Spotlight Sunday

 

Writer's Notebook

 Kate Loveton

Location: A little town in Southern Pennsylvania, United States

 Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

My interest in writing grew out of my love of reading. I’ve experienced many enjoyable hours in the worlds created by some fine authors. It’s amazing when you stop to consider it – how communication between minds can span centuries through the written word. I can open a book by Charles Dickens, and I’m immediately transported back to Victorian England, viewing the times and conditions of that era through Dickens’ eyes. On another day, I might pick up Seutonius’s ‘The Twelve Caesars’ and experience the early Roman Empire as witnessed and perceived by him.

Where else can you experience this but through the written word?

The idea that I might entertain or move a reader, or cause of flicker of an idea to cross the mind of someone years from now, is mighty engaging. In fact, it’s exciting.

 Why do you write?

Because, at heart, I’m a spinner of tales. I like to think how people might act in any given situation – and then I want to take you along for the ride.

For example, I see a room. A beautiful woman holding a bloody dagger enters it. Her long, dark hair is mussed and hanging over one eye, preventing us from seeing her expression. She is wearing a tight, yellow dress which is torn and stained with blood spray. Can you see it? I hope so. But more important, I now want you to wonder what happened to her, and I want to create in you a need to know the rest of the story. Why is the dagger bloody? Was someone only injured or murdered? Does the knife belong to the woman? Were her actions in self-defense or something more? What expression is she hiding beneath the heavy hair? What will she do now?

I write because I like to make up my own worlds and people them with characters of my own imagining. In the end, I’m nothing more than another teller of tales, much like the old men who used to gather on back porches, passing around a shared bottle of whiskey, exchanging made-up stories, trying to ‘tell you a good one.’

What is your favorite genre or style to write in?

The honest answer is whichever one I’m currently attempting! I’m not sure I can define my genre. The closest label might be suspense. I like a bit of horror, but like it to be subtle. I think there is a lot of subtle horror in life. True horror isn’t vampires and werewolves, perhaps. It might be the kid down the street who says hello to you every morning – and then takes a small arsenal into school one day. Or it might be the fellow who silently works a 9 to 5 job, the guy everyone thinks is just swell, and who secretly sends a packet of anthrax through the mail to a government representative. Or it may be of a more mundane nature, such as the horror a mother experiences as she wonders how she’ll go on, now that a beloved child is dead.

I think we try to explain away the horror in life, seeking reasons for it. I think horror is just a byproduct of life. It’s all around us, but often we don’t recognize it. I deal with this in the piece I’ve provided for your readers.

 

 Who is your favorite author and what is it that strikes you about his work?

John Steinbeck is my favorite author. What strikes me about his work is how clearly and compassionately he views humanity. He sees the good and evil, and he never whitewashes it or tries to explain it away. Evil exists, and humanity must acknowledge its presence – only then can we answer it. To Steinbeck, evil is a choice, as is goodness. He brings great heart to his writing. If I could spend an hour with a writer, past or present, Steinbeck would be my choice.

What books have most influenced your life?

The Bible, of course – it’s a collection of stories that depicts the human condition brilliantly. We see the bravery, the folly, the greed and jealousy, the hope and despair of countless generations, and the longing for something more than just ourselves. The Bible shows our loneliness, how we long for something greater than man to take notice of us… to love us. To find us worthy. It’s a pretty scary thing, stuck out here on this rock, orbiting around our small star, while the immensity of the universe seems unaware of our existence. The Bible brings the universe a little closer and tells us we are not alone. Someone once told me that every story ever written finds its basis somewhere in the Bible. I think that may be true; humanity and its condition hasn’t changed much through millennia, in spite of our burgeoning technology.

Another influence is Steinbeck’s ‘East of Eden.’ The book’s exploration of good and evil, of human motivation still stands up. He reworks the story of Cain and Abel on a grander, modern scale. He reminds us that while our emotions profoundly affect who we are, we can ‘choose’ whether we shall rule over them or whether they shall rule over us. Pretty heady stuff, that! Such a hopeful message, I think: we can choose to rise above our emotions.

Another thing Steinbeck shows us is that sometimes there is no rationale for evil. It just IS. In our modern-day quest to try to diagnose and cure all things, I think we sometimes forget that evil just often IS. It isn’t always environmental; it isn’t always genetic; it isn’t always psychological. Sometimes, it just IS. And who can explain why? No one, not even after all these centuries.

