Friday, December 30, 2005

Bestseller or Bargain Bin?

Wondering if your novel is going to be a huge success? Well, now you can assess your chances with the Lulu Titlescorer. Just type in your title, answer a few questions, and find out what the odds are that your novel will hit number one.

"When Speaking with the Dead," the title of my novel from NaNoWriMo, has a 35.9% chance of being a bestseller. How about yours?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Wishing peace, love, and joy to all.

Mary’s Devotion

Years from now when your good words
have fallen like fisted knots
of a net dimpling the sea’s surface;
when you’ve let your fingers settle
like roots of love
pushing between hairline cracks in rock;
when your eyes have refused
to reflect the hatred of unsympathetic ears
even as you cry salt and blood;
then I will touch this time and hold fast –
not to a crown of thorns
but to the crowning of your head,
slick with thick black hair between my legs,
your small yelp screaming for milk
and a mother’s strength.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

When You Ask if I Love You

When You Ask if I Love You

Must we re-examine our faith on this street corner
while the Salvation Army band is playing
‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ as coins drop into the red kettle
with gluttonous chinks and rattles?
A neon Jesus beams down from the top of the building
where the Miller girl usually rides the moon
sidesaddle like a debutante afloat on her escort’s arm,
and we’re standing here in falling snow
growing white with the duff of your needy words.
I fold a dollar bill and push it through the slit
in the kettle’s cover. It makes no sound.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Poetry and Kids, Part Two

In a previous post, I talked about the joy of reading poetry with children, from simple nursery rhymes to modern works of humor. What's even better than reading poetry? Writing it! Once kids are able to recognize poetry, they'll want to try their own.

Here are two haiku that my daughter Emma, 5, wrote a couple of weeks ago:

stars and moon shine bright
at bedtime they twinkle smiles
to help me sleep tight

red leaves fall from the
trees, yellow leaves following,
orange leaves floating

The Scholastic website offers many wonderful resources, including their Writing with Writers workshops for kids. In the Poetry section, kids can read or listen to poems and get step by step instruction from published writers. There's even a poetry idea engine to help kids get started by offering word choices for creating haiku, cinquain, and limericks.

Poetry4Kids offers contests, lessons, games, poems, and a rhyming dictionary, all geared toward kids.

abcteach provides printouts on poetic devices and forms, including metaphors, alliteration, rhyme, acrostic poems, haiku, cinquain, abecederian, and others. They offer a brief definition, example(s), and space for kids to write their own poems or images.

For older kids and adults, The Academy of American poets is an invaluable resource of both essays on poetic forms and a wide variety of poems.

If you have a kid, take the time to read a poem, or two, or three, together. Roll the words around in your mouths, let the sounds jumble up and crash around you. Feel the texture of the lines in your fingers. And then, grab a pencil and a piece of paper and listen to what your child has to say. You might be surprised to hear him or her speaking in poetry.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Tidbits of Random News

• My copy of Bonfire arrived last week, complete with five poems by yours truly (and a photo accompanying my bio). It is an absolutely lovely journal and I'm very proud to be a part of it.

• My daughter Emma lost her first tooth last Friday. When she smiles her gappy grin at me, I feel a rush of joy for the person she is growing into, and a twinge of nostalgia for the baby she's leaving behind.

• I've been knitting up a storm with Touch Me, a wonderfully luxurious and very expensive yarn. I can't reveal what I'm making, though, until after Christmas.

• Kate, who will be three in January, continues to refuse any and all enticements to be potty trained. She is perfectly capable of doing it, knows how and when, but simply doesn't want any part of it. Even the most overt bribery isn't working. Suggestions are welcomed.

• Having finished off NaNoWriMo in a timely fashion, I'm now participating in the 30/30 Challenge (one new poem a day for 30 days) at Inside the Writer’s Studio, an online poetry workshop.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

In Case You Missed It...'s my flash which appeared in Quiction a couple of weeks ago.


I flow and gloat on high east-west winds blown by the breath of gods. Kilimanjaro is their king, and though he still shines radiance into the world’s gloom, his glory is melting. Long ago he was a volatile youngster, angry and misunderstood, and I watched him cry dry tears of ash, laying down a carpet for the ancestors of man. I watched them, too, loping across the plain in painful evolution. Have you seen their footprints?

I scry a river where the thorn trees grow. It snakes a silver path through grassland and forest. Water is the way of all life here, from the sequestered hippo in his deep green pool to the tremulous waterside wanderings of the shy bushbuck. The earliest humans were not different. They too knelt on these banks and savored the moments between life and death. I saw them in their search for stones, knocking one rock against another in pitiful imitation of the hyena’s teeth, the leopard’s claws.

Smoke rises to the west and I stretch across the savanna, searching the cause and sorting the species below like suits in a hand of cards. I have followed this dance from the earliest days, swaying and stomping to the tune. It began with the burble and squelch of protozoan proto-life,
the thunderous lowing of dino-herds. I’ve heard the hoof beat heartbeat of wildebeest replenishing the land as they suckle it dry, been tempted by the tintinnabulation of tribal song.

Witness to the rise and fall of phyla, I have smelt the decay as they fade, puffing my cheeks in eternal triumph, abiding forever. I spin on the wind and scent the future. It is not unlike the past.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Finish Line

I did it! I finished my (50,718-word) novel yesterday afternoon.

For me, NaNoWriMo was a resounding success. Not because I've come away with a rough (very rough) draft of a novel, although that is a nice thing to have in one's back pocket. No, what is more important than the end result is that this was an incredible learning experience.

