A Winter Tirade, with Photos

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Snow-city panorama

The day is a diffuse white, blunted to gray. Periodically, birds burst from ledges or eaves or from the last spent leaves (ah, yes, bright, but still spent). Their bodies strafe the eye. Confused snowflakes cavort with, shuffle by, skitter, shimmy against, bump into, and bend with the now-visible air. If the winter air were malleable matter, I think it would be a blooming sort of smoldering steam: an extra-spectral substance of an inhuman colour, nebulous, neither white nor gray nor blue. Nor any other.

Still, I can’t drag my eyes away . . .

Breadbox buildings have been dropped down, brick by brick, deposited perhaps a century’s worth ago, from when there was no snow as it is now. Today’s snow—we call it ours—is a (by)product, a staged phenomenon, a commodity, and a managed entropy, made sheerly to be seen. A honeycomb of progress, humming eternalwise, have we created to view it, the perspective extending farther than these eyes can see, perhaps any eyes. Visualized, viralized, winter’s reality—its realness—always in the wings, parade and charade only a click-blink away. Under-thumbed, if you will.

Yesteryear’s snows, it seems to me, were an occurrence. Better still: an event, a surprise, and an opportunity for communion. With each other. And it offers up unparalleled opportunities to link with extraneous aspects of self–atomstuff (or starstuff or plantstuff or any number of substances)–that earlier were perhaps closer to the vest, held to the heart, even.

Now, on a tide of leveraging and mergers, calculated risks and calendars

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A different day; a different cathedral

and broken benefits, winter starts to recede, if such evolution can be eye-tracked.

In places, the spires are hewn, nearly gone, used up, spat out among true detritus. Heretofore, Nature hobbled along, alas, just barely, as we left it alone, keeping our jaundice-ringed cuticles to ourselves. But has it now passed the point of no-intervention, here in the Anthropocene?

The snow, once inescapable, rendered incapable, salted like earth, sewn like the kind of dragon’s teeth that were never intended to grow. Yet, ice-wind can still whistle clean through the ribs, ghost song, so long-gone.

Will we listen, or just push it away and adapt?

What say you?

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This squirrel has found a lunch scrap of old, mustardy bread.

Friday Fictioneers on a Monday: A Mother’s Mettle

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Photo ©ceayr

A Mother’s Mettle

Genre: Realistic fiction

100 words

Mary Strongheart pushed the stroller up the dusty street, her baby tangled in blankets, silent.

She wanted the senator to see, everybody to see, such that they could no longer turn away.

Hana had given her the gate code, but she’d keep the ruse. A knot of fear fisted in her stomach and seared her throat. She’d never been close to the magnificent home. Will my camera work? Will he listen?

Offering silent prayer to the sky, Mary signaled Hana at the back gate.

Soon, the squealing of plastic wheels dovetailed with shouts and the crackle of the guard’s taser.


 

I don’t get to do too many Friday Fictioneers challenges, but this one kind of sprang from my mind fully formed like Athena. And it dovetailed with this article that a friend had recently pointed out to me (thanks, Brenda).

Most of us, unfortunately, have heard of the horrific water crisis in Flint, Michigan. But you might not have not heard about the contamination of water (and more) in areas of the Southwestern and Western United States (not even to mention the coal mining and shale fracking going on all over the world). Nor is Flint, Michigan, alone, either in the States or the world, with regard to environmental contamination. I did a little further research, discovering that some 15,000 abandoned uranium mines exist in the U.S., and there’s no apparatus set up to get these dangerous sites cleaned. One group, Clean up the Mines, calls this “America’s secret Fukushima.” One activist also notes that the Native American nations of North America are the proverbial ‘canaries in the mine’ for the rest of the United States on this critical environmental issue.

As such, then, I conceived of Mary Strongheart as an indigenous person whose child had been affected in some detrimental fashion by the contamination of their water.

Read and/or link up your own Friday Fictioneers post at this linky, and while you’re there, thank Rochelle for administrating these challenges (and adding her own fiction!) like elegant clockwork every week.

 

 

 

 

 

Open the Door and Write: Monday Markets & More #amwriting

Giant Red DoorI’m in mind of doors. That is, forays, entrances, portals, and openings, rather than egresses or exits.

