Writing: Part 3

Book Hoarder

Escapist Literature

I walked into the Southwest Book Trader and was nearly knocked on my ass by the smell of one hundred thousand used books; they were stacked everywhere. That many books seem to sweat when they’re all in one place. They create a musk of their own that wraps around you like a musty trench coat. The Southwest Book Trader is an old house in downtown Durango, Colorado that’s been converted into a used bookstore, but it’s a bit more than that. I walked through the rooms looking for an old book by David Eddings, and it took almost a half hour to find it. But the fact that they had an old first edition, with yellowed and dog eared pages, is a testament to the depth of selection through which I swam. I’m not a big man, and I barely fit between the overflowing bookcases and pyramids of print. I laughed at one point, after I realized I was in what used to be the kitchen, because I could see the kitchen sink faucet protruding out from a stack of books on politics. I checked the price on my first edition, two whole dollars, and then walked up front to find the owner.

I found him up front wearing a fly fishing vest and a hat that would’ve made Indiana Jones jealous. He was in his late fifties and sitting at the cash register. I could only see his head and part of his torso because books were stacked all around him; it was like he had built a fort out of paperbacks. He didn’t look up so I spoke first. Our conversation went a bit like this:

Me: “Damn. This is one hell of a cool collection.”

Him: “No it’s not. I have a warehouse that’s filled to the ceiling. I have over one million books and it’s a sickness. Don’t compliment something you don’t understand.”

Me: “…”

Him: “Did you find what you were looking for?”

I reached over the moat of his book fort and handed him my Eddings first edition. We started talking. The conversation ended up lasting for an hour. I told him that I was a published author and shared a few of my more malcontented opinions vis-à-vis fifty shades of bullshit and sparkly vampires, and we became friends. This man who hoards books and doesn’t make eye contact is one of my new favorite people.

My only caveat with the whole experience is that when he looked at the book I was buying, he smirked and said something under his breath about “escapist literature.” He said that he had read everything in the realm of SciFi and Fantasy until his late teens, and then he had turned his back on the genre. He gave up on escapist literature and has only read nonfiction since.

In case you’re wondering, “escapist literature” is a style of writing, usually centered on alternate realities chock-full of swords and sorcery, into which a reader can submerge themselves thereby escaping from reality. Frankly, I’ve never read any fiction that didn’t offer a bit of escapism, but whatever; that’s an argument for a different time.

Have you ever wondered why nerds delve so deeply into their interests? Have you ever wondered why there are scores of fans who bounce from convention to convention in a never ending nerdgasm? I’ve met a few that escape so entirely from reality via fandom that they’re fluent in Klingon. Seriously; they actually speak the shit. And I get it. They’ve found this different universe that accepts them as loyal fans. They can read book after book that glorify outcast protagonists who can defeat the bullies of the world with wizardry. In these books of escapist literature, it doesn’t matter if you’re portly or pallid or a pariah walking amongst the pretty people; if they fuck with you, you could always conjure a ball of fire or set your ray gun to stun and deal with the bastards.

I like to tell myself that I like escapist literature for a different reason. You know, it’s because I have an acute imagination. It’s because I read these books and fully create these universes in my mind and simply enjoy them as an observer. Yeah, that’s it. It has nothing to do with the fact that they help me separate myself from a nearly debilitating anxiety that dogs my steps like a shadow. I swear. And who knows, maybe my new favorite person who hoards books and doesn’t make eye contact came to grips with his need for escapist literature at a young age. Maybe he was ashamed of that need, and then threw himself into nonfiction and warehouses filled to the rafters with other people’s writing. I don’t know. But I do know that I’m not a huge fan of nonfiction. It’s usually depressing and ugly, and it usually brings me right back to that place from which I was originally trying to escape: reality.

***

The first author I’ve chosen to feature in this third segment is Brian Sanner. He’s a badass scientist who’s currently working on his PhD so he can someday build a bionic suit that’ll allow him to shoot lightning out of his hands. Honestly.

Brian Sanner

Showdown

When the wind shivered through the trees, their limbs rattled like the bones of the watchmen huddled against the gatehouse wall. Winter is a miserable time to wear armor. The metal inhales the cold and breathes it back more intense than before. Layers of leather and fur help at first exposure, but the cold is insidious and constant and without end. It twists and tickles its way through the layers and sets there, solidly, like a press.

On a night like this, when breath steamed and frosted in beards, it was no wonder the guards stayed close to their torches, spears propped against the palisade while they hid their hands beneath crude cloaks of stitched animal hide.

The wind sighed again, sliding layers of dry snow crystals over the hard, icy roadway beneath.  This road led west,
along the windswept hills that, in the warmer seasons, would be populated by scraggly tufts of grass and jagged rock, home to the small creatures that burrowed in such, and the larger that preyed upon them. Men were few and scattered in those hills. The land was too poor for those with honest intentions to bother. The hills were home to jackals and highwaymen, and there was little to tell the two apart.

