Lucy Jane Bledsoe’s “The House on the Coast” (Crab Orchard Review, Vol. 19, No. 2: THE WEST COAST & BEYOND)

Crab Orchard Review: In its 20th year of publication, an Icon of Literary Publishing

Crab Orchard Review: In its 20th year of publication, an Icon of Literary Publishing

Self is starting with the first short story, by Lucy Jane Bledsoe, “The House on the Coast.”

SPOILER ALERT!

Backstory: Narrator breaks into a nice house on the coast, decides to raid the wine supply. While she’s resting, a visitor comes by, who turns out to be the estranged daughter of the house’s owners. The daughter, whose name is Henrietta, tells the narrator about the recent death of her three-year-old.

“I’m a perfect candidate for a crystal meth habit. I’ll do anything to interrupt the — ”

“Pain,” I said.

“Yeah,” she said.

She did that hand-waving gesture of hers. “What do you think is the next step? Call my parents?”

I didn’t have a clue how to answer.

“They never met her,” she said. “They did ask. I just never thought they asked genuinely enough. I have to live with that, that I kept her from them. I’m sorry.” She looked up at me, her eyes flashing and her thin-lipped mouth open with grief. “The two most stupid words in the language.”

The next short story in this issue of the Crab Orchard Review is Alex Colin-Shotwell’s “Strike-Slip.” It begins:

You’re up on the roof of a house in the Hollywood Hills and you’re surrounded by a darkness so palpable you can almost wear it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Muse 4: Swans! At the Lake in Annaghmakerrig!

Today, after a hard day of writing, self walked down to the lake:

Swan Sighting at the Lake!

Swan Sighting at the Lake!

And saw her first swans! (Actually, that’s not quite right. She was down at the lake yesterday evening, and saw swans then, too)

Self will share with dear blog readers that it was because of the swans she saw in Ireland that she wrote a story called “The Ark.” And, earlier this year, it was published by Local Nomad. Which, self just wants to say, is a really beautiful on-line journal. And it is all done by one woman: Jean Vengua.

Her story begins thus:

There were great stores of food laid up, for Noah knew that the flood would last a long time. The hull began to groan with the weight, intensifying his anxiety.

Two Swans!

Two Swans!

And here are swans, diving for food:

DSCN0430

And now, back to the writing desk!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Self Wrote a Story About Climate Change: “The Freeze”

Apocalyptic, Dystopian, blah blah blah

The world is slowly dying, and — there’s no way to explain why an old woman is the only one in her family who survives, and why she ends up riding piggy-back on a teen-age boy (Hunger Games Catching Fire was an influence. Definitely:  Finnick and Mags) and they decide to follow Highway 1 as far south as they can. No electricity, no cars, no telephones. Just — the very edge of despair. Funny, she writes science fiction but her stories are pretty low on the science. Maybe she should start referring to them as allegories.

It was probably the Russians. Putin called Obama’s bluff, or maybe it was the other way around. The outcome — we were the outcome.

How still he was in the last broadcast. His suit looked too big for him. His hair had gone entirely gray. Funny, Obama had been young just six years ago.

— published by Bluestem, Spring 2015 Issue

Poetry Monday: “There for six months”

A student wrote this years ago, shortly after the first Gulf War (You know, the “shock and awe” war). The class was Composition & Rhetoric. The assignment was for students to write an autobiographical essay. But self didn’t have the heart to grade the student down for thinking outside the box, especially after he told her it was the first poem he ever wrote.

She really liked the piece. Dear blog readers, the fact that this piece got written at all is something of a miracle.

She was reminded of it by a poem in J Journal’s current issue.

After The Hurt Locker, after Zero Dark Thirty, after American Sniper, self finds the perspective of the poem very refreshing:

There For Six Months

Underneath Pink Floyd’s alluring rhapsody
the phone was ringing,
Hey you, out there on your own,
sitting naked by the phone, would you touch me
and my older brother is telling me that
come January, he’ll be in Iraq,
serving his time of duty for six months
in the war
see also: abuse of power, see also: corpses

Meanwhile, people all around are nestled away in their cozy,
unobtrusive shells: human anti-socialism,
one thousand and one bloody bodies, our own an afterthought.
Warming cups of soup, chicken-noodle flavor,
and stacks of crackers on a folded napkin, for dipping.

Hey you, don’t help them to bury the light,
don’t give in without a fight
And my brother is telling me that if he makes it back
there’s a good chance he’ll be based in the west coast,
see also: home, see also: happiness
There’s shake and shiver undertones in his voice
when he keeps saying, Don’t worry,
they trained me how to live, but all I can wonder is
if they trained him how to die.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Randomness: Saturday, 20 June 2015

Today the weather is all mixed up. Self felt cool-ish this morning so she put on a turtleneck sweater.

