Friday Fictioneers: The ‘D’ In DIY Stands For Divorce

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

photo credit: Sandra Crook

Before Jamison could explain, Suzanne dropped her suitcase outside the front door, ran through the living room and out the newly installed patio doors leading to the garden. Seeing the roof she closed her eyes. Her heels sunk in artificial grass, freshly watered but empty of the pleasant dew smell.

“Fuck, James. You had ONE job.”

Suzanne grabbed her phone and speed-dialed the construction manager, one finger in her ear to block Jamison’s noise.

“Ned! Thank God. About the roof…. Well, my husband’s clearly incompetent!”

Jamison opened his mouth to speak then thought, “Why bother.”


This flash fiction is based off of the photo prompt above for Friday Fictioneers – flash fiction under 100 words. This was my first time participating and it was a lot of fun, so I look forward to joining in for more!

Home: Haiku

in-awe-of-nature-drunk-off-rhetoric
Maui, Hawaii

She felt most at home 

when she bathed in salt water,

and was flanked by green.

 

 

I’m in an honest and fully committed same-sex relationship with nature. Bite-sized poem to put my photographs to use again 🙂 – I miss this creative outlet to my creative outlet.

The Great Tribulation: A Short Story

Woah, it’s has been a minute since I’ve posted a story. Here’s one inspired by way too many wasted Sunday mornings… I tried to make the title a little less obvious, and failed. Ah well.

Curtis roasted like a pig. He moved in a fever between two pots, holding a wooden spoon the length of his arm. The doors and windows of his small shack were open but the heat was unmoved. He looked to see the girl was still naked and sprawled out on top of his bed with a filthy rag on her forehead. The girl’s breasts spilled away from each other like two repelling magnets, a steady stream of sweat licked her from chin to navel. Her mouth was open and dry and it had been minutes since she’d blinked or sighed.

“Hey you. Hey, you still alive?” Curtis said.

The girl made a sound, something like a squawk and wheeze, and managed a few licks of her lips.

“I think so.” she said.

“Unlucky you. Why aren’t you blinking?”

“Oh… I wasn’t paying mind to whether I was blinking or not.” she said.

“You weren’t.” Curtis dashed a palmful of salt into a pot, “I thought I was cooking for a dead girl.”

Curtis took the joint from the corner of his mouth and passed the dregs to the girl. It was mostly ash, but it was familiar so she inhaled and held anyway. Even bare skin felt like one too many layers, she made herself as wide as she could to cool down. Arms and legs spread open so she looked like she was making snow angels in the sheets. And when was the last time she’d seen snow? Heat had built up slow then wrecked them all at once, writhed out of the ground like some vengeful spirit ready to drive them delirious – and succeeding. The girl was half blind and shriveled like a newborn pup when he found her stroked out in the dirt and sand, the poor godless and sun-bleached girl.

Curtis brought a bowl where the girl laid and she finally sat up at the smell. The bowl overflowed with rice and meat, two spoons for sharing. The chunks of meat were mysterious but they both guessed it was goat’s meat; fibrous and swimming in it’s sweetness. He watched the girl’s mouth work the steaming chunk and wondered how she could put her lips on something so hot without batting an eyelash. She caught his slack look and laughed a crack lipped riot saying, cool as anything, “Man, when you’ve been raised by the sun a little heat don’t hurt.”

The girl’s body looked like a heap of Himalayan salt in the distance. Curtis had watched her crawl on her stomach from noon til late, the cloud’s bellies burnt orange and only a few hours left before they’d disappear. If the girl was going to make it, she’d have to drag herself to salvation and prove she wanted it. To be out at this time of the day was a show that at some point she wasn’t sure she did, and Curtis didn’t have time for people who’d given up on themselves. The girl passed out on the steps to the smell of starch and boiled meat.

From the empty bowl of her stomach, Curtis guessed it had been weeks since the girl had eaten. She downed a mug of water and refilled the mug to cleanse her ruddy face, before starting on a plate of sweet bread rolls and jam. They sat on the bed and the girl appreciated not having to move to sleep, the meal formed a content lump in her gut. The solitary candle wisped around in a moment of breeze and they both held their breaths while it bathed them. Curtis pushed the empty bowl away from himself and wiped a rag on his mouth and all around his forehead and neck.