The building was nothing more than a trading post. A pit stop along the road. Far enough out that most would stop here. Miserable enough that they would soon move on. There was not much to be had here, but here was a place that anything was worth having. Close enough to nowhere that even a ramshackle roof was better than none, and a stout wall between a man and the darkness was a welcome relief.

This night was too cold for highwaymen or peddlers either one. So why have two guards on the gate of a six-foot palisade that a half-dozen determined men could overcome in an hour?

***

The second author I’ve chosen to feature is Mary A. Fox. She lives in England, with her husband and her four children. She is an avid reader who started writing her own stories when she was twelve years old, inspired by a middle school teacher who ran writing workshops. Most of Mary’s stories are set on the wild Atlantic North coast of the picturesque county, Cornwall, in the South-West of the UK. Mary is the author of five novels in the Porth Kerensa series and a handful of flash fiction stories. Her work can be found on www.wattpad.com/mezmerised

Mary A Fox

The Running Girl

Back home they called me the running girl. Some of them called me Forrest, but mostly I was known as the running girl. When I ran past them every evening some cheered me and some jeered me. None of them asked me my name and no one cared why I ran, which suited me fine. After a while they didn’t even notice me anymore. I became part of the background. I was invisible to them.

One day I disappeared altogether.

I often wondered, on my frequent attempts to get back, if any of them ever noticed my disappearance. If eventually, somebody said, “What do you think happened to the running girl? Where do you think she went?”

They won’t believe me if I make it home and tell people what happened to me. They will look at me as if I am crazy and probably lock me up in a padded cell.

Anyway it’s a moot point because I can’t find my way back. Lord knows, I’ve tried.

I was running and I stumbled. My toe caught in a pothole as I jogged up the coast road and I fell. But it wasn’t a simple fall. It was as if something reached through a rip in time and space and pulled me from my reality into theirs. The air around me shimmered, crackled and sizzled. The oxygen seemed to be dragged from my lungs and the brightest light I’ve ever seen dazzled me as I sprawled headlong into the unrelenting darkness behind the light.

And I screamed.

I could try and document the months after my fall, but I’m not a wordsmith and I don’t have the vocabulary to tell you how confused and lost I felt for a long time afterwards. It took me months to truly believe I was irreversibly trapped out of my own time and reality. I spent every day looking for my way back, but I couldn’t find it. It was as if whatever had ripped a wound in the fabric of the world healed instantly behind me, leaving me stranded.

I am a visitor from the future, living before my lifetime.

David doesn’t like it when I call myself a visitor. He says I have been here for two years and I should accept that it’s my home now. We don’t talk much about where I came from and we’ve never told anyone else that I literally fell out of thin air into his arms. He told the villagers he found me on the beach, unconscious and washed up from a shipwreck, and he rescued me. Sometimes I wonder if he pretends to himself that’s what really happened, simply to retain some sanity. Has he convinced himself that I truly am flotsam?

He told me once that he used to walk the coast road every night in the hope he would see me, the shimmering ghostly woman who haunted the road he lived on, running with the wind streaming through my long brown hair. He said I shone when I ran; that I was translucent like a beautiful wild running spirit and he couldn’t get me out of his mind. He said I captivated him and every night, when he watched me, he wished that I was real, until one day I was. I told him he sounded mad.

He said, “You’re convinced you’re from 2006, and I watched a ghost appear solid and real out of thin air. We’re both mad.”

Then he made love to me again.

I ran every evening for the first two years, desperately trying to find the way back to my own time. I retraced my steps until I thought it really would drive me mad as I  hopelessly searched for the time chasm I had fallen through. I wept when I ran and David stood, in our small garden, watching me jog and cry. He stood with tears in his own eyes, waiting for me to come back and when I was too tired to run anymore he would wrap his mother’s shawl around my shoulders and lead me gently indoors.

He soothed me and he cared for me. He adored me and one day I realised I had fallen again.

David is kind and gentle. He loves me and he keeps me safe and calm in a world I still don’t feel a part of, despite the passing of the years. He’s even asked me to marry him. Maybe he thinks it will be enough to give me some ties here. Perhaps he hopes it will stop me trying to run away from here. I lost myself in

1849 and I found the love of my life.

But will it be enough?

I suppose one day soon I’ll marry him. Especially when I tell him I’m going to have our baby. I should tell him, but I still haven’t got my own head around it. I’m going to have a child over one hundred years before I’ve even been born. Perhaps I will name our child Paradox.

It’s unlikely now that I’ll ever go back, even if I found a way. David found the only way to stop me running.

But until he knows, I’ll carry on with my lonely jogging up the coast road still looking for my way home; running forever, like a DVD left on repeat.