Sometime in the afternoon, it began to shower. Only briefly. Only the merest whisper of moisture.

Now, it is hot. So hot it is really punishing to keep the sweater on. But since she’s been traveling so diligently, most of her clothes are in need of washing. And she brought very little with her (because she knew she’d be hitting buses and trains and hauling her own luggage all over the UK). And she is also feeling somewhat lethargic. And it is too much bother to change into something else.

It occurs to self that a number of distinct words describing negative emotional states begin with the letter “D.” Such as:

distracted * distraught * distressed

It occurs also to self that it is hard to write without using the letter “E.”

She just tried doing a challenge on Jennifer’s Journal. Here it is, for those who care to try.

And it occurs to self that Word Riot, several years ago, published a piece by her that was a Dictionary of sorts:

It began thus:

A

Ask. Ask and thou shalt receive.

Assumpta est Maria, you sang every week in the auditorium.

Angels. Angelus. Angelic.

Admit, admit this was all your fault.

Against. Must you always — ?

And on it went, all the way through the alphabet, self pulling random objects from thin air.

And she did it. She got all the way to the letter “Z.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Future: “First Life”

A short piece self wrote about a classroom of the future has been accepted by Juked.

This was the magazine that chose “The Hand” to win first place in their fiction contest, 2007.

Self still remembers when she got the call. She had to sit down. It seems like yesterday.

She never could have imagined that, eight years later, she’d be writing science fiction. She loves writing when she can play with the sound of the words, which is what she was trying to do with her story, “First Life”:

The human organism has proven itself completely willful. Narcissism results in confusion. My present condition.

And the consequences? The consequences of this confusion?

Well, extinction.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Books for Ireland

Mary Gaitskill: BAD BEHAVIOR

Mary Gaitskill: BAD BEHAVIOR

Cassandra Clare: THE INFERNAL DEVICES TRILOGY

Cassandra Clare: THE INFERNAL DEVICES TRILOGY

Poetry, but of course

Poetry, but of course: Dionne Brand and Tomas Transtromer

Suzanne Collins: MOCKINGJAY (Self has read this book at least half a dozen times)

Suzanne Collins: MOCKINGJAY (Self has read this book at least half a dozen times)

AFTER: NINETEEN STORIES OF APOCALYPSE AND DYSTOPIA, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Wandling

AFTER: NINETEEN STORIES OF APOCALYPSE AND DYSTOPIA, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Wandling

and, last but not least:

George Eliot’s Middlemarch

Self is bringing along the following literary magazines as well:

  • Crab Orchard Review’s West Coast and Beyond Issue
  • Witness Magazine’s Spring 2015 issue
  • Bluestem Magazine’s Spring 2015 issue

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Enveloped 5: New Leaves and Smiles at The Banff Centre, Alberta

There’s a huge tree just outside self’s window that was just a skeleton of twiggy branches. Until three days ago, when leaves started to appear. Now, just look at it:

Spring arrives in Banff!

Spring arrives in Banff!

There’s a Writing Studio reading every Wednesday night. Last night’s reading was held at Wild Flour Artisan Bakery in downtown Banff. Greg Hollingshead, Director of the Writing Studio, was one of the readers.

A little about Greg: His collection, The Roaring Girl, won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. His novel Bedlam was a Globe and Mail 100 Best Books of the Year and a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice.

Greg Hollingshead, Director of the Banff Writing Studio, at Last Night's Reading in Wild Flour Artisan Bakery, Banff

Greg Hollingshead, Director of the Banff Writing Studio, at Last Night’s Reading in Wild Flour Artisan Bakery, Banff

It is truly amazing that everyone read so well, even though self calculated about a third of the readers, and probably half of the audience, were sick. Sick like self: stuffy nose, cough, no appetite, etc.

Self actually saw an in-house doctor at Lloyd Hall on Tuesday, who told self that she was suffering from a run-of-the-mill cold virus and didn’t need any prescription medication. The only good thing about having this cold is that everyone around her at the reading (including Greg Hollingshead) seemed to be suffering from the same thing. She could hear people trying to quell coughs all over the place. Dear blog readers, there is nothing worse than knowing you’re going to have to hawk a big one, something so explosive it will be heard all over the room, and despite your best efforts, it still comes. I kept chewing zinc lozenges but what can you do.

Freelance writer and editor Julia Phillips, who read excerpts from two of her short stories last night.

Freelance writer and editor Julia Phillips, who read excerpts from two of her short stories last night.