“Why were you out there like a damn slug?” he said.

The girl didn’t open her eyes but cupped the new pouch of belly in her hands like an expectant mother with little more than a peanut in her womb.

“I was trying to find somewhere cool I could lay a while.”

Curtis lit a fresh joint on the candle, the light sparked the girl up like an angel and blasted the rest of the room into void.

“Hm,” he said, “You can crawl all the way to Lakeland and not find a lick of shade.”

“I don’t know. My daddy told me there’s still some places where it’s cool and maybe not so crowded.” she said.

“And where’s your daddy at now? Nowhere good, I bet.”

The girl shrugged and took the offered joint into her fingers. She tried to remember the last letter she’d got from her father and retrieved a memory from a year prior. She waited as the ocean crept closer and swallowed homes in front of hers, before it finally knocked on her own door and swept her inland. She’d stopped believing her father was alive, but not that there was somewhere else to go. If there wasn’t, they would be alone in the dark when the curtain fell on Earth, leaving only godless souls to crawl on their bellies like blind snakes in a barrel, one climbing on top of the other for a chance at dying last. The girl looked at Curtis’s smushed face and missed when there was only man to fear, and the ground boar more than death.

Curtis poured cold water in a large bucket outside and the girl had a good go at washing herself. Her skin was virginal and free of scars; flesh like the smooth hat of a mushroom. He watched steam rise from the pool at her feet. The girl paused scooping water on her body, opened her arms and face and mouth to the black sky in a silent scream. She gave up bathing when a hot wind kicked up and coated her in dust.

Curtis had craned his neck to the clouds in a similar way but let out a primal scream with his own girl’s body laid in his arms and her looking up, too. The gaze was absent and her neck was cut and leaning awkwardly curious. It was done, but she didn’t fly into grace with open arms. Her body laid useless and Curtis left her there knowing this was their punishment and nothing would lessen the sentence.

The girl fell asleep as heavy as a child with a fever, her garish frame barely enough to make a real lump in the bed. Curtis sat up in bed beside her. She looked like a corpse, her skin opaque and veins ribbed up and down her arms and legs. He watched her and grew angry at her carelessness. Dragging herself through the rotten desert for what – she only had to take one look around and it was obvious; this was it and no magic man saved a place for her, or any of them, in the shade. You could live in a dream or with the steady footing and firm disappointment of reality, and he preferred the latter.

The sky was lavender and a steady heat of steam rose from cracks like geysers. The girl was gone when Curtis woke up and he saw her naked body merge with the mirage of wavering air in the not so far distance. She’d taken his boots, but they both knew he had no use for them. She would hear him call her name if he knew it. If he screamed it loud enough and knew he wanted her to stay. Soon the distance was too much and the heat too strong to see her without straining. He went back inside to the unmade bed, still musty and covered in her dirt, stripped the sheets and dumped them in the sink, running water on them until there was a stream of murk. The girl could have her shade, and Curtis would have his. The comfort that even Earth was mortal, and as long as there were sinners you could crawl for eternity and never leave suffering.

A Sleight 21st Century Love Poem: A Short Story

Is this a poem or flash fiction? I don’t even know. I hope you enjoy this fun exercise in bad language and other steamy things. And remember, any writing is good compared to no writing at all, right…? Thanks for stopping by. 🙂


Beneath the gallantry and fuckery,

as fun as she

(and she hopes he)

finds it,

it seems there should have been something else by now.

A slow dig in search of something palpable and wonderful,

electrical and whatever other adjective to describe the build up she feels when he

touches, kisses, works her legs open.

Boundless and burning, but oh is she misty!

So the tune of fuck you, what the fuck are we doing, and are we still fucking other people?

is overridden by the steady skipping track of a whisper to a dancing ear,

fuck me,

until neither have anymore fucks to give. They’re spent and everyone knows it.

