Green Swimming, in Summer: A Poem

As they say, and now for something (not completely, but) a little different! An attempted poem; the first in a while for me. [And no, it’s not related to green pools at the recent Olympics!]

Corn long-shot

Utterly thrilling, isn’t it?

Green Swimming, in Summer

Eyelines: and when

the corn

is exactly even

with the pool’s sagging caldera,

the plastic-snap

crocodile wisps, drifts

maw gaping

and it is

as if

we could leap

into the jade organic

and skiff the silks aside,

maybe use toes to play with the tassels,

splitting the husks with our own

layered unkempts.

Here, there are no

wheelbarrow—a collective noun like

a parliament of owls or

murder of crows

No wheelbarrows either. They are shut

from sight.

But there are ducks nearby:

none white.

And closer still, neighborly chickens:

one of whom folds a neurological neck

backward

at a break-beak angle.

Damaged in the egg,

they say.

(Aren’t we all?)

He is named, but, sadly, I do not

remember.

So I christen him

Sir Yawp.

Nothing’s barbaric about him,

however.

As for me—us—the jury’s

out. Out there, somewhere.

Hiding in a star nursery.

Sir Yawp javelins pill-bugs and

snags gnats mid-air.

Corn flies, mistaken for sweat bees,

are no match for the

feathered Mr. Miyagi.

For now, all things

entomologic—

skillfully—

pushed out of human consciousness.

And out far, if you chance

to snatch a glance

at today’s

Archaeopteryx, a transitional

preening the sky

or sentinel on a wire,

a vulture strutting

to the strummed frets

of a grisly gravel feast,

stay back. Let

your mind make

the strokes

required, etchings on the facades

of the flat dust.

Let it say:

I have passed by

here and seen.

I.

Have.

Been.

####

At the end of the summer (here in the Northern hemisphere, anyway), I have been inspired by many things. One of those is poet Robert Okaji’s participation in the 30/30 Project, wherein a poet writes 30 poems in 30 days to benefit the publisher Tupelo Press. If you appreciate poetry—modern or otherwise—you might very well enjoy the fare offered in this project. Several donor incentives remain for sponsoring Bob, although the sand is getting finer. If that’s not enough, Bob links to the Tupelo site with each of his evocative daily poems; that site boasts work (much of it also as stunning, I must say) from eight other participating poets. I hope you’ll partake of some poetry today, before August (like summer 2016) pulls up roots and leaves us with . . .  leaves, of course!

Advertisements

Galloping, Ghoulish Microfiction

Hello, y’all. This post is two-fold (or more; I’m sure I can summon other valid reasons).

First, for those who don’t know of them and who enjoy writing micro- or flash fiction, I’d like to point you to Grammar Ghoul Press. They sponsor weekly prompts of varying microfiction lengths that usually feature a word, phrase, and/or photograph to get your creative ichor flowing (within or without, if you write horror fiction). Full disclosure: GGP were kind enough to publish a poem of mine in their magazine last year.

Second, I was really snared by their call for 39-word stories, book of dinosaursfrom last week, because of the following large photograph. I had a ride-on horse, back in the day, at home who looked very similar to this chestnut store model. So, even though I missed the fiction call and didn’t honestly want to interfere with the voting process (since concluded), I’ve decided I would still like to publish what I wrote. It is heavily influenced by one of the books I’ve been reading lately, with a doozy of a long title: The American Museum of Natural History’s Book of Dinosaurs and Other Ancient Creatures. In particular, I looked to the Equus scotti entry. This genus contains the so-called modern horse. Here’s a brief taste of more information on the North American wild horse’s disappearance and the resurgence of the horse on the continent.

And now, here’s the photograph, posted by Tony at Grammar Ghoul, for the “Shapeshifting 13” challenge #59. Be sure to participate in GGP’s new challenge running through July 3rd—challenge #60—with an entirely fresh prompt. Following this photo by an unknown artist, my brief story (which actually is different than what I had written; due to a computer glitch and end-user failure, I lost the original copy). Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy it.

IMG_0935

Bridled and warehoused

I should be grateful for preservation, but I’m not.

I used to be alive. Now I’m lame. In darkness. Dust clots my nostrils.

When I regain corporeal form, I will lead my species in rampage. Equines will prevail again.

Monday Markets and Writing Curiosities for June and July 2016

DSC_0214

Sitting on our lawnmower (two of three depicted.)