One last thing about Steinbeck: he teaches us that evil is sly. It often masquerades in pretty packages, and looks anything but ugly or dangerous. There’s a horror-filled idea for you!

Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice that you would like to share with us?

William Stafford, a twentieth century American poet, advised writers to “Lower your standards and keep writing.” I have that quote scribbled on a 3×5 card and propped up on my writing desk where I can always see it. Too often, we have these extraordinary ideas that we can suddenly write prose like the most admired writers down through the centuries, and we’re stopped dead in our tracks by the realization that we probably can’t. And we stop writing.

I don’t think you have to be Shakespeare to tell a compelling story. And so, I’ve learned to lower my standards and I keep writing, always in the hope that someone will find something of merit in my stories.

“Lower your standards and keep writing” – that’s the best advice I have to share. Especially, the ‘keep writing’ portion. Everyday. Even when you’re tired. Even if it’s just a paragraph. Do it.

Is there any background you can give us on your this piece?

The story I’d like to share is called ‘Monsters Under The Bed.’ It is the second installment of a flash fiction trilogy I’ve written that is part of a series entitled “Schuyler Falls Stories.” These short pieces explore the lives of a group of people living in that community. The tales are sometimes fantastical; at other times, the horror arises out of more natural, explainable scenarios, one being the modern day psychological illness of Menchausen’s by Proxy, for example. ‘Monsters Under the Bed’ introduces readers to Isabel Perkins, who sees monsters but learns to keep quiet about them – at least for a time. I hope your readers enjoy it. If so, they may wish to visit the first story in the trilogy, ‘The Good Mother,’ and the third, ‘Signs.’

Monsters Under the Bed

Ever since she was a little girl, Isabel Perkins worried there were monsters under her bed.

It didn’t matter that Mama and Papa would get down on their knees, peek beneath the ruffled edge of the flowered bedspread, and assure her everything was fine. It didn’t matter that the tiny light Mama placed in her room gave off a soft warm blush that alleviated the darkness. Nor did it matter that Papa kept the bedroom door slightly ajar so Isabel could call out if she became frightened.

No, none of that mattered.

Because Isabel was convinced there were monsters under the bed. She might not be able to see them, but she knew they were there.

As decades passed, so did the fears of childhood. The monsters receded from Isabel’s memory.

Until Joe died.

After nearly fifty years of marriage, it was hard being on her own again. The loneliness was something awful, and she had trouble sleeping nights. Worse, she began to worry about things.

Like monsters.

It began innocently enough.

Two months ago, she was having her hair done at Bea Edwards’ beauty shop. Everyone said Bea’s was the best place in town for a color and cut. It was also the best place to find out what was happening in Schuyler Falls. Every woman between the ages of fifteen and seventy came to Bea for their beauty needs, and each brought with her a bit of gossip.

That particular morning, Isabel overheard a conversation between two women sitting under hair dryers. It seemed a fellow in a neighboring county, working for the Water Authority, slipped a little something into the water supply, making a rash of people sick. It ended up killing a few of the older citizens – all because they took a drink of water!

Isabel didn’t join the conversation, but thoughts about the possible doings of county employees preyed on her mind. She started worrying about the people in charge of Schuyler Falls’ water supply – and whether a psychological profile ought to be required for county employees.

She said as much to her son, Sam, when he came to visit the next day. Sam just laughed. “Ma, you’re such a card!”

It wasn’t the response Isabel wanted, but she let it pass. Folks said she had an active imagination about things.

Especially since Joe died.

It was like that flat screen TV Sam had given her for Mother’s Day.

He placed it atop the old oak chest sitting across from the foot of her bed. “This way, Ma, you can lay in bed at night and watch TV, snuggled under the covers.”

Sam worried about her. “You know what, Ma? You oughta get a dog. Everybody needs company. Maybe one of those little frou-frou dogs. He could snuggle up against you when you watch JEOPARDY at night.”

Isabel didn’t want any damned dog, frou-frou or otherwise. She also didn’t like the idea of that big TV monitor watching her all night long. Still, she didn’t tell Sam; he looked too pleased with himself.

That TV bothered Isabel, though, especially at night. Emblazoned on the rim of the monitor was its brand name, VIZIO. Even turned off, the name continued to cast a ghostly light into the room. VIZIO seemed too close to the word ‘vision,’ and that unsettled her. She got to wondering if the TV people were watching her while she slept, wondered if those cable people had an arrangement whereby they could spy on citizens as they slept in their beds.