Five Things I Learned During NaNo:

1. If you're moving fast enough, that pesky inner critic/editor won't be able to keep up.

2. Writing every day is easier than you think; this is one habit that is good to have.

3. Friends and family who believe in you can make the difference between meeting your word count or failing.

4. You really don't need a plot to start with.

5. Satisfaction comes in many sizes, but 50,000 words feels just right.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is so true of me:

You Are Mashed Potatoes

Oridnary, comforting, and more than a little predictable
You're the glue that holds everyone together.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Poetry and Kids, Part One

A couple of months ago I decided it was finally time to share one of my favorite childhood books with my daughter: Goops and How to Be Them: A Manual of Manners for Polite Children by Gelett Burgess.

Originally published in 1900, the poems in this book feature a group of ill-mannered, inconsiderate little urchins called Goops. The illustrations are charming. The lessons are humorous, but not subtle, which is a plus when dealing with small children. And the rhyming verses make the poetry easy to read and remember.

As a kid, I memorized nearly every poem in the book, and as an adult, I couldn't wait for a chance to revisit the world of the Goops with my own children. It took my five year old daughter only two readings to memorize this one:

Table Manners

The Goops they lick their fingers,
And the Goops they lick their knives.
They spill their broth on the tablecloth--
Oh, they lead disgusting lives!
The Goops they talk while eating,
And loud and fast they chew;
And that is why I'm glad that I
Am not a Goop--are you?

Another favorite book of poems for childen is Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child’s Garden of Verses. Stevenson's poems are gentle and quaint, with an old-fashioned air that belies their timelessness. Children, after all, still wonder at the rush of a swing, the play of shadow and light, and the view of imagined worlds from a treetop.

Stevenson is particularly adept at observing the world through a child's eyes, as in Bed in Summer, which begins

In winter I get up at at night
And dress by yellow candlelight.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

Plenty of contemporary poets also write for children, including Jack Prelustky, Judith Viorst, Karla Kuskin, and of course Shel Silverstein.

The great thing about children's poetry is that adults can enjoy it too, making it the perfect form to share with your favorite kid. Poems require only small snippets of time - a funny rhyme to wake up in the morning, a quick limerick at lunch, a gentle song at naptime, or a thoughtful, dreamy piece to ease into the night.

Don't be fooled by silly wordplay and sing-song rhythms. The accessibility of kids' poetry means it may be easier to 'get', but it can still open your eyes and your heart and make you see the world in a different way. Just ask any kid!

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Head over to this week's edition of Quiction and read my flash "Migrations."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Let's Go, NaNo!

Day 15 of NaNoWriMo. The halfway mark.

If you've been writing for two weeks now, you've likely experienced plenty of ups (remember that adreniline rush of the first few days, as you typed with one hand and downed bite-size Halloween candies with the other?) and downs (how far did you fall during last week's slump week, when even a rerun of Antiques Roadshow was more appealing than your novel?).

This is the time to put all of that behind you and move forward. Week Three beckons with the promise of a plot discovered, characters coming alive, and an end in sight. So grab your keyboard and ride the swell of another rising wave.

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.
-- Mark Twain

It also doesn't hurt to have your own personal cheerleader.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


In Monet's garden
light is the lover that stoops
to caress the world

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

What's your mood?

Here's mine:

Your Mood Ring is Orange

Stimulating ideas
Full of desires

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Nuts, Cherries, and Innuendo

I was leafing through the Norm Thompson catalog which came in the mail today (along with a billion other catalogs I don't need), and this caught my eye: Nuts Over Cherries Trail Mix. Is it just me and my dirty mind, or does this seem an unfortunate, not to mention risqué, choice of imagery for a food item?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Out of the Chute

NaNoWriMo has begun!

If you're a participant, did you take off like a bucking bronco, explosive and strong?

Or are you still puttering around, playing with pictures for your blog and straightening up that sock drawer while you wait for inspiration to strike?

Whatever your approach, write. Write some more. Keep writing and never look back.

My total so far: 3433

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

In the Den

Shhhhhh. While that trickster Coyote was out playing for Halloween, I snuck into the Den. It's quite warm and cozy in there. Thanks, scruffy one!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Story

Black Ice

Cat’s hands tighten, nails digging into palms as the van’s wheels slip sideways. She can see the edge of the road as they careen toward it, and the border of compacted snow like a concrete wall. Her hands unclench, shoulders loosen as the vehicle’s trajectory shifts away from the wall. When she realizes they’re now lurching toward the icy river on the other side, her fingers squeeze shut again. The tires finally regain their grip on the road and Cat breathes. Clearing her throat in disapproval, she glares at the driver. Steve pays no attention to her or the patch of ice.

Cat tosses a glance at the other college students sprawled asleep in the back before speaking in a voice low and falsely pleasant. “Why don’t you let me drive a while?”

Steve turns toward her, his stubbled jaw hanging slack, a hint of drool moistening the corner of his open mouth. His blue-black eyes are puffy and sunken at the same time. Cat wonders if he’s really sober yet. He stares thickly, not speaking or moving, and in that moment of dead silence gravity is interrupted again.

Her stomach floats up and down, back and forth, like the bubble in a spirit level trying to find its balance. The vehicle makes a deceptively graceful arc as it spins counter-clockwise. Cat’s eyes blink against the glare of headlights reflecting off solid snow. Images from her past flash across the frozen wall.

Leaving for college, her mother helps pack her suitcase, cramming in as much advice as clothes. She triple folds Cat’s shirts and stacks them in delicate layers. Her voice is a knowing sing-song. Honesty is always the best policy.

Cat claws for a hold on the dashboard as the van spins past the black void of the cliff to illuminate the snowy wall again. Another scene from her life is displayed with each rotation.

Sitting in cool grass under the warm Autumn sun, Cat catches a glimpse of narrow green eyes in a tanned face. She smiles at that first slow drawl of Steve’s voice and the brush of brown fingers against hers. Men only want one thing.