And where were we?

The dig, that grueling chore of getting beneath the Earth’s crust, not nearly as attractive in the day time.

The slight unfurled mouth is now a gaping canal that sucks him in but the sun is up again and he wants out of this unholy rebirthing.

The sun is up and the beast run off.

But wait, what happened to the gallantry and fuckery?

What of those steamy windows of his old mustang where the girl’s head appears, disappears, then reappears like some magic trick that would get an illusionist fired?

His best trick is making the audience believe what he tells them,

that there is wonder and electricity and more beneath the fuckery.

But, what a thing it is to find the Earth is hollow.

Physics: A Short Story

The security guard hears the car long before he sees it. It’s low silhouette spits towards the parking lot and is the first to arrive, beating the sun that is barely risen above the hills, an arc of light in the blue-black sky visible then hidden again by fibrous rain clouds. The guard’s box is illuminated as the old two-tone Subaru pulls forward. He gets up and pokes his wide torso out of the warm box, the cold and wet coming in. His hands visor his eyes and motion for the car to go through. He squints to see the driver through the rain, the windshield wipers move too slow to clear the stream of water that casts a shimmer on the driver’s face, the wide set eyes constantly wavering. The woman smiles hard but the rain makes it look like she’s been crying, or maybe she has been crying. Her hand reaches from the car with a cardboard box and the officer takes it and smiles back, says his wife will literally kill him if he has another donut, that’s if his sugar doesn’t do it first, and waves the woman into the empty lot where she parks in a spot furthest from the entrance.

Adannaya turns the engine off and lays her head back, closes her eyes. The temporary black is the closest thing to sleep and the faint drumroll on the roof will do for a lullaby. The urge to cry rises again, from her stomach into her throat, but she takes another hit instead and fills the car with a smoke that makes the world look like it’s been covered with ground glass. She inhales until her lungs are at full capacity, holds even longer, then exhales smooth letting the smoke and everything else go. The car is warm and fragrant and smells like her home, seaside scented candles and peach flavored rolling papers in an overflowing ashtray. Helium-filled balloons bob about the car in a kaleidoscopic fog. She turns and retrieves a bouquet of sunburnt and bell shaped lilies, a stapled brown baggie of her mother’s prescriptions, the balloons nod their encouragements. The walk to the hospital is long and quiet save for slow footfalls across the graveled lot. Adannaya jumps once, but there’s not enough helium or hope to go anywhere.

Walker Learns the Cost of an Emergency Carpet Cleaning: A Short Story

Two men stood outside Walker’s open front door and he debated closing it back in their faces. Thinking Nilah had come to her senses and did in fact want to put that pretty mouth to work like Walker suggested, he answered the door with a grin and an almost empty bottle of vodka in front of his testicles. It was not Nilah, of course it wasn’t, but there was little to do now that he’d answered the door balls to the wind, a gamble in itself. The tall man, stoic with a constellation of dark moles on his face, held a rainbow-striped umbrella that would have been appropriate for a child to use. If he closed the door slowly enough, Walker thought, inch by inch until only his right eye was visible for a moment, then nothing at all, maybe the men would reconsider whether he was worth the hassle. But the second man, short and flat nosed, kept a boot dripping with water just inside the front entryway, a drenched cigarette in between his thumb and forefinger.

“It’s raining cats and dogs out here, Walker. Rude not to invite us in.” The short one said.

It was well past midnight, the only people who knocked on doors at this hour were crooks and hookers. Walker swayed with waves of drunkenness and poked his head into the long hallway where the two men stood. The carpeted hall was empty save for a smell of bleach and moist that was so powerful, forcing itself into every nook and cranny, it could have taken form of it’s own. Generators in the basement fueled the amber lights that flickered overhead, the faint chainsaw racket carried to Walker’s seventh floor apartment, itself illuminated by dozens of candles.

“I’ve got a girl in here,” Walker feigned a sleepy temper, looked at his empty wrist just out of view of the two men, “and it’s way past curfew hours.”