She’d noticed their trucks in the neighborhood. They always seemed to be around. Who knew what they were capable of? Isabel thought someone should do a psychological profile on people who worked for the cable company.

She finally figured out how to hide the TV’s brand name; she placed a large piece of duct tape over the glowing letters. When Sam asked her about the tape, she didn’t tell him about the cable people; she just said the light bothered her.

But that duct tape made everything fine. For a time.

Then the Shadow People started coming to visit.

One night, unable to sleep, Isabel watched a TV show about fleeting, shadowy images, and reports that these shadows might be ghosts or time-travelers – maybe even space aliens!

Chuckling at the gullibility of some folks, Isabel turned off the TV and went to sleep.

But in the days and nights that followed, she’d be making tea or doing a bit of ironing in her dimly lit kitchen and suddenly take notice of a fleeting shadow. First time it happened, she dismissed it as a trick played by the light. But the shadows began to appear with increasing frequency. That scared Isabel.

Scared her enough to bring it up with Sam.

“Ma, I got you the TV so you could watch JEOPARDY, not listen to kooks jibber-jabbering about ghosts and UFOs. Jesus! You keep this stuff up, and people will think you belong on the Funny Farm. You oughta get a dog! Maybe it would take your mind off all this crazy stuff.”

She could see Sam was angry. He was also something more. Something that made Isabel uneasy. Did he think she was nuts? She’d heard of sons placing their mothers in nursing homes for less. Isabel didn’t want to wind up in a nursing home.

That was when she decided silence was a virtue. She’d keep her monsters to herself.

And it was why she kept quiet about Polly Andrews.

Everyone in Shuyler Falls loved Polly, including Isabel. A fine lady who’d been through a lot when she lost her little girl, everyone respected Polly. She’d been such a caring mother.

Becki had died almost a year ago. Toward the end, she’d been skin and bones, and hollow-eyed. It had been a terrible thing to witness Polly’s grief afterward.

But she was a strong woman, and after a few months, Polly pulled herself together and concentrated on the child she still had living. Isabel had admired her for it.

Yet… just a week ago, Isabel had been in Lynette Monroe’s bakery when Polly walked through the door with her picture-pretty little girl, Cindy.

Except she wasn’t quite so picture-pretty that day. She looked tired. Hollow-eyed.

They were there to pick up some chocolate chip muffins. Isabel watched as Cindy said she didn’t like them, that they tasted funny.

Isabel saw Polly frown. “Lower your voice ‘fore Miss Lynette overhears you talking so evil about her muffins. You don’t like chocolate chip? All little girls like chocolate chips. Your sister liked those muffins.”

Isabel strained to catch Cindy’s reply. “No ma’am, she didn’t. Said they tasted funny. She only ate ‘em to please you.”

A look come over Polly’s face at that, one that brought a chill to Isabel’s heart. She suddenly didn’t recognize Polly, and found herself thinking of things that go bump in the night. Dark things.

Then Polly smiled and the look was gone, and Isabel wondered if she’d imagined it.

“Okay, sugar, you don’t like chocolate chip muffins, we’ll get something else, okay?” Polly caressed the girl’s hair. “After all, it’s all the same. Anything will do.”

And then she winked at Isabel.

Isabel wasn’t sure why that wink bothered her, but it did. The thought of it stayed with her long after she left the bakery.

It made her think of the monsters who used to hide under her bed. Monsters that everyone said weren’t there.

She thought of Sam suddenly. She thought of his face when he mentioned the Funny Farm.

Maybe people were right and there weren’t any monsters. Maybe it was her overactive imagination. After all, everyone knew there really weren’t such things as monsters.

Right?

Isabel decided to get a dog.

To read more from Kate visit:

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“Fantasy play…gets children to enlarge their mental frameworks, get outside their
own minds, practice language, and gain information about other values and points
of view. …This level of learning separates human thought from that of all other
species. Play, in this sense, is the gateway to metaphor, to scientific insight, and to
invention. … Encourage children to open this gate before expecting them to
perform advanced mental operations.”
 Dr. Jane M. Healy,Your Child’s Growing Mind 

Spotlight Sunday

 