A dark hall leads to a cramped room where her back presses into a bed under the weight of strong arms and legs. Cat flies with the soaring freedom of being wholly possessed by another. Nice girls don’t put out.

A piercing screech, like an ice scraper across a frozen windshield, forces the air from Cat’s lungs. The van jerks as it grazes the barrier of snow, then bounces back into the road and continues to spiral.

Cat faces Steve but sees only the past three days. The sweet, salty odor of beer and sweat, the moist heat of young bodies filling a ski cabin. She tosses restlessly in a bed that seems too cold, while the trace of a high-pitched giggle and Steve’s drawl trickle down the hallway. Never trust a man who says ‘trust me’.

The encounter with the wall has slowed the van. Cat opens her eyes as the final rotation winds down. Bright lights blind her once more, accompanied by the squeal of brakes and the smell of burning rubber. The impact carries the force of a truck.

When her eyes open, Cat is lying in the road. A monster of contorted metal sighs steam into the frozen air. Groans, wails, and muffled voices float from the darkness. In the slanted beam of an unbroken headlight, Cat watches Steve pull himself to his knees.

He looks directly at her, then turns and crawls to the inanimate body of her best friend Gail. In their reverberations, his sobs echo off the icy wall and become her mother’s voice.

Beware of black ice; it's what you can't see that's most dangerous.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Give a Little

What is the one thing that all writers crave (aside from fame and fortune, of course)? Feedback! When a poem or story is published, we're thrilled. But most of the time, we never really know how many individuals have read our work or been touched by it, so it's always gratifying to receive comments, compliments, and congratulations.

All writers are readers. So the next time you're reading and something strikes you, take a moment to let the author know. Some ezines make it easy by offering the means to comment immediately and directly on the work they feature:

NOÖ Journal


Blue Almonds


Or find the author's email or postal address and drop him/her a line. Let a writer know that a line moved you, that a character was real enough to be your friend/mother/husband/self, that a scene was so vivid you saw it in your mind for days. Give a little encouragement and appreciation to a fellow writer, whether a friend, stranger, or even someone famous. You never know, maybe you'll even find fan mail in your own inbox.

Monday, October 24, 2005



It was one of those days when the waves
crown one another, white upon
roiling white. When water
bites the shore, chewing sand
into a turgid stream of brown
to leave bone-bright flotsam
clasped between reedy green fingers.

It was the minuet precision
of a lone gull
dancing with the surf.

It was sun and cloud and sun and rain,
morning mist, afternoon fog,
the silent roar of drowning land.

It was the wicked laughter
of friends, the blush of a girl,
a boy emerging mother-naked,
stripped by sea.

It was the long walk
from nothing
to nothing.

It was watching the planet breathe.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I'm off...

For the next three days I will be completely internet-free, unplugged, disconnected, sans communication. Here's a little quiz as to why:

I'm off...

a) my rocker

b) and running

c) to the beach with my husband for our first weekend ever away from the kids, to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary

d) my meds

e) the charts

f) all of the above

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Breast Cancer Awareness

Along with falling leaves, pumpkins, and the candy-sweetened faces of little goblins and ghouls, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

There are many ways you can help yourself and others in the fight against this disease. Check out the American Cancer Society to find just a few.

One easy way to make a difference is by simply clicking the pink button at The Breast Cancer Site. For every click, sponsors donate money for one free mammogram. They are currently behind in meeting their goals, so please, take the time for one quick click.

Another way to help is by purchasing Melissa Etheridge's new single I Run for Life from iTunes. Through the first part of November, Melissa is donating 100% of the proceeds from this song to breast cancer awareness and prevention.

If you are one of the lucky few whose life has not been touched in some way by breast cancer, count yourself fortunate. At the same time, give a little -- a click of the mouse button, a 99 cent song -- and join in the fight to rid everyone's life of this disease.

ADDENDUM: I just found this and had to share it. For those who've been through breast cancer and had a mastectomy, you can now take up needles and yarn and make your own prosthesis. Yep, that's right -- a knitted titty.
Don't knit? Have a prosthesis hand knit just for you at Tit Bits.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Gator Springs Gazette

If you missed getting a copy of the "Alligator Chorus" print edition, you can now read my story Love Changes Everything, as well as many other fine stories and poems, live at Gator Springs Gazette.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


More than the Sum

I’m not your usual bird-of-prey:
a squint into the sun, a flinch
from the unexpected flit
of dragonflies
and time.

I weep hope and home and joy.

I am grit
in the rattling red bed
of a dusty pickup truck.

I fling foible and folly,
practice sloth and bee.

The rusty square-headed nail,
the weathered grey board, the discarded
shard of violet glass – all extrude
from my skin, for I am
empty mine,
ghost town,
proud and silent mountain.

I want to remember four things:
aspen leaves shushing the wind,
the tangible voice of dry bone,
a baby’s milk-curdled breath,
the swell and dissolve of my body
lying like a sideways figure eight,
like the stretch of infinity.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

NaNoWriMo 2005

The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul.
-- Proverbs

I must be insane, because despite the fact that I can barely write one poem a week at this point, I've signed up once again for NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November. The goal is to write a novel in a single month, or perhaps more accurately, to write a draft of a novel in a single month.

I'm going to underline that word, draft, and stick it to the edge of my monitor, along with words like inspiration, perserverance, uninhibited, possible, and achieve. And I'm going to write. A lot.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Meanwhile, back in the Shire...

Remember that strange little fossil 'hobbit' I told you about back in April? Well, Homo floresiensis is in the news again. This time, it's being interpreted as the result of disease rather than representing a new species of human.