The villagers call me the running girl. They don’t know why I run and they don’t care. David cares though. David cares too much; he always has. Sometimes I look at him and I believe his obsession with the shimmering, running spirit girl he watched every night is what pulled me here in the first place. He calls it Fate…something that was meant to be because it transcended time. I think his yearning for the ghostly girl grew so strong that he managed to drag me across time and space into his own reality.

I think he believes it too.

I still run sometimes. When David is working out in the fields and our daughter, Anne sleeps. I don’t run for very long though, and I tell myself I’m only keeping fit.

This is my home now.

Kim shook her head at Regan’s suggestion they walk home. “The coast road is haunted. There’s no way I’m walking up there at this time of night.”

“What are you talking about?” Regan scoffed, laughing. “I don’t believe in ghosts.”

“Ever since that girl disappeared into thin air, people have seen her running along the road she went missing on,” Kim replied seriously. “Don’t you remember it? About seven years ago a jogger vanished. They say she haunts that stretch of road between Padstow and Porth Kerensa and now she’s doomed to jog down the lonely coast road forever more.”

Emmy smiled at Kim. “You know there hasn’t been a sighting for a couple of years now.” She sighed. “Poor girl, no one ever found out what happened to her. It was as if she simply vanished from the face of the earth, never to be seen again.”

“Except for her ghost,” Kim replied, shivering.

“What was her name?” Regan was sombre now, feeling guilty that she had mocked Kim.

“I can’t remember her name,” Kim replied, sadly. “But the press called her The Running Girl.”

Writing: Part 2

Narrative Nonfiction

Thirty percent of all readers instantly contract narcolepsy when they hear the term “narrative nonfiction.” Seriously. Boredom erupts within their souls and they immediately pass out due to an overdose of dry non-excitement. The term has always made me think of Abraham Lincoln for some reason. I hear “narrative nonfiction” and my mind conjures scenes of antiquity which play out through a sepia tone filter wherein everybody is old and insipid and boring as fuck. But if you do it right, if you paint with humor and refuse to pull punches, narrative nonfiction can be an art. It can be something that draws out emotion and holds it up in a painful or loving light. It can be something better than fiction even though pretend worlds come complete with space ships and ray guns, because this life, this narrative nonfiction that’s ugly, perfect, and always around us, is more captivating than any amount of made-up bullshit. You just have to know how to write it, to make it stick to your paper, and how to make it captivating enough to keep the spread of narcolepsy under control.

I want to write fiction. I want to spawn characters with which you can identify. And then I want a rich old Jew to buy the rights and make a movie or three and I want ten percent; that comes out to roughly forty-five million dollars. But lately, my fans (and yes, that was plural) have been telling me that my narrative nonfiction is far better than my fiction. I say thank you, but I flip them off as soon as they turn around. Do you have any idea how much money one can make writing stories about what actually happens? Neither do I, but I’m pretty sure it’s not forty-five million dollars. Whatever. But I do love it. There’s something liberating underneath all of it. I’ve written about dark times in my life, and when the strangers impart their compliments, it’s like they’re saying “Hey, thanks for experiencing that for us. Everything’s okay now.” It feels awesome. Ergo, I’ve decided to dedicate “part 2” to narrative nonfiction writers… wake up.

In my first segment, I said that I was going to focus on writers that’d never published anything so I could give them that proverbial kick in the ass to get up, get out, and get something (Outkast is the best rap group of all time) but I’m not going that route in this segment. I wasn’t able to find any latent nonfiction writers who hadn’t posted anything, and frankly, both of the writers in this segment are ridiculously good so I’m changing shit up. I don’t think these two have sold anything and they’re not “famous” (mostly because people demand sparkly vampires these days) so there’s that; my restrictions for “burgeoning writer” have been met. And I’m excited as hell to feature these two on my blog; both of these writers will eventually find some degree of success because they’ve got crazy talent. Each of them has that ability to observe the quotidian, and then transform what they see into insightful prose. This is another one of those “I found them first” moments.

***

The first writer in is Audrey Farnsworth; she has this crazy ability to boil down an experience into pure comedy. Most writers use “funny” as a condiment, but Farnsworth makes it the entree.

Audrey Farnsworth

Bio: “Audrey Farnsworth is a comedian and writer currently in the midst of moving from her hometown of Tempe, Arizona to Los Angeles, which is terrifying to her. She’s been a director and member of several sketch comedy groups. She does stand up. She writes about things wearing hats that probably wouldn’t, normally. She hopes to succeed in her comedic endeavors. Time will tell.”

Website: http://audipenny.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @audipenny

Doctor Visit

Going to the doctor can be very nerve-wrecking. You’ve got a problem, you know you have a problem, but once you’re sitting in that little room all by yourself, you start to get into your own head, perhaps forget your own name, and by the time the doctor actually enters the room, you forget completely why you’re there in the first place, as well as any and every question you wanted to ask.

That’s why it is important to make a list of questions beforehand. Don’t be embarrassed – a lot of people do this, and the doctors are used to it because they get it all the time. How are you supposed to remember a bunch of questions and also your name and how to walk and breathe? That’s absurd.