Hello, everybody. School’s out, here (thankfully, not forever). And the juvenile robins are on the wing, growing and practicing and—as everyone’s favorite dour playwright and existential philosopher Samuel Beckett wrote in Worstward Ho!—“fail[ing] better.”

Let’s give it a go and see how we can try, fail, try again, then fail better. I’d be delighted to hear of your progress, in the summertime or anytime.

1. Special limited-time offer!

I was not asked to do this, but I got word that a blogger-friend of mine, Curtis Bausse, has released a triad of short stories called And it Came to Pass. Considering that May is Short Story Month, why don’t you consider picking up this ‘linked’ set of stories by the writer of the Magali Rousseau detective series? There’s despair. There’s terror. And there’s also hope in these intertwined past-present-future stories. You’ll be happy you spent the pittance (far, far less than they’re worth, artistically or otherwise) of 99 cents to snag this series of short stories now. They’re on Amazon, available for your Kindle.

2. I read a really good article presenting an editors’ discussion about what it means to portray strangeness in fiction-writing. Unless you’re Jim Morrison or the Lizard King’s ghost, you might like to get some pointers from the Master’s Review article here.

3. I, Me, Mine . . . As we are on the supposed cusp of a new golden age in short story-making, perhaps you might like to buy one of mine, a flash fiction that appears now in the spring/summer issue of moonShine Review, along with delectable fare from several other authors. My story is flash fiction, and, I hope, enjoyable. If you buy direct, it’s $10 per bound journal, and that includes tax and shipping (and tell Anne that Leigh Ward-Smith sent you, pretty please!). As the “old” commercial used to say: {I} thank you for your support!

4. Through June 6th: work out your demons on paper. Call it a writing exorcise. Whatever the case, Bloodbound Books is seeking your best disgusting, disturbing, splattering, and gruesome over-the-top horror stories (fiction, that is), from 750-5000 words (query for longer).  They’re a paying market, too. Five cents a word, so get on it, if you relish sloppy horror!

5. Room magazine, quite in contrast to the last market, seeks work by, about, and for women, including trans-women. This feminist publication needs “food” themed poetry, art,  creative nonfiction, and fiction of up to 3500 words or 5 images (in the case of art) for their fast-approaching 40.1 issue (deadline: July 31). This is a paying Canadian market that powers its submissions via Submittable.

6. Are you a playwright living in Wisconsin, Iowa, or Illinois? Do you have something written for 5 or fewer actors on the “nature of masculinity” (however you choose to interpret that concept/reality) any genre, and running ten minutes? There’s a no-fee competition now through June 3 for just such a work. Check out the details here, including how you can win one of the $100 honoraria; I found this listing originally at the treasure-trove of playwriting resources that is AACT.org.

7. Lucky seven, just for y’all: Maybe you’ve driven down South (U.S.). Maybe you live there. Maybe you’re just passing through. If you’re a writer with a “Southern journal” style article/reportage piece, Southern Living just might want to take a gander at your pitch. Be familiar with what they like to publish, then fire away. (No compensation, but seeing your name in publication lights.)

And now, I’m off to edit another story for publication. Wishing you all, all the best.

Submission Saturday: The Under-the-Weather Edition

Fairy Tale Manuscript

The fairy tale that wasn’t. At least it looks like a bird!

Well, well, I’ve been busy editing, trying to write a (interesting) fairy tale (here is a helpful, little primer on fairy tales, folklore, etc.), and just living, including a good deal of Nightingale-ing. Now that the kids aren’t sick and the husband is healing, of course it strikes me. Today, I’m digging out of the aftermath.

In any case, doing these market/submission articles really gets me jazzed, and I haven’t done one in at least a couple weeks. So, in other words, you’re due. Hope you find something fruitful here!