Anyhoo, the reading last night went on as planned. All the readers were fantastic. Julia Phillips (pictured above) has had work in the Crab Orchard Review (Woot Hoot! So has self!), Drunken Boat, The Rumpus, The Week, and The Moscow Times. She was a Pushcart Prize nominee and a finalist for the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers.

Self also began chatting with a woman sitting near her, who turned out to be author J. Jill Robinson. Here’s a link to a review of one of her books, More in Anger, in The Globe and Mail.

Canadian Fiction Writer J. Jill Robinson, at the Banff Writing Studio reading last night

Canadian Fiction Writer J. Jill Robinson, at the Banff Writing Studio reading last night

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Annoyed With Tessa Gray, A Disquisition on Teeth

Self is so annoyed with Tessa Gray.

Will Herondale comes into her room at night, wakes her from a nightmare, bends down to kiss her, and at the last minute she turns her head so that his kiss lands on her cheek.

##@@!!!!

Dear blog readers, self can’t, she can’t even.

Just for that, she’ll have to leave Clockwork Prince for a while and turn to Courtney Humphries and a fascinating disquisition on teeth (called, what else, Teeth) in the latest issue (Spring 2015) of Bluestem magazine.

Trigger Warning: Extremely Detailed Descriptions of a Dental Filling

My teeth have been jammed full of an embarrassing number of fillings . . .

(One moment: Fellow Writing Studio writer has just emerged from across the hall, and would you believe in 3 weeks self has never once had an adequate conversation with this person, whose name is Dan, who lives in Tijuana and has won a Canadian National Magazine Award for his writing about HIV-infection and the drug trade in Mexico. And she practically trips over her sneakers and has to call out at the top of her voice — he walks really fast! Self swears she heard him emerge just two seconds ago — WHERE IS THAT ARTICLE ON HIV-INFECTION IN TIJUANA CAN I READ IT. To be continued)

. . . over the years, and each one felt like a failure in my duty as a caretaker. Other body parts we can be lax about. Scraped knees heal, broken arms knit. Even a metabolism fallen into sloth can be rescued with exercise and good food. But teeth are monuments that we must painstakingly clean and protect, or lose them forever. My mother has had various crowns put in, and I fear that I will too someday, as she always warns me that our family has soft teeth. Just the phrase “soft teeth” is foreboding — it implies a fatal weakness in parts that are supposed to be strongest, a lack of genetic fitness that could doom me to a toothless fate.

Alas, this disquisition on teeth, too, has to end on somewhat of a cliff-y. Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Bentley Chamber Music Studio, Banff Centre, Last Night

Last night, during the Writing Studio readings in Bentley Hall, poet and novelist John Burnside quoted Shakespeare:

The world must be peopled.

The quote is from Much Ado About Nothing.

Self did a little internet exploration and found an article by John D. Cox in Shakespeare Quarterly (Volume 55.1, 2004) that lists Much Ado About Nothing as one of four “Comedies of Forgiveness,” the other three being Two Gentlemen of Verona, All’s Well That Ends Well, and Measure for Measure.

It was another stellar night. Bentley Hall was packed. Self wanted to link the “peopled” quote to this week’s WordPress Daily Post Photo Challenge, FORCE OF NATURE. Stretching things a little bit, because self has just not been on that many hikes. Mostly, she’s been holed up in her room, writing.

Monday was switchover time: our mentors for the first two weeks of the Writing Studio went home, and new mentors came in. Burnside flew in from Berlin, late Sunday night.

Bentley Chamber Music Studio, Just Before Last Night's Writing Studio reading

Bentley Chamber Music Studio, Just Before Last Night’s Writing Studio Reading. Self reads on May 27.

Jeff Millar, Writing Studio Program Coordinator, at the Book Table at the Back of Bentley Chamber Music Studio,

Jeff Millar, Writing Studio Program Coordinator, at the Book Table at the Back of Bentley Chamber Music Studio.

One of the readers last night was Benjamin C. Dugdale, whose bio describes him as “oral storyteller, poet, and experimental filmmaker . . . He is interested in freckles, tea, silent film, and growing his hair out long.” Canadians have such dry humor. Honestly, it takes self at least five seconds before she realizes the person she is speaking to has actually made a joke. What? She’s thick, what else can she say?

She really liked Ben’s T-shirt:

Benjamin C. Dugdale After his Reading Last Night at the Bentley Chamber Music Studio

Benjamin C. Dugdale After his Reading Last Night at the Bentley Chamber Music Studio

Ben’s work is recently published or forthcoming in Free Fall, The Steel Chisel, Sulphur, and Numero Cinq.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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