A group of scientists is arguing that the skeleton of a 3 ft-tall female found last year on the island of Flores is nothing more unusual than a modern human with microcephaly, a condition characterized by very small brain size. Dwarfism and abnormal facial structure are also associated with this condition, which these researchers suggest could account for the morphological differences between floresiensis and Homo sapiens.

To me, this argument bears a striking resemblance to Rudolf Virchow's misinterpretation of Neandertal fossils in the mid-1800s. Virchow, the founder of modern pathology, proclaimed the remains of Neandertals to be those of Homo sapiens suffering from severe rickets.

As Erick Trinkaus and Pat Shipman point out in their book The Neandertals:

"By proclaiming several normal Neandertal fossils to be pathological, he delayed their archaic humans until the late nineteenth century."

Based on this new interpretation of the Flores remains, it seems there is still a certain reluctance to add more branches to the human family tree.

Members of the original discovery team, however, have found additional 'hobbit' remains, including a jaw which displays the same morphological characteristics as the first one. This complicates the sceptics' argument, as they now have to invoke the occurrence of microcephaly in multiple individuals.

Did a miniature species of humans evolve on Flores, much like the pygmy elephants and other small fauna of this isolated island?

Or are these simply the pathological remains of an individual stunted by microcephaly?

Hopefully, further fieldwork will reveal the answer.

Saturday, October 01, 2005



Then sweep me off my feet into your palm.
With your fallow smile are hearts broken open
like watermelons, split apart
to spill ripe red skies winking black stars.

At your fallow smile, young hearts break open –
easy fruit hastened to maturity,
ripe and red. Skies wink black, stars
spark tiny lies of bright existence.

You found it easy – fruit hastened to maturity
too soon – but I am not blinded
by your sparkle, by lies hiding a tiny existence.
I set you at my feet, sweep you into my palm.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Here's a term whose time may once again have come.

vampyrarchy: Derisive description from the 1820s for a parasitic group of politicians.

     --from Forgotten English Knowledge Cards by Jeffrey Kacirk.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Knitting News

Originally uploaded by Sharon Hurlbut.

I just finished knitting a groovy vest with tassles and beads for my daughter (sorry, no picture) and am getting ready to tackle a big project - a blanket and pillow set like the one above. I knitted this one over the summer. It was my first throw, my first experience with circular needles, and my first really big project. I'll be making one in dark green this time, for my brother, who is a huge Oregon Ducks fan.

I also have bags and bags full of Mission Falls 1824 cotton, which I've been stocking up on since they stopped producing at the beginning of the year. Sadly, Mission Falls is closing up shop entirely now, but you can still find some of the cotton at local yarn shops as well as the Mission Falls Warehouse on eBay. I have several projects planned for this wonderful yarn, which has a lovely soft texture, including a summer blanket and at least two tops for myself. While learning to knit, I have mostly focused on making things for my kids and other family members, but the Mission Falls cotton is all mine!

I'm also experimenting with stitch patterns these days, just playing around and having fun. Despite the fact that I have numerous books of patterns for dishcloths, scarves, and other goodies, I have an independent streak that insists I try and make up my own instead. I'll let you know how that goes.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The 100 Acre Personality Quiz

Take the 100 Acre Personality Quiz!

Truth Really is Stranger than Fiction

As a writer, I'd like to think I can come up with some interesting, creative, and fairly original ideas. Maybe even some funny ones on occasion. But you just can't make something like this up: Idaho weatherman quits to pursue hurricane-mafia theory.

From the article: "Stevens has claimed that the hurricane [Katrina] was caused by the Yakuza mob using a Russian-made electromagnetic generator to control the weather."

Now I know there's a short story in there somewhere. Make up your own, or check back and see what I come up with.

Update: Read Ecks Ridgehead's hurricane conspiracy story "Oil Be Back" at Tales from the Ridge.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Lone Pine on Sentinel Dome

No sentinels any longer
Originally uploaded by cortomaltese.

Lone Pine on Sentinel Dome

A                                        coiled rope
  tree                                like
     leans into wind,    on itself
             trunk curving

     straining to hear the melodies
         of other places:
            the weedy and salt
                   of oceans and deserts,
                      the chink, clatter,
               and clap of asphalt and steel,
                      the soft plink
                    of starlight
                  in a distant window.

              The wind pauses.
                The tree straightens
               and looks across valleys, past rivers
             to other mountaintops of rock
           more barren than its own.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Peacock

You can read my story "The Peacock" (under my pen-name Ann Walters) now on the fiction page at Cracked Lenses. While you're there, check out some of the other fine fiction, too.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Not What We Expected

Originally uploaded by Sharon Hurlbut.

Since it was the last weekend of summer, we went to the beach yesterday. We were there for a long weekend a few weeks ago and the girls had the best time ever. So yesterday we thought, let's grab our seashell buckets, hop in the car early, have breakfast on the way, and make it one last hurrah on the sand before Fall comes. It didn't quite work out that way.

Yes, the girls were excited. Eager even. Their buckets swung jauntily at their sides and we bought a brand-new field guide so we could identify all the things in the tidepools. But as we headed through the soft sand to the hardpacked layer by the water's edge, something happened. By some twist of the universe, the day turned, spinning instantly into fear instead of adventure.

Emma started screaming and crying that the waves were going to get her. This from a girl walking in loose, dry sand.

Then Kate stepped on a miniscule strand of dried seaweed and dissolved into tears, clinging to me like the most stubborn barnacle.

No amount of talking, reassuring, or explaining could relieve these irrational fears. For Emma's part, she's read a few too many science books and was certain a tsunami was going to spring on us at any moment and wash us away (thank goodness I never exposed her to any of the news about last December's horrific tsunami). Where Kate's fear of seaweed came from, I have no idea, though she was clearly feeding off Emma's emotions.