Write Edge pic

Ekta R. Garg

Hometown/Location:  Central Illinois, USA
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? 
My grandfather was a journalist and wrote and reported in four different languages. My father loves to read, and my mother can turn even a simple grocery run into a lively anecdote. Stories and love of the written word have always functioned as a necessary part of my life, and I think I got my talent and drive to write from my grandfather.
Why do you write?
Because it’s how I make sense of the world, and because writing is where my heart beats the loudest.
What is your favorite genre or style to write in?
I love fiction. On my parenting blog I’m writing about real experiences, of course, and that has its own charm and advantages, but the magic of fiction lures me every time. What occurs in life often surprises us, and we turn around and say, “Wow, I never thought that could happen.” But in fiction writers have carte blanche to make those things happen. It’s wonderful!
I don’t know if I can yet classify my writing in one particular genre, however. I feel like it has a little bit of a literary bent, because I’m deeply interested in the characters, what happens to them, and what influences their decisions and lives. But I also like a really good story. I strive to maintain a good pace and keep the action moving. Is there a twenty-first-century hybrid term for literary fiction that also balances a good story?
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Do I really have to pick one? I love Jhumpa Lahiri’s lyrical writing, the fact that she can take novels composed mostly of narrative and make them sumptuous, like a good meal at a high-end restaurant. I can sink into the work of Robert Jordan in his series “The Wheel of Time” that some might dismiss as fantasy but really is about a group of kids trying to figure out who they are and whether their destinies are taking them where they really want to go. John Grisham can keep me up at nights with his twists and turns in the courtroom, and I usually finish his books shaking my head in disbelief and grinning.
Because I also review books I spend a lot of time reading new novels, and recently I’ve read some great ones. My main goal is to learn something from every book I read and try to incorporate a small piece of it in my own work.
What books have influenced your life most?
Hmm. Another tough one. I’ve mentioned Robert Jordan’s series. The entire thing took about twenty years to complete, but I love his dedication to his characters and storyline. At some point — around book 8 or 9 — fans started turning against him, saying he was just milking the series for money, that he had gone crazy, that he was torturing them just for kicks. What he’d originally stated would be six books just kept going. Many people may not have realized as the books came out that he got really sick at one point, and I feel like his writing and storylines reflect that real-life change.
But he didn’t quit. He didn’t bow to pressure. He didn’t wrap things up just to satisfy people (and if he had, they wouldn’t have been satisfied anyway.) He kept working, patiently, sometimes even ploddingly. Eventually he died, but he left detailed notes and even some recordings and partial scenes and chapters. His wife and main editor, Harriet, hired Brandon Sanderson to finish the series, and Sanderson did a great job. Sanderson stayed true to the vision Jordan had because Jordan cared that much about the story.
When I think about it, my goal is to give every story I wrote that much care and dedication.
Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice that you would like to share with us?
Find something you’re passionate about, and keep tremendously interested in it–Julia Child
Do you have any advice for other writers? 
Keep your head down, and build a nest. If you’re serious about being a writer — as in, you spend your time running dialogue in your head when you’re doing the dishes and carry around a little notebook to jot down bits of scene inspiration no matter where you are — then be prepared. The publishing industry is in a state of flux, and it’s wonderful and frightening and only the greatest upheaval it has experienced in a long time. Maybe ever.
So get ready. It’s going to be a crazy ride. Strap yourself in tight, and don’t give up. Never, ever, ever give up.
Can you tell us a little background or anything special on the piece you composed? 
There’s this great blog called The One-Minute Writer, which encourages writers to spend sixty seconds a day writing. The site offers daily prompts, and at one point the site administrators held a weekly flash fiction contest. I began entering it as often as I could and even won a few. This piece was my last win before they eventually folded the contest. I miss the contest — some people came up with some pretty good entries, and you even won prizes — but I’m glad the site still encourages writers to exercise the craft. Sometimes we need that jolt of inspiration.
During the contest, we would receive a writing prompt and have to create a story under 1000 words based on that prompt. When I saw the prompt for this one, I instantly thought of a painting. It’s a pretty common conversation starter, but I didn’t want the painting to be an ordinary one. So this is what I wrote. Enjoy!
Dr. Grant stared at the painting critically. His receptionist, Lois, waited for his verdict.

“I’m not sure, Lois. Do you think it’s tilting too far to the right?”

“I can adjust it for you, Doctor, if you’d like.”

She stepped forward, pushed up the lower right-hand corner of the painting more for show than anything else, and then stepped back.

“How’s that?”

Dr. Grant narrowed his eyes in thought, and after a few moments his face relaxed.

“Yes, that’s fine. I think this is going to make a distinct addition to the waiting room, don’t you?”

Lois nodded. “I agree. Your patients will certainly think so too, I’m sure.”

“Speaking of which, who is my first patient today?”