  1. Due April 1. You’ve got dreams. I’ve got dreams. We’ve all got dreams. Why not put them down on paper and submit them to Bop Dead City? For their current issue (Issue #15) contest, they choose one poem and one fiction piece (otherwise, one genre takes it all). The Issue 15 contest is themed “dreams”; regular submissions guidelines here.
  2. Due April 1: No joke! The annual Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry competition is open to writers of poetry in English, with a maximum of 250 lines (1 poem only) sought. But with this contest, the object is to write badly. Very, very badly. The art is in writing so badly, it crosses over into good-writing terrain. Can you do it? Like to try? Check out Winning Writers for all the specifics on this free-to-enter contest that promises big prizes for the best “worst poem” you can craft.
  3. Due officially April 15 (but actually June 30): Staying in the humor-writing vein, let’s move over to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (BLFC) for superior shoddy sentence–writing, not to be confused with the Lyttle Lytton annual contest. Here, your mission, if you choose to accept the challenge, is to pen the very worst opening line to a novel ever conceived—and there are genre categories, too, including romance, science fiction, crime/detective, and historical fiction. Bad for poor Edward Bulwer-Lytton; but good for us. More details here.
  4. April 15, Austin, Texas, 5:30-9:30 p.m. If you’re fond of small presses, visionary writing, poetry, or some combination of the aforementioned (and will be in Austin, Tx., in April), get yourself over to Malvern Books for the Tupelo 30/30 project Poetry Night. It will feature WP staple poet Robert Okaji, as well as several other T30/30 poets: Christine Beck, Katy Chrisler, D.G. Geis, Pamela Paek, and Ronnie K. Stephens.
  5. Opening May 15, 2016 (closing August 15): Enchanted Conversation, a fairy tale magazine, has its eyes peeled for your best stories about Krampus, the dark alternative to Santa Claus, for its Krampusnacht Two anthology, to be published in conjunction with World Weaver Press. Kate Wolford is the editor. They are looking for fiction submissions from 1,000 to 9,999 words. You will greatly benefit from reading their first anthology on this topic, Krampusnacht: Twelve Nights of Krampus, and following the newest anthology guidelines to the letter. Good luck!
  6. A sixth-grader wrote this flash-fiction story and it was published online by SmokeLong Quarterly. Wow! SLQ, a leader in the flash fiction genre, publishes only flash (no poetry or nonfiction) of under 1000 words—one submission at a time, please!—and you must include a print-ready third-person biography. Give them a whirl if you enjoy flash(ing) your fiction!

And, in the meantime . . . enjoy your Easter/spring (or autumn) weekend! Happy writing and art-making!

 

FF: Don’t Feed the Black Dog

Don’t Feed the Black Dog*

 Genre: Realistic fiction, (dark) humour

Word count: 151 (sorry, Rochelle, I tried!)

 

She sends a photograph skittering across the caramel-colored desk.

emmylgant-friday fictioneers. 3.11.16

This beautiful photograph is by Emmy L. Gant; sorry I took it in a different direction, Emmy.

“What do you see?”

“What’s this, some new version of the Rorschach?” I crack a joke about Welcome Back, Kotter, conflating Horshack and Rorschach. Ah, before her time. Shouldn’t have said that.

“Jennifer, basically I just want to gauge how you’re feeling before we start the assessment.”

“Okay, but I think musically sometimes. Heavy cloud, but . . . no rain?” I offer my best Sting impression.

Silence.

Another flopper. Why can’t I get this right? Fecking feck. She probably thinks I have multiple personalities now.

“Unh-huh.” She scribbles down something I can’t see. “In your own words, what’s your mood today?”

I find myself counting the indentations on the ceiling. 23-24-25.

“Uhhh? I’m a resilient mess. Most of the time. I guess.” You indecisive moron!

“I see. Can we proceed to the PHQ-9 now?”

“Sure. I got nothin’ better to do.”


*Note: I much prefer the metaphor and idea of “miasma” for describing depression to that of the “black dog,” because I love dogs, but many people do connect with it. Hence the titling.

This short story/flash fiction was crafted for March 11th’s Friday Fictioneers, which is lovingly curated by Rochelle as always. I hope you’ll stop by her post(s)—this lady’s got novels and short stories galore—and take some time to read other FF posts. With the variety of stories, it’s easy for me to make this promise: you’ll be amused, surprised, entertained, moved, and, very possibly, shocked. .

Good times, bad times

Tree-2-22-16

May the sun be ever setting on your troubles! (Photo with filter applied)

First and foremost, it has been a rough couple weeks for one of the kids (and thus, my whole family), such that I’m thankful and glad it’s almost at a close (we hope). So, I haven’t had the time to read blogs and comment–at least not to the degree that I’d like. That should change as the days go on.

To balance out a tiny bit of the terrible, I’ve had a double-dip of the literary toe into pleasant waters. In short, I’ve had two microfiction pieces published. One is “old,” having been published in October 2015, and I just found out about it. I owe my belated thanks and gratitude to The Drabble for publishing “A Lotta Guts.” If you’re not familiar with this term or concept, basically most definitions say that a drabble is a short literary story, or microfiction piece, of exactly 100 words, not including the title. So, it’s exceedingly succinct. Somehow, I was able to craft and send a brief darling forth into the world (you can, too), and they published it. If you’re interested in the connection between American actor Ernest Borgnine and infectious disease, you shouldn’t miss this speculative fiction story. While you’re there, do be sure to partake of other “shortness[es] of breadth,” which is The Drabble’s motto.