We didn't make it to the tidepools. We barely collected any seashells. Turning around almost the minute we got there, we stepped off the beach and into a few shops, then got back in the car and drove home. Emma got a book to read on the way, and Kate got a toy. They were as happy as could be. Dennis and I looked at each other and shrugged. It wasn't the day at the beach we had planned, but we were all together, and that was enough.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Quick Reading

Looking for a very good, very short story or two? Check out Quiction Online, a new website devoted to bringing readers four new flashes each week. Quiction is not an ezine. It's a project to familiarize people with flash fiction and a place where readers can go to enjoy some very short works. There's also an opportunity for feedback via email addresses linked to each writer's name.

This week, my own flash "Hands" (originally published at Salome) appears, along with stories by Theresa Cecilia Garcia, Barbara Jacksha, and Liesl Jobson.

Take five minute and do a little reading. You won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Today was Emma's first day of school. She has been anxiously waiting for it for weeks, asking me every other day how much longer it would be. This morning, she brushed her teeth and got dressed more quickly than she ever has before. She was ready. I wasn't sure whether I was.

Emma is my oldest child. She's bright, funny, and energetic; a firecracker that keeps us all on our toes. She has been the center of my universe since the doctor performed an emergency c-section and pulled her from me five years and four months ago. We have been together every single day, and suddenly last week, as I handed her a lunch box and had her pretend she was eating in the cafeteria, it hit me. The three of us wouldn't be having lunch together every day anymore. Soon it would be just me and Kate, my two year old. When I mentioned this to Emma, she frowned just a little, then smiled hugely and said, "But we'll still have Saturday and Sunday!" I smiled back and agreed, pointing out that lunchtime will be a great opportunity for her to make new friends.

This morning, the school was swarming with kids and parents finding their way to classrooms and new teachers. The principal, who now knows Emma by sight, greeted us and walked Emma to her room. I was shocked by how much bigger the other kids were (Emma is skipping Kindergarten and starting right off in First Grade, plus she's kind of small for her age anyway), but Emma didn't seem to notice. She read name-cards and said hi to those around her, shook the hand of the teacher, and forgot I was even there. She had no trouble following the directions the teacher had written on the chalkboard and was soon seated at her place, her pristine school supplies piled neatly in front of her. While I clutched Kate on my hip among the swirl of children, adults, and teachers, trying to take it all in and grasp that this was THE moment, Emma settled in and began drawing on her name-card, decorating it in her own particular style.

I know I'm lucky to have a child who is secure and self-confident, but I'll admit it was a little tough to leave, saying good-bye with a wave that was barely acknowledged. Emma was much too busy examining the new world around her to dwell on the one she was leaving behind, so I hugged Kate close and followed Emma's example.

For the first time in her life, Kate had me all to herself.

For the first time in her life, Emma spent more than just a couple of hours in a school setting.

For the first time in my life, I let my child go, just a little bit.

Tomorrow, Emma rides the bus to school and back. It'll be another first. It won't be the last.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Thursday, September 01, 2005

My Heart Hurts

I flipped the TV off today.

Simply could not take
another minute
of the hopeless flood
that fills my soul
with each new scene

   hip-high water swirling brown and viscous
   past mothers tucking babies under arms,
   a wheelchair waiting empty at the water's edge,
   arms that wave into a silent sky,
   fear and desperation on the haunted faces
   of the hungry, the homeless, the unhelped.

Anger and outrage pelted
the screen from both sides
until my fury melted into despair.

I had to turn off the TV today.
I could not turn off my heart.

Please do whatever you can to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Please look around and appreciate what you have.
Please do one thing to improve and assist your own community.
Please stand up and change the world. We can do better.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Of Penguins and Little People

Yesterday we went to see March of the Penguins. It was a family outing that was greatly anticipated, partly because movies appropriate for 5 and 2 year olds are rare, and partly because I'd been playing the movie's trailer for the girls at least once a day for the past week.

I'm not sure which they liked better - the experience of going to a movie theater, or the movie itself - but it was definitely a hit. Kate, our two year old, was restless through much of the movie, but that wasn't surprising given how low-key the film was. The musical score was gentle and soothing and there wasn't a lot of action, mostly scenes of penguins standing around huddled together against the cold. Kate was quiet, but she was also more interested in the jelly beans and gummy penguins we had bought at the snack counter than in watching penguins waddle from one side of the screen to the other. Her attention waned until the chicks hatched, and then she got pretty excited about what was happening. Maybe she just needed characters (i.e., baby birds) she could identify with.

We knew there would be at least one seal chasing the penguins underwater from having watched the trailer, and when that scene came along, our five year old Emma scrunched up in her seat, squeezed her eyes into slits, and slapped her hands over her ears. Surprisingly, when I asked her after the movie what her favorite part was, she didn't hesitate to say the part when the seal caught the penguin. I wonder if that was the equivalent of a 'thriller' for the kindergarten set?

I think every member of our family would recommend this movie. The photography is amazing, and the story of what these animals do to survive and reproduce in the harshest environment on earth is even more so. If you like nature, animals, or ice and snow, check it out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A little less serious

Sometimes it's great to let go and just play around. Have a little fun. Write something silly, goofy, or unexpected. Don't take yourself seriously. Go for the smile or the wink instead of the knowing nod. When was the last time you wrote something just for the fun of it, not thinking of polishing or publishing? Feel free to post your own silliness here.