She went to her desk and ran her finger down the patient list for that day. Lois had managed her boss’ schedule since he launched his private solo practice 15 years earlier, and they had fallen into an easy working rhythm. That rhythm had given Dr. Grant the idea to employ Lois’ help with the painting when he’d decided to purchase it and place it in the waiting room. It hung facing the sofas where patients sat and pressed their knees together in mild anxiety before they saw him.

“It’s Mrs. Barnes, Doctor. She should be here in 30 minutes.”

“Fine. I’ll just go into my office and get my files in order.”

“Yes, Doctor.”

She sat down and logged on to the computer, opening her web browser and then minimizing it when Dr. Grant walked past her. She didn’t want him to see the home page she’d chosen. True, it was just a silly celebrity gossip page, but Lois felt like Dr. Grant would have thought less of her if he’d known just how closely she followed the pursuits of Brad, Angelina, Miley, and the rest of their ilk.

Following her daily routine, Lois spent about 10 minutes surfing the site and catching up on the previous night’s celebrity exploits. Then she checked her email, and after hopping up to start the first pot of coffee for the morning, Lois opened the electronic version of the patient schedule and waited.

Right on cue, Mrs. Barnes walked in at 9:00 a.m. Five minutes before she walked in the phone rang, so when Mrs. Barnes finally arrived Lois waved her to the sofa with a friendly smile and continued discussing with the party on the phone the process of paperwork involved when becoming Dr. Grant’s patient for the first time. As Lois talked she noticed Mrs. Barnes’ reaction to the painting.

She looked taken aback at first, and then she tried to act casual while she waited on the sofa across from it. After waiting for about seven or eight minutes, however, the painting had forced her into some serious introspection. By the time Lois greeted her and told her Dr. Grant was ready, Mrs. Barnes clearly had the painting on her mind.

As per her instructions, Lois made a note of the reaction in the electronic chart.

Mr. Harper came in next, and he did a double take too. While he sat and waited his turn, however, something about the painting seemed to bother him. By the time Dr. Grant asked Lois to lead him in, Mr. Harper almost seemed angry. Lois calmly walked to her computer, sat down, and typed in her observations of his reaction.

The most interesting reaction that morning came from Ms. Baxter. She saw the painting and stared at it for a few moments. She backed into the sofa, and it interrupted her train of thought as she sat down hard on it. The quick bounce on the sofa jolted Ms. Baxter for a moment, but then she blinked and stared at the painting again. Something akin to remorse seemed to cross her face when Lois led her back. Once again, Lois made sure to record the reaction.

The parade of patients continued throughout the day, and while a couple of them sharply drew in their breath at seeing the painting—one actually gasped—no one asked Lois about it. No one asked her why Dr. Grant had wanted it hung or where it came from. And certainly no one asked what it meant.

***

Two years later Arthur Grant, M.D., practicing psychiatrist, instructed his receptionist that the time had come to take the painting down.

“I believe I’ve gathered enough material for my paper,” he told Lois. “We won’t need it anymore.”

Lois nodded calmly. “Will you be replacing it with anything, Doctor?”

“I’m not sure,” Dr. Grant mused aloud. He stared at the spot, trying to picture it with another wall hanging. “Maybe this time we should record their reactions to a blank space. It’s possible that the power of suggestion in this piece will fill in the white wall in their minds.”

Doctor and receptionist shared a long last look at the large canvas. The 3’x5’ plain white board had a single word on it, and Dr. Grant felt incredibly pleased with his results. Who knew that a simple word could turn into a suggestion on its own in people’s minds and that they would enrich his research with so much material?

“By the way, Lois,” Dr. Grant said, suddenly turning to her, “I never asked you whether the painting had any effect on you whatsoever.”

She glanced back at her computer but then smiled and shook her head. “Not at all, Doctor, although I have to say I’ve found it interesting to watch people react to it.”

He nodded as if in agreement but doubted that she had told him the full truth. If he wanted to be honest with himself, he’d felt a slight twinge every time he’d walked by it. After all who could sit across from the word “Guilty” on the wall and not feel a little of the accusation in the word?

To read more from Ekta visit:
Blog: The Write Edge, thewriteedge.wordpress.com
(I actually run four blogs, but The Write Edge is the main one and the other three offshoots of it.)
Twitter: @EktaRGarg
Other: aois21.com (freelance editor for new writing projects); Bookpleasures.com (reviewer)

Please leave your feedback, comments and encouraging words. We want to uplift and engage with our Spotlight writers! If you like what you read , please share with your fellow writers!