The short one gripped Walker’s shoulder, “There ain’t no girl in there, Walker, and ain’t never gonna be.”

They pushed past the door and the small man splayed out on the olive green sofa bed like a starfish on a psychiatrist’s chair, pulled a fresh cigarette from his shirt pocket and lit it, rolled his eyes in pleasure as he exhaled. The only art on the walls was a framed, life sized photo of the Collective that covered an entire wall so that the only window was closed in. The seven faces of the Collective members varied in degree of suspicion and followed anyone who walked in the apartment with intensity. They wore elaborate robes, a different color to represent each branch of the dictatorship. A half empty bowl of grapes sat on a chipped glass coffee table in the middle of the room. The sofa acted as a makeshift bed, filling most of Walker’s apartment where the living room, kitchenette, and bedroom were one and the same, except for where someone had made an attempt to add division, running old carpet into a 2×4 slot of linoleum in the kitchenette. The short one took another hit of his cigarette,

“Would you put some clothes on?”

“Last time I checked it wasn’t illegal for a man to be naked in his own home.” Walker walked to the back of the apartment and disappeared into a tall cabinet. He came out wearing a small red t-shirt and no bottoms, and sat in a sunken armchair opposite the sofa.

“It’s seldom I have guests so I hope this will do.”

The big one’s face was pinched so his eyes, nose, and mouth clustered in the center of it. He stayed mute and stood by the door with his hands clasped in front of him, still holding the damp umbrella in his hands as if it was the one job he was expected to do right. Walker wondered whether he was one of those invalids the state hired out for menial jobs. A soldier returned home far too mad to fit back into society, so had to resort to holding umbrellas over the heads of midget gangsters. He closed the front door but did not move from it.

“Let’s not waste each other’s time. I’ve been told you’ve been saying some things you shouldn’t be.” The short man said.

“Who, me? You know I know better than that.”

But you’ve proven me wrong time and again.” Still reclined, he popped a sour grape in his mouth and rolled it in his cheeks. They sagged like old bulldog cheeks. The generator clicked off then on again. “Do you think I like my job?”

Walker flung his right ankle over the armchair and the two men stared, willing the other to back down first until finally, the short man averted his eyes.

“You tell me.” Walker smirked.

“I don’t, it’s frustrating. Day in day out, I deal with people who think they’re above the law, then they lie right to my face when we both know it doesn’t help none. And it ain’t right, Walker.” He tapped ash on the table and went on, “you tell me, what gives you the right to have me dragged me out here at midnight in the pouring rain, just to lie to me; do you think you’re above the law? Or are you just a inconsiderate, lying turd?”

It had been a stupid mistake which, like most mistakes, started with a date at the local bar and ended in criminal activity. Walker was a proud, loud alcoholic. One tumbler of gin after another, he poured his grievances to Nilah, a young secretary he’d convinced going for a drink together would be a good idea. That evening Nilah bowed over her drink while Walker stood like a street preaching Evangelist, his speech punctuated with burps, and proclaimed he would no longer accept the constant observation of the Collective because, no matter what they managed to convince other people of, he would continue to think the Collective was nothing more than a “collective nuisance”. Nilah said nothing but looked anxious. Downing the rest of her drink she asked a haggard bar woman holding a bored looking baby on her hip for another one.

Now Walker found himself sitting across from two of the Collective’s gangsters, struggling to keep his words straight.

Liar is a strong word.” Walker said.

“What’s a better word for someone who’s been caught lying through their teeth?”

“Unfortunate, I’d say.”

“I’m doing you a huge favor. I would’ve come here solo if I’d been given a choice. But don’t make me have Big Herbert sort you out.”

“You mean he’s not here just to keep your pretty little head dry?”

It had been a few hours since Nilah abandoned Walker and he’d dragged himself home alone. Still happily in the middle of a drunken tip he had no plans of getting sober any time soon, although first seeing the two men at the door had straightened his vision slightly.

“Did you call the Collective a ‘collective nuisance’ or not?”

“I did, but only because I was trying to impress a girl.”