A Folkshine Fable

The old woman was evicted from the shoe for not paying rent
but she had the money. She was waging a protest,
her and her seventeen children, dirty little ragamuffins
in tie-dye and jerusalem cruisers, selling pop-rocks
on the street corner to get the kindergarten set high.
She’d just braided her greying hair, weaving in daisies
from the field behind the coliseum
where the professional wrestlers play death daily,
when they came for her, the king’s men
on their silver and black Harleys, rumbling
up like Ghengis Khan’s horde. Tucking brats
under each arm, they hauled the whole clan
off to the shantytown behind Peter’s pumpkin
patch, where Humpty Dumpty’s decaying carcass
lay as a warning to those who would rather not conform.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Happiness Makes up in Height for What it Lacks in Length
         - Robert Frost

To balance out my last post, here are a few of the little things that bring me joy:

- an unexpected love letter

- warm sand between my toes

- a cat's purr

- giving someone the right of way in heavy traffic

- sticky kid-kisses

- chocolate

- the languid arc of a heron in flight

- poetry that is profoundly simple and unpretentious

- snow falling

- the tug of discovery when inspiration strikes and a poem or story pours out

- a random smile from a total stranger

I could go on and on, but now it's your turn. What makes you happy?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Feeling Peevish

Minor things can be so irritating:

- furniture that requires assembly but comes with no instructions

- people who can't go five minutes without talking on their cell phone

- being given a hotel room that smells like a thousand cigarettes when you specifically reserved a non-smoking one

- cheese sticks with no dipping sauce

- junk mail (especially those stupid credit card checks)

- grammatical mistakes on signs and advertisements, such as they're instead of their or apostrophe s for plural (House of Clog's)

- burned toast when it's the last slice of bread

-poetry that uses & instead of writing out the word 'and'

- that sliver of popcorn kernel stuck in your teeth from five days ago

That's my list. What bugs you?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Lit Notes

If you've missed reading any issues of SmokeLong Quarterly this year, now is your chance to catch up. A print collection of all the flash and author interviews from the past year is now available in the SmokeLong Annual 2004-2005.

Drop by Ink Pot for the latest online sampling from this lovely literary journal and get a glimpse of
Beverly Jackson’s beautiful artwork.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sweet sweet summer

Popsicle Days

Mid-August and I sense it. A slowing.
The way summer shifts towards its end
in freeze-frame moments
as fall crooks a finger to pull us closer.
I feel the planet tilt
till time rolls down the other side.

I will relish these last popsicle
days, press the soles of my feet
against patchy grass worn into crop circles
by the underbelly of a plastic wading pool,
catch the breath of a distant thunderstorm
in my teeth.

I will hold your small butterfly
hands in mine and watch the trees
swim in the grass, the flowers sing
to the sky, the day
slip into night.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Like to Flash?

Night Train is currently running their Fifty-Fifty Fiction Awards competition for excellence in Firebox Fiction (short short stories under 1000 words). This is a great way to support an outstanding magazine since half of the reading fees ($10 for each entry of 2 stories) goes toward publishing Night Train; the other half goes to the top three story writers.

Like to flash? Night Train is the perfect place to do it.

Sunday, July 31, 2005



His faults rise to the surface
     like yellow clumps in buttermilk
          sour growing sweet with the familiarity
               of repetition

Fifty years and he still can’t hear my hint
     how the trash can smells like fish
     why I talk for hours on the phone with grandkids I haven’t seen in months
     that the day has been long and dinner is not started

He’s never taken me to Europe
     or bought a single frivolous gift

He doesn’t understand
     that if he won’t turn his dirty socks right side out, I will have to

I’m sure my own faults are no less cloying
     when I turn the T.V. low
     how I pretend I don’t hear him talk about going camping
     the way I slide to the edge of the bed when his cold foot touches my leg

We were too

I sang his favorite song in the moonlight
He planted roses beneath my window
     We might have lost or gained everything

We raise our glasses and drink
     to the bittersweet
               of love

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Two Great Lit Mags

I have to recommend two lit mags that I just finished reading recently.

Gulf Coast is a thick and dense journal packed with fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. This is one of the best literary magazines I have read. The stories are consistently good, well-written, interesting, and engaging. The poetry is also strong and overall less homogeneous than I have noticed in many other magazines. But what really stood out, to me, is the creative nonfiction. Since I rarely write nonfiction pieces, I generally skim them while reading. Not so with the ones in Gulf Coast. These grabbed me, right from their opening sentences and held me spellbound as well as (or in some cases better than) any short story I have read in recent memory.

In "Timeline: A Memoir," Oona Patrick tells the story of Provincetown (Cape Cod) by tracing the history of the place and her own family in a timeline that is both lyrical and heartbreaking.

Sonja Livingston recounts the experience of being an outsider as a 'paleface' brought to live on an Indian reservation with her half-sister's family in "Ghostbread". She begins: "When you eat soup every night, thoughts of bread get you through."

The Kenyon Review, though slimmer, is by no means less rich. I was astonished at the quality of writing in this magazine. The fiction and poetry was so stunning, some of the pieces literally took my breath away. I'd have to say this journal has now leapt to the very top of my list, both as a place to read outstanding work and as a market to aspire toward.

Alice Hoffman's The Witch of Truro is a gorgeous example of the fine work to be found here. This is writing with an extraordinary level of craftsmanship.

I adore Beth Ann Fennelly's poem "Telling the Gospel Truth." The images and language she creates have stayed with me vividly for weeks now and expanded the possibilities of poetry in my mind.

Here is a tiny excerpt:
Let us start with the stable.
Let it be a real stable, and let Mary be angry
at the filth of it, at dust sifting from the rafters.
Let her grow resigned as cracks of light are grouted by night,
let her grow out of mind
as the invisible fist grabs guts
and twists,
then twists harder,
let her grow scared. Let her try to remember
wading in the sea with her girlfriends, the coarse hem of her skirt in her hands,
the algae fingering her ankles.