Even if it’s only a yearly checkup, it’s important to ask questions. What are good questions to ask anyways, you may be wondering? Listed below are some more important examples.

– At what age should I begin regularly exercising?
– What time should one stop eating at night, as not to gain weight?
– What does a beak feel like?
– Am I a healthy weight for my height?
– Is there such a thing as a goat, really?
– What is “3?”
– How many times is too many times for someone to accidentally pee on your own stove?
– If it’s over 6 feet, is it still considered a candle, or is that a torch?
– How do you know if you’re Bret Micheals?
– What attracts ghosts? Tomatoes?
– Sometimes I think my hands are tambourines?
– If you see a wolf, and are not filled with fear, are you a wolf now?
– Are these really called “hands,” or is there a better name for them?
– If my boss asks me to tuck in my shirt, and I don’t want to, so I cut off both of my legs, will my insurance cover it?
– Is there an actual function for glasses, or are they just necklaces for your eyes?
– What do you do if you can’t find your house? Go to someone else’s?
– How do you know if there is an eel living in your brain? Will he tell you, or do you have to guess?
– Are my parents actual pigeons, or did I dream that?
– Is there a Soft Rock Cafe?
– When is it O.K. to vacuum a stranger?
– Can you be allergic to the word “hatch?”
– Are pine cones Easter eggs that have “gone rogue?”
– Is hair loss genetic?
– Is having a stomach that is inside genetic?
– Are tubas actually just recordings of sad whales?
– Can someone actually be born wearing a hat?
– Are cars with blue tinted headlights only driven by angels?
– What is the average age of a healthy human being?
– What do you do if someone reacts negatively to the collage you made of their dad?
– What to do if you ask someone “How are you?” but they ask you at the same time? Move in together?
– Has anyone invented ham cake yet? Can I invent it? Can you?
– Is a chaplain just another name for a magician, but a funny one?
– Can you teach a falcon how to drive a car, and if not, can you please explain how I got here today?
– Does “CD” stand for “Burger Police?”
– How do I join the Burger Police? They accept humans, or just burgers?
– If I kill myself, could I choose to be reincarnated as a burger?
– Does a platypus know how fucking stupid as shit it looks?
– Heads… what are they, really?
– If you throw up a whole microwave, can you return it to a store, without a receipt?
– What is a receipt?
– What is a microwave?
– How many moms are loitering outside of any given Red Robin, right now, or ever?
– Can pants be shirts?
– The hell’s a “vest?” A car? Is it like a Jeep?
– Jeeps aren’t actually real, are they?
– So, who’s all a ghost here, in this office? The ones with clipboards?
– Do you like your mouth? I’m not sure if I like mine much?
– Will you tattoo an actual taco to my mouth, right now?
– What are the signs of diabetes?
– I’m 85% positive that one of my arms is a flute? Can you try playing it?
– Can my bathroom be my boyfriend?
– If I plug my ears long enough, will they just get off my head, already????
– Can I open up a Mervyn’s, inside of my heart?
– Is climbing inside of the pants you are currently wearing an appropriate response to someone asking you on a date?
– Where can I hire models for my clothing brand who are actual buildings? Here?
– How many falcons do you know with masters degrees? All of them, or?
– Did you go to high school?
– What can guys who wear their sunglasses on the backs of their heads NOT do perfectly???
– *clicking sounds with questions marks at the end*

Obviously, this is just a template. Everyone is different. To your health, friends.

***

I chose to end this piece with this second writer, Ashley Byrd, because her writing left me with an odd feeling that lingers; I’d like it to stick with you when you go back to doing whatever it was you were doing before you started reading this. She shares her trials, and as a reader, it makes you feel a bit voyeuristic; we’re currently suffering through a paucity of writers who have the balls needed to pull that off.

Ashley Byrd

Bio: “I spent my teens and early twenties making mistakes. I spent my mid-twenties and late-twenties making up for those mistakes. Now, here I am, thirty and still a mess.

After two degrees and nearly eight years in the corporate world, I’m ready to start over. I’m ready to be free.

I’m ready to write.”

Website: http://byrdstheword.com/

Twitter: @Byrdfacekilla

 

so now i’m a serial killer

I was sitting on my porch the other night when my neighbors came home.  Now, we share a driveway so when they pulled up it was just three feet away from my face.  I couldn’t very well run inside because that would be rude, right? Running into your house when your next door neighbors have clearly spotted you is just plain impolite, right?  When they got out of the car we exchange some awkward “hello, yeah, it’s real dark out tonight, oh yeah because it’s nighttime” chit chat.  It probably wasn’t awkward for them as they are most likely normal human beings unlike myself.  I am a huge, awkward, babbling dork in any social situation with humans I’m not familiar with.