Monday gives rise to that vein, though, doesn’t it? We can sweep away the old (“last”) week and begin anew, or we can take on a previous project in a new way and add to it through accretion.

Hence, I wanted to bring you (all) some more writing markets (#amwriting) as links, reminders, and a little bit more; these are not endorsements by me per se, but more like nudges toward what seem to me to be worthwhile causes, markets, and publishers. I strongly encourage you to read their publications, buy a subscription if you’re able, and support and engage with them before submitting. I know several of you readers ply the trade, so to speak, as I do, and I want to make this blog feature a more regular endeavor for myself than in the previous years.

I hope you will drop me a line when you’ve found a market you like, a stellar editor, and/or other publishing successes.

 

  1. February 15, 2016 (6 p.m. GMT): Win accommodations in Provence, one of the jewels on the tiara that is France. Need I say more? Oh, then, if I must . . . Finish or embellish on a cat-themed extract provided by “indie” author Curtis Bausse, from his first in a series of Magali Rousseau detective-fiction books, One Green Bottle. Two thousand words maximum; prompt is at the first link. No entry fee (a rarity these days). Check out his blog for more contest details and just for the sheer joy and education of it all; do spread the good word to all your writerly friends!
  2. March 8, 2016: As part of the Robert J. Carr Visiting Authors Series, Richard Hoffman, poet and fiction writer, will be speaking at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana this spring. Hoffman is author of Half the House: a Memoir and several poetry collections, including Without Paradise. He also has a new memoir out. Visit the U of I’s creative writing department site for more information on this event, which is free and open to the public.
  3. March 15-April 15: Mascara Literary Review, a New South Wales (Australia)-based publication, both seeks and offers a diversity of authors, particularly from the Oceania region (broadly defined), with a distinct interest in the political, from eco-poetry to “diaspora dialogues” to “aboriginal” and bilingual writing to essays by refugees. They might not be able to pay at this time, which is a shame, but perhaps with some donations and subscriptions . . . ? Their 19th (special) issue is about Animals (poetry), but do read some back issues to familiarize yourself with their criteria, needs, and so on.
  4. Ongoing: This is more a “save this information” note than a deadline. Shade Mountain Press is a feminist press I recently discovered for myself when I happened upon the intriguing title The Female Complaint: Tales of Unruly Women. As such, SMP depends on donations to subsist, but they thrive in publishing the unseen, unheard, and under-represented, that is, “literature by women, especially women of color, women with disabilities, women from working-class backgrounds, and lesbian/bisexual/queer women.” Give them a read sometime!
  5. Continuous/Rolling: The Indiana Voice Journal, a currently nonpaying market (but no reading fees and free subscriptions) that drops monthly, is accepting work now for its March 2016 publication, themed for music, including visual art, some fiction forms (no erotica or science fiction), essays/creative nonfiction (CNF), and poetry. They look for “work that breathes and moves and is alive. We believe that ‘good art’ comes forth from the spirit to reveal, to comfort, to heal, to bring joy, to surprise!” Janine Pickett is the founding editor. If this looks like it’s up your literary alley, check them out, subscribe, and best wishes from me to you!
  6. Evergreen. Fiction writer Dave Farmer was good enough to post an interview with speculative fiction author Sarah Potter on his blog today. Sarah just released, in December 2015, her novel Desiccation and, although I’m biased (I was a beta-reader of the novel), I do think it’s something special, and well worth picking up for your e-reader and/or paperback. Do check out the post and consider Dave’s work (like The Range) as well, especially if you’re into zombies (figuratively into, I mean!), the supernatural, or speculative fiction.
  7. Evergreen. The International Association of Professional Writers and Editors offers memberships (there is a fee) that offer a gateway to writing resources, a job board, and more. In their own words, they are “dedicated to bringing the most updated, legitimate and vetted writing and editing job opportunities to its members.”

 

You know the aphorism ‘sometimes you have to spend money to make money’; well, it’s no less true with writers or the writing profession, so consider sliding a few dollars, bitcoins, Euros, yen, etc. to help your favorite literary magazine or publisher thrive in the “everything for free” era.

And then get out there (or in there, pants to chair, as the case may be) to some good writing–your own or another person’s. Open that door as only you can!