The short man motioned to Big Herbert who muddled over, his trunk-like body dripping water on the carpet.

“That big one’s dripping wet!” Walker jumped off his seat, “carpet cleaners aren’t cheap, you know.”

“Walker, you messed up big time tonight. We’ve made people disappear for much less than that. What do you think we’re going to do to you?” The short man said.

Like a puppet coming to life with a hand in it’s back, Big Herbert removed his coat, boots, and socks, and placed them neatly on the laminate passthrough of the kitchenette. It was then that Walker saw how big Big Herbert was, six foot five and at least 300 pounds, his foam textured hair scraped the comically low ceiling. Crouching down to undo the buttons of his mud colored khaki’s he pulled out an ill proportioned penis, aimed at the coffee table and urinated over all its contents, turning the bowl of grapes into a stomach turning soup.

“Hey!”

Big Herbert swayed left and right, peeing dehydrated amber on the glass until it spilled onto the carpet underneath.

“Hey you!”

“He can keep going on like that for ages, it’s amazing.” The short one watched from the sofa bed, kicking his legs like a blissful toddler.

“Make him stop!”

“He’ll stop when I’m good and ready.” He pointed the lit end of the cigarette at Walker, “I’m warning you now. You know you can’t go round saying and doing whatever it is you want. If we have to come back here, I’ll have him smash your skull without a second thought.” Big Herbert trickled his way to the front door dripping all over his own feet, and pissed on the Welcome rug. “We clear on that?”

Walker watched Big Herbert wizz merrily in a cracked flowerpot that started to overflow.

“Clear as crystal.”

“Good. I’d hate to see you get your brain tossed because you couldn’t learn how to shut up.” The short one threw a white envelope on the soaked coffee table, the edges absorbing yellow. “Report to the bureau tomorrow at 0800 hours. Don’t bring nothing but this letter.”

“Or else Big Herbert’ll take a shit in my bed?”

Finally, Big Herbert shook the last dregs on the plant, buttoned his khakis and dressed himself by the front door as if nothing had happened.

“Or else.”  The words came slow and overpronouced. Big Herbert’s eyes met Walker’s for the first time. They were dark, glossy pinpoints that cooled blood. Holding his pointer and middle finger to his temple with the thumb extended, Big Herbert curled his lips into his mouth then let out a POW as his thumb bent like a trigger.

Walker locked the door knowing it would be little help against the men if they chose to come back. The envelope lay on the table growing more yellowed. Pinching a corner of the paper he peeped through to read what was already visible, Subject: Walker Damsen, Crime: Public Defiance, Sentence: At the discretion of the Collective.


I hope you enjoyed this short, ”upcycled” and edited from last semester’s creative writing class but could still use some fleshing out, I think. This scene was inspired by a scene from Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World (which I highly recommend), and an assignment where something unexpected happens. As usual, comments and feedback are highly appreciated. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

The Last Man on the Moon: A Short Story

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This story was inspired by the picture above, taken by me in Brasilia at the modern TV tower.

Since Eric’s return it was rare for him to go out in the day time. He was mostly nocturnal, but on some occasions would stay up through the sunrise and, rather than go to sleep, take a pair of binoculars to the balcony in his bedroom. He sidled around a four poster bed too large for the room, the posts an inch away from the textured ceiling. The tops of his feet disappeared in fibers of high shag carpet. Furniture from at least three different bedroom sets filled the remaining floor space: a clean birch writing desk, an elm bedside table, a chest of drawers made of cedar wood that towered higher than most but came just underneath Eric’s nose. He was six foot two with the long frame and solid shoulders of a swimmer, the steady feet of a dancer. Something he attributed to years training in zero gravity where steady footing was the difference between taking one calculated step forward and catapulting yourself hundreds of feet until something blocked your path, or you carried on flying through eternity.