Example:

Standing around with new strangers I meet one night…

“HA! HA!.. yeah, like you probably have a big vagina. HA! HA! You know, because you have kids! HA! Ha!”

Others: “HA..ha…..ha.”

–in my head—oh God that wasn’t funny, be funny, be funny—

Cue I circle a big vagina in the air, step in say “Hi!” and step out.  You know, because I’m a huge talking vagina.

Me: “HA! Ha! Ha…ha. I’m totally kidding you know, I’ll bet you had a good episiotomy.  For sure your vagina is probably much nicer than mine.”

Others: –one by one slowly start to make conversion with other people around us and push me out of the circle where I stand going on, talking to myself.—

Because I can’t stop myself, because I’m a big, fucking unfiltered awkward shell of a once human being.

Hours later I see my newly-made friends and am like, “hey, yea, remember me, made the vagina joke earlier. Ha! Oh, you’re going over there? Oh yeah, yeah, I’m going to yeah, go just over here, yup.”It was a black tie wedding.

Anyway, as my neighbors walk towards their door I can hear the girlfriend say, “Did you get the water back on?” and her boyfriend reply, “No.”  I hear some moans of disappointment and/or disapproval from the female neighbor.  At this time, I’m a little buzzed, not intoxicated but a bit tipsy. So I decided it would be a GREAT idea to let them know “HEY! You can use my water! I have water here neighbor! If you want to use it or something, not with me of course but, yup. Water, over here, my place.”

I don’t say that of course, but I write them a note that goes a little something like this…

“HEY! It’s your neighbor! The girl next door. Listen, this may sound crazy, but I think you guys said something about not having water? Well, you are more than welcome to use mine.” Then I write my name and number, but before that I decide it would be a really smart idea to write at the very top of the note in capital letters, “I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER.”  Because I’m smart AND funny.  Surely, my neighbors whom I’ve met twice get my sense of humor. So I waddle over and tape the note to their door.

Let’s be clear, I can hear a roach from a mile away, but people are another story.  I really am a bit hard of hearing and unless you speak loudly and pronunciate, you can usually hear me say loudly to people “USE YOUR WORDS.”  I awake the next morning and realize this, I also realize that I was kind of intoxicated as well and MUST GET TO THAT FUCKING LETTER A-SAP.

It’s 7:00am, their car has not been touched, maybe haven’t left the house yet.  I run to the kitchen, peer out the window and the letter is fucking gone. It’s gone. I start playing a scenario in my head as to what is going through their head, “She’s so sweet. What a good neighbor. Was that bitch coming on to you? What a freak!” Stuff like that.  Then I also start to think that maybe they never even got the letter.  They usually leave work after me; they couldn’t have gotten the letter? It did rain a little last night, did it blow away? Then I decided to just let it be; after consulting with some friends, they assured me it was a sweet gesture and my neighbors will probably call and thank me.  I have come home several evenings expecting a handwritten thank you card.

It’s been two weeks.  I still have no idea if they intercepted my serial killer letter.

Writing

Part One: Two Poets

I once wrote for myself. My prose was quiet and closeted at best. In honesty, my writing was arrogant and cumbersome. I took my thoughts and forced them into words; my first drafts were belabored pieces of shit, but I liked them. It felt good. And at the time, that was all that mattered. I called myself a writer, but only because I wrote when nobody was looking. The thought of sharing my work petrified my soul. I would’ve rather posed as one of those full-frontal nudes for a beginner’s portrait class than to share my nonsensical ramblings.

But then I got over it. I realized that my proclivity towards reclusive writing was worse than useless. My fear was bullshit. I tried, and then tried harder to come up with something that a stranger might enjoy. I started writing short stories, leaning heavily on crutches made from artifice, and then I shared my work. Friends and family read it first, and then I went so far as to contact agents and publishers. I wasn’t taken seriously. The amount of praise that came from my friends could be graphed as a direct function of their sobriety. My family said that they loved everything, but these were the same people that put my finger paintings on the refrigerator. The agents and publishers ignored me via blanket rejection letters. So I tried harder, and I hired an editor.

Her name was Catherine, and I’m still writing because of her help. Actually, “help” isn’t really the word for it; maybe “tutelage” or “mentorship” or “patient ability to mold my idiocy into something legible” would be more fitting. Either way, I started to grow. The blanket rejection letters turned into personalized critiques from some of the best publications out there, and then finally, I got my first acceptance letter. It came from Tales of the Talisman a few years back, and I still have it locked in my safe. Hell, sometimes I take it out and cling to it as if it’s a lifesaver that’s keeping me afloat amongst the flotsam of all my failures.

I remember the day that my “contributor’s copy” of Tales of the Talisman arrived. I opened it, breathing in that pulpy smell of a new magazine, and then thumbed through it looking for my story. “Holy shit,” I thought as I found it, “they even commissioned a piece of artwork to go along with my writing!” It was a crude drawing, but I was honored. I received a ten dollar check with my first copy, but I felt like a gazillionaire because somebody paid me to write.