 

A Gallery of Stripes; with a Tip o’ the Hat to Hugh’s Views and News

Welcome to my writing blog! And what better way to start the week on a writing blog, she chirps absurdly, than with a photographic gallery?

It turns out, you probably have photos of stripes you never even remembered! As it happens, most of my patterned stripey ones are family and nature (some very subtle on the theme, I think!). All were taken with a digital camera of moderate to low quality (especially as I’d had it for several years). I probably should have, but I don’t like working with Photoshop and photography programs as they make me dither, so these are straightforward, uncropped, unadjusted, hopefully not too unfocused or unbalanced, and so on.

If you enjoy these photos and/or want to play along, you’ve not got long. They’re incredibly fun, so do check out the dapper Mr. Hugh at Hugh’s Views and News for his stripes photography challenge. But don’t stop there: he also provides blogging tips and other photo challenges, including a weekly “Doors” prompt (the household type, not the band!).

In the meanwhile, please do visit me again and enjoy your week, wherever you are!

Rise of the Monday Markets: Where to Submit Your Writing

Papa writing

Papa advises: Just go write!

Because I really enjoy connecting people with information, which perhaps stems from my background in journalism, I have long been wanting to continue or resurrect market listings. These listings have appeared from time to time on the blog: (as) Monday Markets and Submission Sundays, if I recall correctly.

I read multiple magazines, newsletters, blogs, and university Web sites, as well as subscribe to Duotrope for $5 basic membership a month, to receive and cull these markets for your use. If you have enjoyed or benefited in any way from these posts, please consider following me here, on Facebook, and/or Twitter. [Oh, and I’d love to hear of your writing or art-related successes in literature!]

I hope you will enjoy today’s eclectic collection. #amwriting

  • January 15: Bring out your dead! World Weaver Press is seeking tales of the uncanny, under 10,000 words. They may be reprints or new stories. Payment: $10 + paperback copy of the anthology. Simultaneous submissions are accepted, but you may only send one story per anthology. #specfic #supernatural #fiction
  • January 15: If you’re a runner who writes or a writer who runs, you’re set for this theme. Tree-Lion Press awaits your speculative fiction inspired by long-distance running, 500 to 10,000 words. N.B.: “We tend toward (soft) Science Fiction and Fantasy,” but well-written horror without gore and meeting the other guidelines is okay. Follow their guidelines exactly! This is for the “Keeping Pace with Eternity” anthology. #running
  • January 20 (absolute latest): Put on your honorary fedora and chart your most winding adventures for benefit of Popshot magazine, a UK publication. Poems on adventure are accepted (up to 25 lines). Short fiction addressing the theme must be 2,500 words or fewer. You may obtain a copy for £6 plus postage or a yearly subscription starting at only £10. #fiction #poetry
  • February 1: Has Nature ever been your tutor? If you can craft a creative nonfiction story about your education at the pedestal of the wild, using “research and reportage . . . at least to some degree,” then you might like to consider Creative Nonfiction magazine’s themed call/contest “Learning from Nature.” Submit online ($3/story) or by regular mail. #essays #writingcontest
  • February 19: Use words wisely! Daisy-chain your best 91 bons mots into a memoir and win a free class with Gotham Writers. #memoir
  • October 1 to May 1: It’s not an easy road, considering a (short)list of publishees in the last 3 years—Joyce Carol Oates, Albert Goldbarth, “Charles” Simić, Alice Hoffman, and Anis Shivani—but should you decide to take the road-to-publication not taken, you might like to consider the literary magazine Boulevard. Published by St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri (USA), Boulevard seeks your fiction, poetry, and essays through May 1, 2016. No e-mail submissions are accepted; however, you can submit online via Submittable ($3 fee) and via regular mail (no fee, but mailing cost). Familiarize yourself with the magazine by buying a copy or subscription (or perusing it at your local library). They do post a few excerpts, such as this stunning Billy Collins (poetry) gem from Spring 2015 (at the bottom of the page): “Poem to the First Generation of People to Exist After the Death of the English Language.”

Good luck, and keep writing, reading, and learning!

 

Know Thy Audience, or, What Do You Want from This Blog?

I’m pushing away the pagefright and digging into new territory. Hence, this post. Entirely too long, most likely.

But first, a quick summation might be in order, just so you know where things stand. Everything sucks.