Current and past issues of both Gulf Coast and The Kenyon Review are available at their respective websites. If you're looking for some great reading, these are two magazines well worth your time.

Monday, July 25, 2005


We finally got home last night. The cat was still at the kennel. Toys, magazines, bits of mail – oddments of a thousand kinds – lay strewn about from our hurried vacation-exit of two weeks ago. The air was stale and unbreathed. Home felt foreign, oddly exotic for such a familiar place.

It made me think of this poem by Philip Larkin: Home is so Sad.

This morning, the kids play, throwing new toys on top of the old while the cat chases underfoot, uncertain of which direction to fly – toward the chaos or away from it. I look through the cupboards, finding the glasses and plates in all the right places, and know if I closed my eyes I could find my way through the mess as though I had never left. This morning, home is my most comfortable pair of shorts – as loose and easy as sitting on the floor eating the last of the ice cream straight from the tub.

Today, home is a poem by William Carlos Williams: This Is Just To Say.

Friday, July 15, 2005

World's Shortest Personality Test

You are dependable, popular, and observant.
Deep and thoughtful, you are prone to moodiness.
In fact, your emotions tend to influence everything you do.

You are unique, creative, and expressive.
You don't mind waving your freak flag every once and a while.
And lucky for you, most people find your weird ways charming!

Because even goddesses feel insecure...

Aphrodite’s Dilemma

Do you love me?
      I want to be loved for myself,
      not just because I’m a goddess,
      fairest of all creation.

Why do you love me?
      I need to know what drew you here.
      I bet it was my golden hair, the way
      it shimmer-shines a thousand suns. Or maybe
      my flawless face, more perfect than the arch
      of Athena’s eyebrow raised in pensive contemplation.

What makes you want me?
      Your passion springs forth at the sight
      of my firm, upturned breasts. Yes. It does.
      But then I notice you can’t keep your fingers
      from the golden girdle that encircles my fecund
      waist with a god’s jealous magic.

You want me because I’m beautiful, right?
      I know you think I’m beautiful. I am the goddess of love, after all.
      I know you want me. You leave offerings on my temple steps
      of incense, pomegranates, doves. You risk the wrath of Hephaestos
      to lie in my bed. I’m sure you’re not doing this
      to gain bragging rights, to boast of bagging
      the greatest beauty of all time.

You do think I’m beautiful, don’t you?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

On vacation

The pneumonia is gone just in time for our vacation!

I'm in the midst of two positively lazy weeks in Idaho, my favorite place in the whole world. We lived in several different places when I was growing up - West Virginia, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California - but Idaho is the one I consider home. I love the high desert landscape of wide open blue skies hanging over grassland fringed with the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The air is dry and hot here in summer (102 degrees yesterday!), but there is shade in Boise's many parks, plenty of museums to visit, and you can always float the river on an inner tube to cool off.

Though we won't make it there this trip, the Teton Mountains are absolutely spectacular.

McCall, situated on Payette Lake, is a boating, hiking, and in the winter, skiing, mecca for the state.

Of course, everyone knows the glitterati have moved in and taken over Sun Valley, the country's premiere ski resort, but it's still beautiful scenery.

Hopefully the weather is going to cool down just a little so we can go do some outdoor things. The girls want to go rockhunting (Idaho is the Gem State, after all), and Emma is going to learn to fish. There are also the standard trips to the Zoo, Botanical Garden, and Science Museum.

I'll try to send a postcard or two. See you soon.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

NOÖ Journal

The first issue of NOÖ Journal is now available free to those in northern California and southern Oregon. If you're not lucky enough to live close to NOÖ, you can order a copy or read it online.

My poem Twice in a Blue Moon appears, as does work by Dave Clapper, Braxton Younts, Joseph Young, Daphne Buter, and many other fine writers.

Take a few minutes to read and comment on these great pieces.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Ninth Letter

While I've been sick and unable to do anything but lay around, I've had the chance to read some of the lit mags stacked beside my bed. Here's one that really sticks in my mind:

At 11 1/2 by 9 inches, Ninth Letter is the biggest literary magazine I've ever seen. This thing has heft in your hands, an anticipation of real substance in its full-color pages and thick paper. Overall, the content does not disappoint.

Ninth Letter is all about experimentation, both in the writing itself and in its presentation. As the editor's note at the beginning of this issue (Volume One, Number Two) states: "Our mission above all is to refuse to succumb to the comfort of an established, test-driven format or to confine ourselves to a single definition of literature."

With a nonfiction piece presented only on microfiche (Ander Monson's Failure: Another Iteration), a short story covering four fold-out pages that must be followed via a collage of numbered paragraphs (Roy Kesey's Fontanel), a pull-out poster, the incorporation of illustrations on neary every page, and a very generous use of white space throughout, there is no doubt that this magazine has succeeded in its goal of stretching the boundaries of format.

The content is equally challenging, with stories and poems that play with our ideas of just what literature is. For the most part, the poems are narrative in nature, ranging from stories about a girl who loves a fish and a black family's journey out of the South (The Girl Who Loved a Fish, An African Folktale;Traveler by Janice N. Harrington), to a poet's thoughts in those uncertain moments while a loved one is in surgery (Waiting for My Foot to Ring by Bob Hicok), to scenes from not-so-beautiful lives (My Cousin;Terra Firma by Amy Lingafelter).

Of the stories, two have stayed with me since reading this magazine. The first is Marguerite's Cat by John Haskell, a strange tale about straddling the divide between two worlds, the world of death and the world of life. This is the kind of story that is less story and more question - questions about living with the knowledge of death, about keeping your feet in this world when your head is in the other one. I can't say it was satisfying, in terms of a traditional narrative, because there's no real beginning, middle, and end as such, but I can't shake the images of this story and the things it has made me consider.