Since then, I’ve been published in other magazines and newspapers. I’ve put out a couple books. I’ve been paid for my work. I’ve been asked for critiques by authors who get paid real money to write. I’ve been on the back of books that one can buy in actual book stores. I might not be a “serious writer” yet, but I’m taken seriously by people who are, and it feels incredible. I love this art and I want it to be the foundation upon which I base my professional identity. Realistically, I’d say that I’m five years away from being a professional writer, and none of this would’ve happened without that first realization that my fear was bullshit. I took something that I wrote, I clicked “print,” and I handed it to a stranger. It was difficult, but it bore fruit.

I took my work to social media, because it seemed like the obvious step. I started a blog, and I logged on to Twitter even though I once said that I’d never do either; I’m now addicted to both. The “narrative nonfiction” I post on my blog is earning more accolades than any of my fiction. I have over four hundred diehard followers across the globe that religiously read everything I post, and I literally love them all.

However, Twitter was the impetus behind the post you’re reading right now. I’m not exactly sure how I did it, but I have close to fifty-thousand followers, and it’s taken me less than two years to get there. I always have my wife proof read these blogs before I post them, and I know for a fact that she’s slowly shaking her head as she’s reading this. It’s altogether possible that I’m addicted to Twitter, and she thinks I’m a bit childish about the whole thing (but only because I stare at my smart phone for hours at a time like an idiot). Anyway, a huge portion of my followers are fledgling writers, many of which have only been writing for themselves as I once did, so I decided to do something about it. I sent out a tweet asking newbie writers who’ve never been published to contact me. I offered my blog as that first place where they could share their work.

The response has been deafening. I had at least fifty writers try to take me up on my offer in the first hour after my tweet; I’m going to do my best to give a few of them the chance to put their work out there so they too can label their fear as bullshit. And I felt that fear in most of them; they’d preface their work with qualms like “this isn’t that good” or “I’ll send you something else if this sucks” but I’m not choosing what makes the cut. I’m going to pick ten authors at random, so long as I get an even mix of male and female, young and old, and then I’m going to publish the first work they submit. Most of these authors don’t have websites or blogs or any publication credits to their name, but that’s what I want. I want to foster their resolve; I want push them off the diving board.

These first two writers are poets. The first, Jordan, loves to write, and most often, she writes about love. Writing is important to her. Her first piece helped her through a time when her mother had breast cancer, which is something I went through as well, and her second piece is about love and pain, which we’ve all been through. The second writer, Michael, has a free flowing style that’s almost “stream of conscious;” he might be a beatnik. If you’re on Twitter, please follow both of these poets. And if you’d like to contact either writer directly, their emails are posted below.

Jordan N. Sullivan

Jordan N. Sullivan

Email: jordan.n.sullivan411@gmail.com

Twitter: @jordannburch

STRONG

Got my back against the wind,
as I walk I break and mend.
Learning the biggest lesson-without a miracle,
it would certainly end.
“Never give up,”
that’s what momma said, teary eyed fighting in a hospital bed.
At times she was weaker,
blankets covering her bare head.
So I made a deal
to keep her with me.
I prayed really hard
and let live or let be.
Somehow my prayer,
out of all that there are,
was heard from afar.
She taught me a lesson
not many can teach.
Handled my soul and places I couldn’t reach.
Her body was broken, but spirit un-breached.

HEART, LEARN.

A single tear softly fell.
Down the glowing cheek
And she felt broken.
have I ever seen her so alive,
Stripped down to her raw core.
He had broken the shell she used

As a protective wall crumbled,
Leaving her
Vulnerable
Open
She will find love again.
And this time she knows more.
This is where
her story actually began.

***

Michael Staruch

Michael Staruch

Email: promise.made.of.tin@gmail.com

Twitter: @_dibbuk_

Lust

I’m a casualty to lust, inflicted with this flesh, the burning embers I’m feeling will fade out like the rest. And another prince will arrive gallantly at the moat, wishing he thought more wisely, instead of a white horse, had brought a boat.

The Bar

Smoke filled space lacking grace, and voices rise to give orders to another trace. Alcohol hollowed races in my veins to displace another thought. This is my howl to the night life; this is my ode to the faded and jaded left fight, thirty-something’s sipping poison knowing their right. Searching for ambition and position in another lack luster sex spree, some men give it away for free, but me? But me? I want the divine everlasting sweetest spirit, slow dancing in the pivotal inspiration twenty-four karat soul. Crushing on shirtless bartenders won’t get you tender unless you spend your life savings on an induced fender bender. Silver is the tongue, golden in his smile while the tips last awhile, he forgets your name. The song plays cycle in circles this tired malaise, bearing witness to the sexual revolution out of ATM ashes seeking a resolution.

