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.
Photo of DASH Literary Journal taken by me. 12 June 2020.
It was a nice surprise when my copy of DASH Literary Journal arrived this morning. As you can see, the cover is full of interest and suggests the variety of worlds within. (I could have taken a better photo of the cover, but I am anxious about violating the copyright of the artwork, so I just tried to give an idea.) The journal is fat and inviting, though I plan to finish the 2008 edition I was able to find first, so I will defer most of my gratification (I did take a peek at the bios, as discussed below).
Unfortunately, the professor who teaches the California State University, Fullerton, class that produces DASH informs me they are not allowed to sell extra copies, so I can’t tell you how to get one. But it is still satisfying to see my poems (which I wrote about here) in such an attractive journal.
If you should ever get your hands on DASH, or any other journal that does unconventional bios of contributors, I would suggest that these make entertaining reading. DASH does six-word bios, and many of them are great fun. Reading them one after another is like savoring a box of assorted chocolates. I hesitate to share other people’s because they are original creations, and I can tell you they can be hard work to think up. Mine was “Creates while social distancing with cats,” which was not the most boring, but by no means the funniest or the one that makes you think the most.
I hope that you, too, are reading good things, staying safe and creative, and protesting against injustice as able.
FALLUJAH, Iraq – An assault team from B Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, conducts a raid on a possible suicide vehicle bomb workshop in Fallujah.
I was excited and happy to discover tonight that my story, “The Jet-Black Knight,” has been accepted by 34 Orchard. I must especially thank Editor Kristi Petersen Schoonover for giving me expert editorial advice and encouragement with her initial rejection of the piece. I managed to fix it to her satisfaction, and I’m grateful to her for helping me improve it.
I discussed the story here. It is about an Iraq War veteran who has PTSD. I was nervous about it because of its sharp anti-war message and my not being a veteran, but I tried to present the narrator respectfully. I did a lot of research on raids, weaponry, and video games (especially Halo) for it, and I used speech patterns from Alabama to help ground the narrator/protagonist in an individualized identity. And now this (and revision) has paid off. I will even get a small fee.
“The Jet-Black Knight” will be out in November. As always, I look forward to familiarizing myself with the sad, haunting fare at 34 Orchard while awaiting publication.
Photo credit: United States Marine Corp, Marines raid Fallujah garage.jpg. 28 May 2006. Wikimedia Commons. PD.