The room was purposefully overcrowded and claustrophobic. Eric had grown to find a snug suit full of pressurized air and the tight accommodations two people share in a shuttle, as comfort. How did you know you were alive if you weren’t suffocating just a little? A steady asphyxiation temporarily relieved by a deep sigh. On the balcony of his home, Eric was as close to the sky as he could manage without climbing onto the roof. On nights the moon was particularly grand he would lean a ladder on the edge of gutter hanging over the balcony. A blanket underarm and the rope to a pair of binoculars between his teeth. Shoeless, his toes gripped each rung. He would stay on the roof as long as the moon would keep his company. It was cold but the sun was bright, warming the previous night’s frost. Eric lived in a green bathrobe that hugged him from all angles. Sunglasses hung onto a playdough nose, the sides completely boxed in over his eyes. He placed the binoculars over his lens and focused on a shadowed fissure of craters down the moon’s face. Eric was brought to a familiar sense of eternity, a feeling of confrontation that he had in boyhood and most recently when he took his first steps on the moon. He stared at the sphere through bulbous eyes in search of it again.

He was twelve when his mother pointed to the stars where she saw afterlife but Eric could only see mortality. Looking at the stars, planets, suns, galaxies, all of which would continue to burn, swallow themselves, and burst to life again long after they were forgotten dust, the back of his throat closed. He pressed his mother, How can you be so calm? She scooped his chin in her palm, shook it gently, Why worry about that, boy? Little needed explanation outside of what faith deemed necessary for either of them to know.

While Eric was not religious, when his boot tossed dust and he saw the moon’s erratic surface through the dark tint of a sun visor he felt something that he could only compare to a religious experience. The same sense of awe and fear that came when he stargazed crept into existence again; the tightening in the back of his throat; the slight suffocation. For a time he would not look back on Earth. He refused to become accustomed to the paper mache replica in the distance, too small and easily hidden behind a well-placed thumb. The surface of the moon was grey valleys and mountains, the elevated outer lip of craters were like scattered bowls in the desert. Eric climbed the side of a large crater and took airless hops down to the deep middle of it. It was impossible to see over the edge from where he stood. A single ant in the center of a mountain a million miles from anything. Kicking his feet out from underneath himself his body was parallel to the moon’s surface. He was not laying down, but his body floated, making a slow descent to the ground. He drew his knees into his chest and rocked.

Eric set the binoculars in the gutter and wrapped himself in the blanket. He would not sleep until the moon did. He stared at the moon like a man looks at his wife in the morning haze with quiet and coffee, before the rest of the world screams to life. There is no sound but he does not mind enough to break the silence.


I hope you enjoyed this piece, another first draft I’ll be submitting to my creative writing professor, so constructive criticism, comments, and feedback is welcome and appreciated. Thank you for stopping by 🙂

I read way, way, way too much information on astronauts, astronaut suits, moon and sun cycles, earth rises, and information on what happens to the body when exposed to space (this was going to be a very different story at one point…) and I notice I end up researching a lot of tidbits on things I may include in a story to add more authenticity to it. I’ve learned tons of useless, obscure things because of it. Do any of you spend an absurd amount of time fact finding for a story?

10 Books of Summer Reading Challenge

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Photo: 746 Books

I’m already three books behind in my Goodreads Reading Challenge, where I set a goal of reading 35 books in 2016, but hopefully this challenge will help catch me up. After finding a post over at 746 Books, the blog hosting this summer long challenge, I felt compelled to join in at least to make my growing pile of unread books a little bit smaller.

If you’d like to join in it’s simple; read 10, 15, or 20 books between June 1st and September 5th and let your fellow bloggers know how you’re doing along the way. In keeping with my idea that low expectations=success, I’ve aimed for the lowest amount possible. Even so, being a notoriously slow reader, this may be out of my reach but it’s definitely worth the effort. Here’s the pile I’ll be tackling this summer, click their titles for detailed summaries on Goodreads.

1.Euphoria by Lily King

I just bought a used but good as new copy from my beloved Friends of the Library book sale for $1. Euphoria has been on my ‘to read’ list for a while after seeing it on The Millions list of most anticipated books in 2015. I gave myself a head start and started reading this book yesterday evening. The story is about three young anthropologists in the 1930s, caught in a love triangle. I have yet to get to the parts on illicit love, but so far the book is clever, funny, and well written.

2. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

I’m finally ready for the Atwood Experience. The Handmaid’s Tale is a classic, but the topic has never drawn me in. I’m a stickler for great first lines and The Blind Assassin has plenty that demand attention; the first line of the book is “Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.” so I was hooked to find out more. At over 500 pages The Blind Assassin may be the most challenging of the list to get through, but one can dream, right?

3. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

It’s not often that I read books with murder or mystery as a large portion of the plot, but this book has been collecting dust on my shelf for as long as I can remember, and reading this among more cheerful plots balances out my list. This chilling story is Capote’s reconstruction of the real life murder, investigation, and eventual capture, trial, and execution of the killers while conveying great empathy for them. Writing that makes you care about fictional bad characters are great; writing that makes you care about real life murderers are exceptional.

4. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

From the author of acclaimed novel Mr. FoxBoy, Snow, Bird puts a twist on childhood fairy tales. I’ve never read anything of that sort before, but after hearing praise for Oyeyemi’s writing I picked up a discounted copy at Barnes and Nobles. I’m excited to start this one.

5. How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer

This book of short stories was given to me during my creative writing class and apparently is a must read for short story lovers and writers alike. Published in 2003, How to Breathe Underwater features nine stories that speak on the endless tragedies of youth. I have been on a short story binge lately so thought this would be a welcome break from all of the long fiction in this list.

6. Rock Springs by Richard Ford

Another short story collection. This is my cheat book, I started reading Rock Springs a while ago but never got around to finishing so want to pick up where I left off. Don’t take my not finishing to mean I did not enjoy the stories; this book is American literature gold.

7. Spheres of Disturbance by Amy Schutzer

Over a year ago after a tour of Red Hen Press, me and a group I was with were given the opportunity to take any book of our choosing – I picked up Spheres of Disturbance but have yet to read it. This book is published under Red Hen Press’ imprint, Artkoi Books, which publishes fiction by lesbian writers.

8. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

After reading Bad Feminist, I was over the moon to find Roxane Gay was writing a memoir. Gay uses her personal struggles with food and body image to explore “our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health.” I especially want to find out how her past, and the traumatic events within it, formed the woman whose work we’re reading today. Unfortunately, Hunger will not be in bookstores until June 14th, but I’ve already pre-ordered my copy – a little nonfiction to break up my reading.

9. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Another book I got overly excited about before realizing it had not been released yet. There is a lot of buzz around this debut novel about two half sisters in eighteenth-century Ghana. Their lives veer off on two very different paths, one sold into slavery while the other marries an Englishman and moves to the Cape Coast. I will be attending the ALOUD Reading series on June 7 where Yaa Ghasi will talk about her book. Here’s hoping I’m able to get my hands on and finish reading the book before then. 

10. Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy

It has been a while since I’ve indulged myself in some Cormac McCarthy and I think I’m well overdue for my fill. I was tempted to give Blood Meridian another read, but still don’t think I’m ready to stomach decapitations and random removal of entrails. Outer Dark may not be any better since the story follows a woman who bears her brother’s child… but I think I’ll be able to stomach it.

Are any of you participating in 20 Books of Summer? What do you think of the books in my list? Are there any that you’ve read and did/didn’t enjoy? Any books that I should just cross of my list?

Creative Havens for Writers

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Los Angeles is often incorrectly identified as the creative land of milk and honey. Los Angeles, for many, is the place to be if you’re one of hundreds of thousands with hopes of “making it”. But if you actually reside here you know this is a myth created by people who do not live here, and upheld by those that do. And if you’re a writer you know that unless you’re in the business of writing screenplays, jobs, inspiration, and venues that offer workshops and community are limited.

In this list is you will find gems in Los Angeles that feature a variety of talented writers, celebrate the craft, and work to provide a great community. Whether you are a poet, fiction writer, essayist, or singer you will be inspired (and eventually be the one to inspire) for next to nothing. Don’t live in Los Angeles? Don’t fret, some of these havens are available to stream via podcast and their social media, here is a taste of what is waiting to be heard.

