complementary passions to achieve something meaningful; but they are also limited by their paralytic situation and their passivity. Reading this today, I was struck by how well this illustrates the position of many well-meaning, privileged people. We can’t afford the time off from our jobs, or we don’t want to alienate our friends and neighbors or expose ourselves to any sort of trouble or danger, so we give ourselves slowly, in dribs and drabs, the way the stones in my poem give themselves to the eroding power of the stream running through their house.
These erosions are not nothing. In the end they are the sum of the stones’ interactions with the world, the diminished outcome of their dreams. But we should do more.