Paper Planes

He’s not the devil, but that’s what I call him. We’ve been battling in my sleeping subconscious for as long as I can remember. He’s just an asshole who embodies evil. He chased me through mazes when I was young. But then I learned how to fly and I rendered his mazes obsolete. My powers have matured, but his haven’t. His only option has been to become trickier… and trickier he has become.

Last night, he figured out a way to cap my powers. I’m not sure how he did it, but it pissed me off. I could levitate things, so long as they weren’t too heavy. I could light things on fire, so long as they were easily combustible (like crumpled parchment). And that’s it; I had impotent telekinesis and pyrokinesis. It’s better than nothing I guess, but this time, the devil was trying to take my youngest daughter. I wanted all my powers. I wanted to be a god, or the father of gods with his basket full of lightning bolts, so I could slay this asshole that was trying hurt my child.

Then it hit me. I’d just combine my two weak powers into something formidable. So, as the devil descended towards my daughter with a torrent of burning light and death, I fought back. I conjured an armada of flying paper airplanes, millions and millions of them, and willed them towards the devil’s chest. A moment before my planes struck, I concentrated with all I had and lit them aflame. The planes were small and their flames were weak, but they were many. My weapons smote that asshole and rent countless flaming holes in his chest. I was winning. So the devil retreated and filled my dream with smoke and confusion. I found my daughter and my son, both covered in ash and soot, and took them to safety. I would’ve killed the devil but I didn’t get the chance. He left too soon. That’s how it always is.

That’s when I woke up safe and perspiring in my bed. My daughter had been awoken by a bad dream of her own and was lying next to me with her eyes open. She wouldn’t tell me what her dream was about. I said “okay” and let her drift back into a deep slumber. But something was nagging at me; something about the dream was off. And then I understood. I don’t have a son. Shit. The devil used my love against me and fostered a false compassion. His only avenue of salvation was to disguise himself as a child so I’d spare him. My armada of flaming paper planes would’ve killed him, and our eternal battle would’ve ended. And I bought it. Hell, I even saved the devil from the smoke and confusion and brought him to safety in the end. It’s like I told you; that asshole is tricky.

Paper Planes

Drums

I sat down and did a drum roll when I was nine; it took about ten minutes to make it sound tight. My house was cold and empty around me like a refrigerator on food stamps. I remember the feel of the bouncing sticks in my hands and the loose rattle of their percussion. I remember thinking “huh. That’s just as easy as it looks.” I had a practice pad and a pair of Vick Firth drumsticks; both came from my father. I guess I looked listless in his eyes because he forced me to “choose an instrument” in the fifth grade; I chose the drums because they looked the easiest. Our elementary band had an odd little assembly after school. All the available instruments were laid out on folding tables. Most of them were spoken for. The director had a couple seats left in his saxophone section. He needed three trumpet players. The open flutes and clarinets were out of the question even though they looked awesome in their velvet cushioned shininess. But the lone drum looked fun. My dad didn’t buy it right away because they didn’t “take credit cards,” but I went home with a practice pad.

I was a struggling fifth grader and didn’t have much going for me. I was “husky,” as my mom called it, and addled by fast food malnutrition. I hated the term “husky,” especially when she’d shout things like “where’s your husky section?” to JCP employees that were yards away. I had poor hygiene, unfortunately, but when you’re left to your own devices in the middle of an arctic isolation as a nine-year-old, showers take a back seat to late night movies.  My grades were abysmal, and socially, I was an Alaskan Pariah. Frankly, shit sucked. But that practice pad didn’t. It responded when I hit it. That pad did as I said and took my frustration. If my divorced parents argued, I did a drum roll. If the propane ran out, I learned a new pattern. When it got cold, when I got hungry, when the depression or anxiety tried to kick my ass, I played back.

The practice pad was eventually replaced by a Ludwig snare. I started to get good. Abnormally good. I learned a few basic beats on a drum set in middle school, then asked for a set and got one; my mom spent fifty bucks. The pattern continued. If life started being a bitch, I’d learn a new beat. It got to the point where I thought I was a badass. I tied my identity to my prowess upon a drum set’s throne. Through that identity, I found acceptance. It felt nice. This thing that I had fostered became the largest part of me. Now I was “Jesse the drummer” as opposed to whatever I was before.

But in the seventh grade, we went on a band trip to Chugiak, Alaska. There was this preppy little bastard in Chugiak’s band that came up to me after I had been playing on the school’s set. He was wearing a blue polo and had someone’s phone number written on the back of his hand in neon marker. He smugly said something like “hey, that was pretty good. Mind if I try?” I said “sure.” What could it hurt? I was a badass. That preppy little bastard sat down and played. He was better than I was. I remember just wanting it to end as he embarked upon solo after solo. His playing gathered a crowd. They cheered when he finished. A few kids that’d been there to hear me play literally pointed and laughed. I shit you not; it destroyed me. This preppy little bastard didn’t have strife like I did; he didn’t have anything he needed to “play through.” It wasn’t fair.