I’m only kidding (mostly).

2015 was ho-hum, if not depressing, globally and personally. I won’t go into unpleasant details. I’m sure many of you remember much of it.

Even with all the good that did actually happen (and that I’m also not going to list), I feel comfortable in closing the book on 2015.

So, then, taking a page—alright, alright, tearing it out, cackling, then running away mischievously—from Donna’s deftly delivered book-o’-blogging (at yadadarcyyada), I’m starting this 2016 post off in song.

But, really. Think about it a moment. What more does a writer want than to be read (or heard, as the case may be in our postmodern podcast era)?  In a very real way, the writing process can be viewed as an artful partnership. It’s art, true, but there can be a palpable aspect to writing, whereby the fruits of the process lead to an exchange of a vision-product (e.g., the book, anthology, short story, podcast file, or novel) with a reader or listener. Many writers, therefore, like to be at least partly mindful of audience. For instance, novelist and WordPresser Curtis Bausse (One Green Bottle, a mystery; French Sally) talks about knowing the target audience vis-à-vis the promotion of your work.

So it is that, with the heralding of a new year, I turn to my readers (and viewers) and ask the open-ended question of what do you want to read (or see) more of here. Leave a comment, tweet me, e-mail me [wordsmithery[dot]email[at]gmail[dot]com], send a smokeless signal, or use semaphore if you wish; I’d love to hear your feedback.

In the meantime, a few stats to amuse or amaze you.

Leigh’s Wordsmithery blog had 40 posts last year (2015) and was viewed approximately 2,400 times. Coincidentally, this mimics the blogger’s lifespan. No, I mean the 40 (years, not decades).

The most visited post was a book review of Robert Okaji’s then-new poetry chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform. Check with Bob himself, at O at the Edges, to find out the latest, greatest way to purchase this peregrination through regret and remembrance.

I don’t have this aspect statistic-ified, but I’ve read hundreds, maybe thousands, of WordPress blog posts this year and commented on as many photographs, ideas/concepts, and stories or novels-in-progress as possible. This was very fruitful, enjoyable, and educational, although I didn’t keep count. Likewise, the number of books I read this year, which, whatever it is, is entirely too few; however, I think I probably should try to be better about demarcating those. [To wit, as of Jan. 4-5: I’m reading Atul Gawande’s “medical literature” title, Better, and a book of writing exercises that was a gift to me from the kidlets.]

This blog’s author also submitted manuscripts various and sundry on 37 occasions (of those logged; there are probably a couple lost to disorganization) in the calendar year 2015. Of those occasions the results are (as of 4 January 2016): 1 hit (aka, an acceptance, publication forthcoming, 2017); 27 misses; 1 non-response; 1 presumed defunct; and 7 results pending.

In the past year on this blog and in freelance submissions, the author has written about the following:

  • A Santa transposition
  • Surviving abuse
  • Xylophones and amnesia (separate prompts)
  • A murderous granny
  • A murderous insect-like alien, possibly female
  • A murderous wife (notice a theme emerging?)
  • A transgender alien riding a “hydrocycle” in a dystopian future
  • Time travel to the “Christmas truce” of 1914
  • 6.66 days of thrilling fiction [on the blog], including Michael Myers Halloween/Halloween fanfiction; marking the longest (8-day) posting streak
  • Wolfish shapeshifters
  • A hearing-impaired superhero
  • Nature and gardening (inclu. introducing the Garden Avenger)
  • Literary fiction on a dysfunctional family plagued by racism
  • Infectious diseases galore!

So, the question remains: would you like to see anything in particular on this blog? Not like to see something? Not care either way? Inquiring minds want to know and writing operators are standing by to log your input, like this pale but cheerful one (on the left, the one with the pen)! If you’ve got an opinion, please feel welcome to share it. And I do hope you’ll come back sometime soon.

Operators are standing by_Cheap Trick

 

Hugh’s Photo Challenge: Week 8 – Charity Christmas Tree Topper Challenge

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Hello, all. I saw Hugh’s photo challenge, and considering that he would kindly make a £1 donation (up to £250) to The Dogs Trust*, I knew I just had to tag along.

And now, the right jolly old elf who perches atop our tree (apologies for the not-so-clear photo).