 

Spotlight Sunday

me

 Meggie Royer

Hometown/Location: Midwest

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I started reading poetry avidly in one of my high school English classes. At that point I had never really read much poetry, and it seemed so challenging and ultimately beautiful that I decided to try it out for myself. So my interest in writing really originated from the discovery of Richard Siken’s poetry, as well as Sharon Olds’ poetry and Bob Hicok’s.
Why do you write?

I write because my voice is louder on paper than it is in air. Writing is a life raft for me; I can return to it again and again to write my heart out. But possibly the biggest reason why I write is because the act of putting pen to paper, of putting fingers to keyboard, is incredibly healing. To me, writing and poetry are a way of survival.

What is your favorite genre or style to write in?

My favorite style to write in is free verse poetry. I don’t write with the intention of following rules; I write with the intention of breaking them, and free verse doesn’t have a specific format-it allows the writer to shape the poem and the piece of their own volition- which is perfect for me. As far as favorite genres go, I write a lot about love, survival, recovery, and lessons passed down through generations.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

My favorite author is Richard Siken. His poetry strikes me because of its rawness and the underlying current of powerful human emotion. It’s bloody and visceral and real, and he doesn’t sugarcoat his words. Overall, it’s strikingly honest.

What books have influenced your life most?

The two books that have influenced my life most are After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell and Elegy Owed by Bob Hicok. The former is a novel about a woman whose lover dies and how she copes with his death, and the latter is a book of poetry centered around the major theme of grief and healing. They’re both absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking, and share important lessons about the spaces other people hold in our lives and how we deal when those spaces disappear or close up.
Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice that you would like to share with us?

My favorite quote is one by Voltaire. “We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good; we do the best we know.” It reminds me that we’re all just doing our best, all just trying to get by, and we are all trying to thrive rather than just survive.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

This will sound very simple, but it holds true. Never, ever give up after being rejected. By publishers, by magazines, by other writers, by peers, friends, family, critics, etc. If you truly have a passion for writing, you will find a way to make it work. What truly matters is how you feel about your own writing, not how others do. You will find your niche.
Can you tell us a little background or anything special on the piece you composed? I wrote this unrequited love poem during a time when I was trying to get over someone. I couldn’t think of any other way to do this except to write about it, and I put my entire heart into the poem. Sometimes writing hurts, but this piece hurt in a good way. It was a relief to finish it.

 

Unrequited Love Poem

As a child I always had nightmares of someone removing my heart
and replacing it with a broken shadow box.
No matter how hard I tried to fill its shelves with the trinkets of my childhood-
gravel, honey, scissors, torn pockets-
the shelves emptied themselves as soon as I filled them.
It’s the same with you. I try to remove you from my mind,
spill you from the cavities buried deep in my eye teeth,
but you’re always there, a city pushing its metal ridges through my skin.
There are anchors in my eyes when I look at you.
No one else has dragged me down the way you do.
I’ve been walking the tightrope between in love and over it
for so long that I’m not even sure which side I want to fall off of anymore.
I guess whichever one involves a softer landing.
But the thing is, even your laugh shakes me to the core.
I’ve been burning long before you knew me.
My stomach doesn’t just get butterflies when I see you;
it fills with a flurry of bats flapping their wings so hard
that the sound of flight tears holes in my inner lining.
I wish you could see me, but that would involve a magnifying glass.
In my dreams I swallow your hipbones whole-
right before I wake up, the archaeologists come to remove you
from my windpipe like a dinosaur skeleton, but every bone is rusted
because I’ve spent a lifetime learning how to oxidize you.

 

To read more from Meggie visit:

Tumblr: http://www.writingsforwinter.tumblr.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7234401.Meggie_Royer
Books: http://writingsforwinter.tumblr.com/bookinfo

Please leave your feedback, comments and encouraging words. We want to uplift and engage with our Spotlight writers! If you like what you read , please share with your fellow writers!

Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write


The benefits of writing go far beyond building up your vocabulary.

No matter the quality of your prose, the act of writing itself leads to strong physical and mental health benefits, like long-term improvements in mood, stress levels and depressive symptoms. In a 2005 study on the emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing, researchers found that just 15 to 20 minutes of writing three to five times over the course of the four-month study was enough to make a difference.

By writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events, participants were significantly more likely to have fewer illnesses and be less affected by trauma. Participants ultimately spent less time in the hospital, enjoyed lower blood pressure and had better liver functionality than their counterparts.