My parents shared joint custody, and the next time I went to my mom’s house, I demanded drum lessons (I knew I’d never get them in the vacuum of my father’s house). She found a student at the University of Alaska that was working on his master’s in music theory. His name was Doug. He was a professional drummer, and he agreed to teach me. Lesson after lesson, I did my best to enslave my talent and learn everything this professional drummer knew. It took me six years. It got to the point wherein it was no longer “playing” when I sat behind the drums. I still used them like before, to cope with things like fear and hate and my mom’s cancer, but now, I was mastering the drums. If I thought I was a badass before, now I was a battle bloodied ninja. I threw away that fifty dollar drum set, and my dad bought me a seven-thousand dollar drum set. He did it to appease the angst I had towards a new stepmom to be, but I didn’t care. I put that drum set in the loft of an outbuilding at our house and played it through the winter’s darkness year after year.

As a senior, our band took a trip to the Alaska State basketball championships. This time I was in the “pep band.” We usually sat behind the cheerleaders at games and played fight songs and shitty covers of Nirvana; anything to pump up the crowd. Our team was slated to play Chugiak first, and Chugiak had a pep band as well. As I looked over to the other side of the gym, I saw that preppy little bastard sitting behind the drums. He saw me and smirked. He hadn’t changed. The game got going and their band got to play at the first break. After their first song ended, their director gave the preppy little bastard a nod and he started into a solo. I was dumbfounded. The preppy little bastard sounded like shit; he hadn’t gotten any better than he had been in the seventh grade. His plush life in an unbroken home hadn’t given him any fuel. Complacency had kept him where he was, and he was content with the impotent cheers that his subpar playing earned.

It was our turn. We played our first song, and as it ended, my director, an incredible man named Mr. Chud, gave me a little nod. This time, I knew everything a master drummer knew. I had locked myself in the loft of an empty garage with nothing but a monstrous drum set for hours and hours and days and days. I had studied under a Jedi master and tried to learn everything there was to learn. I poured all of it out. I beat the unholy hell out of those drums. I splintered a stick and bloodied a knuckle; the scar is still there. I remember the hollow echo of that gym when I finally stopped playing; I could hear my breath and my beating pulse and not much else. Then the crowd erupted. The cheer leaders did their little dances and everyone stood, including Chugiak’s pep band. But that preppy little bastard didn’t move. He just stared at the sticks in his hand as if he held solace instead of hickory. I stood up and flipped him off. The cheers turned to laughter.

I know. It was a horribly trite thing to do, but I thought “fuck that guy and his preppy ass existence and his utter disregard for what drumming is…” But now I look at it differently. To him, drumming was one thing. It was playing to impress, to get cheers and girls, and that’s it. To me, it was a religion. We’d travel and play and compete and I’d never lose. There were a couple of drummers out there that were better at jazz, but when it came to everything else, I was on top. At the tail end of my senior year, we took a trip down to PLU in Tacoma, Washington for an “All Northwest Conference” band competition. And out of all the drummers there, everyone from Alaska and Washington and Oregon and Montana, I was the best. I got that coveted “first chair” title in the combined percussion performance, and somehow, that seat sated a latent desire for triumph.

I haven’t taken it too seriously since. I don’t “play” as much as I should, but I’m teaching my daughter and that feels even better (even though at one point, I didn’t think such a thing was possible). She has the skill and the talent, but she lacks that dark desire and drive I earned through pain and isolation. And that’s fine with me. The wife always gets on me to play with other people. She says I should get out, that I should just “let go” and find some people with guitars and basses and form some sort of middle aged man band. But it’s difficult. Ninety-nine out of one hundred times, those guys with guitars and basses are on a completely different echelon of music. I tried playing with an old neighbor once, but he stopped halfway through a song, told me that he was intimidated, and we drank beer instead.

I’ve tried to explain it to my wife but it hasn’t worked. I’m sure I came across as arrogant or even afraid, but it’s hard to put into words, even now when that’s exactly what I’m trying to do. It’s like this: I could get lucky, I suppose. I could find someone with a guitar who mastered it instead of played it, and we could mesh. Maybe I could find someone that’s right there with me, and I’d have an outlet for all this adult bullshit, but those guys are hard to find. They don’t like playing for others either. They don’t step out to play with random drummers because ninety-nine times out of one hundred, it sucked when they took the chance. To them, to us, this music is as private as it gets. It’s a shield, or maybe a weapon, that we forged in a private heat that’s painfully embarrassing. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s apt. When drumming is so important to me, so close to whom I am, it’s hard to share it with strangers. It’s a lose/lose situation. The rejection, which admittedly wouldn’t come, is petrifying, but so is the applause. Because even when people cheer, it feels like they’re clapping for my pain. It feels like they can see me, see me young and alone and dirty and “husky.” So I don’t play in public, and I probably won’t unless I come across another preppy little bastard who thinks he can play.

Drums