Thanks, Hugh, and again, happy holidays to you all, wherever you are!


*The UK’s largest dog-welfare charity. They do great things for canine critters (and the peoplekind who love them); check them out!

In Pictures: The Sweetness of the Season

FAMILY

Harmony 1

 

POETRY

From the anthology Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks, available at Amazon, and featuring WordPress’ own, poet and blogger Robert Okaji.

 

And two lasts, but certainly not leasts:

 

IRONY

Irony 1

CONTINUITY

I move therefore I eat therefore I move some more . . .

 

However you might be celebrating this season, if at all, I wish you the very best.

A Microfiction Story on Loss, for Friday Fictioneers

WARNING:

My wish, with my fiction, is never to harm or cause a traumatic flashback, but rather to express empathy, teach, show, embolden, entertain, and/or, when appropriate, enrage or frighten. That said, be aware that this microfiction story contains a disturbing aspect of physical (child) abuse and raises aspects of sexism and rape. If these are triggers for you, you might want to skip reading this.

Leviathan windows by Rochelle

Photo by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

 

 

WHAT DOESN’T DESERT HER

Genre: Realistic, literary fiction

WORD COUNT: 100

©Leigh Ward-Smith

Lorraine stands at the sink fronting purposefully leviathan window panes, mind muted by the task of sanitizing everything. The scene outside beckons her backward.

Continue reading

Advice on Writing and a YTD Self-Assessment, in Honor of NaNoWriMo

Writing Fuel

Sugar: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner of writing champions everywhere. (!Eek!)

It’s Friday. You know that that means. Time to retreat into your shell and hope school is back in session soon. Er, no. I mean, time to pile up those leaves and disappear into their crunchy kingdom–forever! [Insert Vincent Price “Thriller” laughter here, as appropriate.]

Only kidding.

In honor of NaNoWriMo, Six Word Memoirs/SMITH magazine (no relation) held an “advice on writing” 6-word special that ended, oh, about an hour ago.

But there’s absolutely no reason the party show that is freelance writing shouldn’t go on. Perpetually. (Thank you for the memories, Mr. Bulsara/Mercury.)

I penned some writing advice earlier in the week. See what you think; share your own; laugh; enjoy. Repeat tomorrow.

1. Sit down, shut mouth, shine on.
2. Sit down, shut off, shine down.
3. Shut mouth. Open mind. Listen. Write.
4. The 3 R’s: Re-Create, Revise, Re-Submit.
5. Reduce adjectives, repurpose words, recycle mind-matter.
6. Plant butt. Cultivate creativity. Repeat daily.
7. Live. Love. Laugh. Think. Sit. Write.

#BestAdviceinSix

And now, for something not so completely different. A brief YTD note/assessment on the state of my writing endeavors, in case you’re curious. This way, you can see I’m entirely worthy of dispensing said writing advice (snark mode engaged).

Anyway, just this year, I started keeping an Excel file so that I could see submissions in an orderly fashion, as well as the results. It appeals to the “statistician” inside my noggin.

Yearly Manuscript Run-Down

  • Writing submissions (includes anthologies, contests, and magazines; some print, some online, some both; includes many genres, but usually either literary fiction or speculative fiction): YEAR-TO-DATE, from March 2015 through November 6, 2015: 25 submissions
  • REJECTIONS (or, how I learned to stop worrying and just love the times I bomb): 18
  • OUTSTANDING MSS: Keep in mind that a few of these were submitted in the last week: 7
  • UNKNOWN: A subnote. One of the 7 outstanding manuscripts, I’m not sure if I’ll ever hear back from, as the publisher seems to be defunct (although I’ve never seen it as such on Duotrope).

I could break down the rejections further. There have been a handful that have offered some critique to me other than the catch-all “does not fit what we are looking for.” But I think it’s fruitful to look back on these things as we drive forward, regardless of whether we’re involved in NaNoWriMo or not. (This year, I have opted out of the festivities, as it were.) Not as a discouragement kind of thing, but rather an honest self-assessment and noticing any areas that are in obvious need of improvement.

But that’s my spiel. What about y’all: any writing advice? Doing NaNoWriMo? Enjoying your November? But, most crucially, if you’re him and he’s him and he’s him and you’re him, am I still me . . . and is anyone eating this chicken? :)