That was the older “new news.” Now, the new news is that I just had a 50-word story, called “Love Offerings,” published on 50-Word Stories on February 22, 2016; they list me as Leigh Smith there. They publish two “bite-sized” stories daily, so your palate is always satisfied. And, if you enjoy my story or all or some of them, please give them a thumb’s-up (there’s a “like” at the bottom of each day’s stories). I feel very honored to have been included on this forum–and with another L-named person (this one was a Lee) on the same date. A big barbaric yawp-y shout-out to 50-Word Stories and its editor, Tim Sevenhuysen. Unless otherwise noted, they read submissions between the 1st and 15th of every month, and publish what they like on their Web site, with you retaining the rights. Give it a go if you like writing the short stuff.

So, a short(ish) post befits a couple of my recent short publications. This will be a Monday Markets stand-in for the time being, until I’m off and running again with blogging. Have a creative week, everyone!

 

 

 

Monday Writing Markets (and More): The Icefire Edition

20160209_104552

I keep written & digital files. How about you?

Some say the universe will end in boiling,

Others say in Frost, or Snow.

But from what I know of roiling,

I prefer the fate whose face waits to show.

 


 

Whew, I’m glad that’s out there in the aether now. Moving on . . .

To writing. So, keep in mind, carpe diem (carpe scribere diem? why yes, I’ve forgotten high-school Latin completely). In other words, seize the day and write!

To help you in that regard, I’m wielding another edition of the somewhat-biweekly sword that is Monday Markets (& More). Partake, imagine, write, edit, submit, accept, integrate, and enjoy!

  1. Tonight only (Feb. 15), starting at 7:30 p.m.!

    See feminist firebrand, author, and essayist Claire Vaye Watkins—she of “Let us burn this motherfucking system to the ground” fame—and poet Steven Schreiner at the River Styx reading series in St. Louis, Missouri, at the Tavern of Fine Arts. Entrance fees are $5 at the door or $4 for students, members, and seniors.

  2. Deadline: as soon as possible! Milkfist, a self-described “compendium of art and writing for stammering low-lifes who barely know what year it is” wants your poetry, art, and/or nonfiction. They are a paying market. Check out their guidelines or buy a back issue.
  3. Deadline: Feb. 20, 2016. After the Happily Ever After (anthology) by TransMundane Press is in search of new blood. That is, they want updated takes on old (fairy)tales like Cinderella, Goldilocks, or even Snow White. Exactly what does happen after Ariel gets her voice back and marries her prince? Does Cinderella ever see her Fairy Godmother again; does she keep that glass slipper forevermore? Does Red Riding Hood grow up and develop agoraphobia or, alternatively, an overwhelming fear of canines? It’s up to you to give them new experiences.

    20160215_163419.jpg

    Thanks to my audience volunteer (who didn’t even have to get sawed in half, except by the photographer!).

  4. Win a book, through Feb. 27! Author Sarah Potter is giving away a copy of her newest novel, the sci-fi crossover Desiccation. This novel is suitable for ages 14 to 90-plus, as she says. Here’s her blog post about the Goodreads #giveaway.
  5. March 13, 2016: Grammar Ghoul Press (full disclosure: they reprinted one of my poems in their Spring 2015 edition of The Ghouls’ Review) is holding a Winter 2016 Fiction competition. There’s a $10 entry fee per fiction story, 100 to about 3500 words (so, both flash fiction and short story categories), and a $100 top prize, per category, as well as publication in the Winter/Spring 2016 issue of The Ghouls’ Review. Multiple submissions allowed. Be advised that they like weird and wacky tales, so give them a whirl if oddities are in your wheelhouse.
  6. Deadline: Now through March 15. The Indiana Review has waived their traditional $3-per-entry general submission fee for their Spring 2016 window. Get your general submissions of poetry, fiction, or visual artwork in pronto (only 1 submission per genre)!

 

Now, as Rush might write in a lyric, get out there and rock!

A Winter Tirade, with Photos

20160209_101450(0)

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

20160210_155429

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?

20160211_081047

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

Friday Fictioneers on a Monday: A Mother’s Mettle

chateau-de-sable-ceayr

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.