It turns out writing can make physical wounds heal faster as well. In 2013, New Zealand researchers monitored the recovery of wounds from medically necessary biopsies on 49 healthy adults. The adults wrote about their thoughts and feelings for just 20 minutes, three days in a row, two weeks before the biopsy. Eleven days later, 76% of the group that wrote had fully healed. Fifty-eight percent of the control group had not recovered. The study concluded that writing about distressing events helped participants make sense of the events and reduce distress.

Even those who suffer from specific diseases can improve their health through writing. Studies have shown that people with asthma who write have fewer attacks than those who don’t; AIDS patients who write have higher T-cell counts. Cancer patients who write have more optimistic perspectives and improved quality of life.

So what is it about writing that makes it so great for you?

James W. Pennebaker has been conducting research on writing to heal for years at the University of Texas at Austin. “When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health,” Pennebaker writes. “They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function.”

Why? Pennebaker believes this act of expressive writing allows people to take a step back and evaluate their lives. Instead of obsessing unhealthily over an event, they can focus on moving forward. By doing so, stress levels go down and health correspondingly goes up.

You don’t have to be a serious novelist or constantly reflecting on your life’s most traumatic moments to get these great benefits. Even blogging or journaling is enough to see results. One study found that blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to the effect from running or listening to music.

From long-term health improvements to short-term benefits like sleeping better, it’s official: Writers are doing something right.

***** This article was originally found  HERE  **** 

Tuesdays with Tia

Muse

you are an inadequate space

a waste of nature,

a blank canvas

in which your painter will paint

a masterpiece.

he will run a dipped brush

along your spirit and your spine.

he will fill you with color

and contrast your vacancy

to his illustrious creations.

your pages will ripple

then tear

and he will attempt to salvage his work

but wind will blow with a god’s wrath

and carry his instruments on the breeze.

he is a painter

and you an excavated gallery.

here he will smooth his hands along your walls

to quell the silence.

he will hang his dreams on your walls

with tape, not ever thumbtacks

because he will not abandon his work but

attempt to create again

and again.

 

 

*photo credit unknown

 

Spotlight Sunday

 

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Alexander Strickler

Hometown/Location: York and Shippensburg, PA

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

My interest in writing stemmed from my love of reading. I didn’t really get into reading until late high school and writing after graduation. I would write little love poems about my girlfriend at the time. After I started going to Ship the Reflector really got me into writing more because I saw other people doing it and I was able to get feedback.

Why do you write?

I write because I have to. That may sound strange but I truly believe writing helps make sense of the world around you and your life. I have written things where throughout the process I learned so much about myself and what I think about who I am. Things were coming out of me that I never considered before. It allows exploration of self. Writing is also therapeutic. If I can take something bad that happened to me and make it something that people can read and relate to, well, that it just amazing.

What is your favorite genre or style to write in?

This is a good question. I have tried a bunch of different styles. So I will break it down into a few parts.

I tried fiction, but for me this is the most difficult genre. Plot is very hard. I have some pieces that I am proud of in this genre mostly for pushing through the struggles and finishing something but I think this is my weakest genre.

Creative non-fiction (CNF) is a genre that I seem to fit into most naturally. I enjoy making fun of myself and looking honestly at what I have done or not done in order to tell a story.

Poetry. I love writing poetry and within this genre I have written in many styles. When I started I wrote “regular” poems, always free verse though. Then I found much more success in slam poetry or performance poetry for much of the same reasons as CNF. Lately though, I am writing a lot of prose poetry, which I really like. The piece I submitted was written a month or so ago and is considered prose poetry.

I enjoy each for different reasons and I go through phases. Some ideas I have I try in one genre but it doesn’t work and I’ll sit on it for a while and then it will work in a different genre. So for now I am trying a bunch of different things until I find my true home.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I am going to have to say Chuck Palahniuk is my favorite. I have seen him read and have read a majority of his novels. He is one of the first authors that got me into reading. I like his humor a lot and his way of setting a scene. He does a great job of starting with a small detail and then gradually expanding the scene until you get the whole picture and it is usually something beautiful.

What books have most influenced your life most?

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk has been influential because it got me into reading and really speaks to me as a young man. Slaughterhouse Five, The Catcher in the Rye, 1984, the Stranger, and Less Than Zero also come to mind.

Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice that you would like to share with us?

I saw Christine Lincoln read once and we talked about writing as a therapeutic process and when she signed her book for me she wrote: “Write to heal yourself and the world.”

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write!