Da Poetry Lounge, every Tuesday at 9pm.

For the poetically inclined; expect finger snapping and spoken word on sexism, racism, sexual assault, sexuality, cultural issues, and current events.

Located in the auditorium of a middle school, Da Poetry Lounge is a humble spot where writers spill their souls. It is said that those who leave without a sense of inspiration probably weren’t paying attention – or are dead inside. This open mic night focuses on poetry and music but with that being said, stories are stories. Regardless of what kind of storytelling you specialize in, a lot can be gained from hearing someone tell theirs – and at $5 for a four hour long show it’s a steal. Da Poetry Lounge claims to be the largest open mic night in the nation, the auditorium (as well as any available stage space besides a slice for the speaker to stand) is filled to capacity every show. If you want to get a seat, arrive early. If you want to sign up to share your own work, arrive absurdly early.

Beyond Baroque, check calendar for events.

A mixed bowl of creativity; free, donation-based, and paid events for less than a movie ticket. Expect workshops, poetry readings, art exhibits, and author readings.

Beyond Baroque is one of the nation’s largest literary centers. There is a real community feel as readings take place in an intimate room and alcoholic beverages are available for a donation. Perfect to get those creative juices flowing. Numerous writers have spoken on this stage before hitting their stride and becoming well known such as Patti Smith, Dennis Cooper, and Tom Waits. And if you’re still yearning for inspiration there is a used bookstore inside with a huge selection to choose from.

ALOUD reading series, check calendar for events.

The literature lover’s TED talk, with most sessions offered for free (but RSVP quickly as they fill up fast).

ALOUD is a summer long literary series of readings, interviews, and conversations that take place in Downtown Central Library. Although this is a seasonal series the organizers make the most of the time available by packing the entire summer full of events. Some upcoming talks are PEN Emerging Voices: A Reading, Why We Write, and Homegoing: A Novel, a conversation with author Yaa Gyasi. I will be attending this one specifically, and just ordered her book. During this series you can be in a room full of writers and learn from published authors about their process of the craft, little else could be more inspiring.

The Moth Story, check calendar for events.

Expect a diverse crowd and stories you have never heard before, told to make you laugh, cry, and see the unification of the human experience through storytelling.

These stories range between 5 and 20 minutes long and although tickets for the live show cost upwards of $39, listening to these stories online is free (all the better for us starving writers) and just as gripping. The writers read on stage with no notes which gives a certain authenticity, and with each speaker raised in various cultural backgrounds and livelihoods you will not hear any repetition in style or tone.

Now go! Be inspired. It is true, the best thing a writer can do to improve their skill is write, but the magic that comes from hearing someone else’s story from a perspective completely separate from your own, and being in a room full of people who enjoy stories, can be the inspiration we need to approach our work with new eyes.

Do you have any literary centers you enjoy going to for inspiration? What other methods do you use to gain inspiration? Have you been to any of these venues? Let me know in the comments below!

Hear ‘Melancholia in Molasses’ on Podcast!

jammiestbitsofjamstrangerminellieustacioHappy Tuesday, friends! Last week had two big writing achievements for me. First, I got to hear my short story in a podcast, and although hearing my own recorded voice will always be an awkward experience, it was also a very rewarding one.

The Jammiest Bits of Jam Storytelling podcast is a monthly podcast featuring themed short stories by female writers. This months theme is “sci fi”, and my short Melancholia in Molasses (which was titled Stranger when I sent the piece in for consideration) is the first of three stories. If you’re a person who likes to hear their fantastical stories, eerie music and all, be sure to give it a listen!

Earlier last week, I also got a pleasant surprise as my post, Literary Magazines Every Emerging Writers Should Read was linked on The Review Review, an online community where writers review literary magazines (among other things), in hopes of sifting down hundreds of journals available – making it easier for readers to narrow down different types of literary magazines and find ones they enjoy. The website features plenty of reviews, writing advice, opinion pieces, and publication tips to make your head spin.

This has definitely been a good week.