Lingerie or Underwear

Lingerie, or Underwear

A couple drove on a summer afternoon, or evening time. Let’s say his name is Andrew, hers Julie. So Andrew was driving the two of them, or Julie is driving her parents’ car to a department store. He looked at her cheek a second before the wind blew her hair over it, or it was the blasted AC she liked, like his mother. The couple was in a car. Let’s say it’s black, driving to a store.

When she pushed her hair behind her ear, he thought of her cheek. He kissed it before they got into the car because she wouldn’t give him her lips. “You taste like smoke,” she told him. Or maybe it was that he still smelled like strong spiced rum but smoke sounded better on her tongue.

The girl we are calling Julie in the couple hated all forms of smoke. This girl said it was bad for her singing voice. Her voice she used to get through college. He listened to her practice. Julie, the girl, always fake-coughed when they walked by cigarette smokers. The guy, who we are calling Andrew, gave sympathetic looks, or he looked away embarrassed.

Leaving the car and smoke outside, the couple walked through the Macy’s, or Kohl’s, or Sear’s. He fell a step behind, stopping for a second to hear the song playing. Andrew realized it was a different song than he thought but it only took a second to now be looking at her back as she continued on, or how quickly something ends.

Getting into the girl’s parents’ car, she said she needed underwear. “You can help me pick them out,” she said starting the car. Or he started the car and drove. One of them picked the music but the other seemed indifferent. 5 for $20 read the sign above the bin of underwear. Both seemed to smile, but for different reasons. Andrew, the boy, glanced around. She dove in.

She wanted his opinion, or settled for his because he was the only boy there who had seen her naked and knew the curves of her body. He knew what she liked. Andrew knew Julie, or Julie knew Andrew. But he squeezed all the hope out of this he could. He didn’t ask why they haven’t slept together in months. But he knew she wasn’t asking for his opinion, just a guy’s opinion. He said, “Thanks for thinking of me sexually.”

Someone drove back, after thongs were picked and paid for. Who paid – no one remembers exactly. There were no smokers but she coughed anyway and he pointed out no one was there. Maybe she could bare kissing on the lips if no smoke was around, maybe they could kiss if she continued pretending Andrew was him like when they picked the underwear.

In the car of some color, someone parked in the driveway. Someone said, “Maybe it isn’t working out.” Someone’s hands gripped the steering wheel so hard their knuckles turned white and the other studied the glove box handle until they knew every detail, every curve. Like he knew the moles on her back and she knew the scars on his hands. No more words were said before both got out of the car. One clearly got out first while the other lingered, touching the glove box handle.

Julie’s mother or father blew up the air mattress for the couple to sleep on or fuck on but only if she was feeling imaginative. What they did doesn’t matter because one said, “Let’s talk” and the other said, “Let’s enjoy tonight.” Her definition of “enjoy” was often different than his. Which one liked fucking and which liked making love is still a mystery, but one always closed their eyes.

The next morning, the couple drove the black parents’ car again to the train station. They took turns picking the songs because they couldn’t agree. One picked new songs from school, the other picked songs of bands they saw in concert. The boy or girl couldn’t help but feel isolated. Julie, or the girl, kept checking her phone. Andrew saw her double check the new underwear was placed in her suitcase, the tags still attached, or unused so far.

At the station, one went north and one took the car back west. Who went where – doesn’t matter really. Who broke up with who the following day isn’t important. Just know she would call him months later from the hospital because she wouldn’t eat and played with razorblades. He answered shaking, a little baggie of his new habit and pen in hand. When they got together again, Julie and Andrew, her scars touched his ashed fingertips, they knew they couldn’t ever see each other again.

To read more from Alex visit:

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/alexander.strickler.9?fref=ts

Honesty With a Sharp-Tipped Pen

Originally posted on Writing & Art:

GIVE ME YOUR BEST!

I know this blog is just starting out and it’s rather small right now, but I’d love any responses at all.

To all the writers out there, write something honest. Whether it’s a back and forth conversation, write something that is just oozing with an intense honesty.

There is nothing to writing, all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed, Mr. Hemingway said. So let’s bleed all over this page.

Here is my piece,

(Scene opens with Kurt and James – two best friends celebrating a twenty-first birthday. They are at a quarry ledge and James begins venting thinking Kurt is asleep.)

“You have no idea what’s coming man,” James said.

Kurt made no reply. He had dozed off for a moment but woke up without opening his eyes at James’ comment.

“You never realized,” James continued seeming to be content with talking…

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