The second story is Roy Kesey's Fontanel. I'll admit, at first I was a bit annoyed at the format, having to piece together the story by following winding arrows from one section of the collage to the next. By the time I got to the fifth paragraph, however, ("This is the gas station attendant who is friendly and serviceable and pretends not to notice the wife's screams.") I was hooked and couldn't read on fast enough. This story of a birth, from beginning to end, including side-stories on many of the actors (the cab driver, doctor, nurse, anesthesiologist) is incredibly vivid and the voice is irresistible. There is also a huge sense of tension, mounting ever higher as the story goes on. This is one piece that will be with me for a long time.

Ron Carlson's nonfiction piece Oh America is presented on a pull-out poster designed like an American flag and gives a bittersweet, wry, and sarcastic (yes, all at once) look at our country today. This piece made me want to stand up and cheer for Carlson's eloquence and humor, while at the same time I felt like laying down and crying for the truth of his message.

As with any lit mag, I did not like all of the stories and essays in Ninth Letter. A few seemed contrived, just plain boring or pointless, or simply mundane. Some of the poems bordered on pretentious (though not nearly as many as in other lit mags I've read) and obscure.

Ninth Letter is experimental - some of the experiments work and some don't, but this magazine is so fresh and original, I will definitely be picking up another copy. You might want to get your hands on one too.

Friday, June 24, 2005

From bad to worse

I went to the ER last night. Now I not only have kidney stones, but pneumonia too. I probably won't be posting here for a week or so, but stay tuned and I will be back.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

edifice WRECKED

Check out the new issue of edifice WRECKED, including two of my own poems.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

I really am stoned

It's official. I had a CT scan yesterday and it showed several stones in both kidneys.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


In honor of my current condition, here's an old story of mine...

Stoned, or, War and Peaches

“Shoot me. Shoot me now,” Chloris screamed. She paced the room, bunched up like a Channel swimmer with cramps one minute, quickstepping a hyperactive foxtrot the next. In constant motion, she was unable to land for even a second in her flight of agony. Al stood in the doorway watching, waiting to be needed. She couldn’t take much more no matter how hard she fought, but she wouldn’t give in until it became unbearable. Chloris hated the Emergency Room.

“Okay Al, let’s go.” She dug through the dirty clothes hamper, looking for her “fat” jeans, the ones that hung loose since she’d lost weight. They wouldn’t be as comfortable as her nightgown, but she wasn’t about to go out half dressed. After managing to writhe into her pants Chloris had to stop a minute. She perched on the edge of the bed, rocking back and forth, eyes fixed on the carpeting. Al thought she resembled a demented mother in the final stage of birthing a demon child. He kept the thought to himself.

“What are you standing there for?” she snapped. “Get the car out, I’ll be right there.” She wrenched herself off the bed. “And bring the bucket, I’ll probably barf.” She yanked the dresser drawer so hard it almost fell out. Hand on her side, over the pain, she tried to focus enough to pick a decent t-shirt. She rejected seven or eight perfectly good ones before settling on a green shirt with “Grand Canyon Trading Company” emblazoned across it. She looked great in green, and if she was going to die, which felt likely to happen soon, she might as well go out looking good.

“Is that what you’re wear-” Al muttered beneath his breath as Chloris reluctantly climbed into the passenger seat.

“What?! What did you say?” Her response was sharp as a splinter in the eye.

“Nothing. Let’s go.” He waited for her to settle into the seat.

Chloris looked at the steering wheel and started to speak, but Al shook his head.

“No way. You are in no shape to drive and you know it.” He stared back at her until she buckled up. “You know, I can drive a car too. There’s nothing wrong with my driving.” The mixture of hurt and pride and anger in his voice made her wince, or maybe it was just the pain. Al backed out of the driveway.

Chloris couldn’t decide if she wanted Al to drive fast and get there sooner, or drive slow so the journey would be smoother. With every turn she moaned, with every stop she grunted, and when they crossed the railroad tracks she screeched and gasped, grabbing at the dashboard and shooting Al a silent look worse than any curse.

“My God,” she cried as they pulled into the parking lot, “it feels like something inside me is exploding.” She turned to Al, who was idling in the loading zone by the entrance. “Park the damn car already.” He didn’t bother pointing out the ER door only steps away.

It took less than ten minutes to be seen by the triage nurse, who sent Chloris straight back to the treatment area. Al stayed in the lobby filling out forms, and arrived just in time to see Chloris, struggling to tie up the back of her hospital gown, fall off the narrow gurney-cum-bed. He waited until his snickering subsided and she’d gotten herself back up before stepping around the partition.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

“How the hell do you think I’m feeling? I’m so nauseous it’s all I can do not to puke my guts out, and I haven’t even seen an actual nurse, let alone a doctor yet.” Chloris was shivering, trying to sit on the semi-reclined bed without squirming so much she’d fall off again. Al pulled the blanket up to her waist, tucking it in along her legs until she shoved his hands away. “Leave it, I don’t want it like that.”

He let go, but didn’t move away. Like it or not, she needed him. She always did.

When the nurse came to give her an IV, Chloris reached for Al. He held her hand tight and she focused on his eyes the whole time, holding her breath and thinking evil thoughts about needles and nurses and the world in general. She was surprised when the nurse gave her a warm, reassuring pat on the shoulder to show it was all over and hadn’t been that bad. Then she vomited.
She managed to signal the nurse just in time to get an emesis basin, but after the first round, she held it up.

“This is not going to cut it. I need something bigger. Now.”

The nurse brought a full-fledged bucket. “Oh God,” Chloris’s voice echoed as she stuck her head into it, upchucking again, “it’s like peaches in heavy syrup.” She hated peaches, slimy little pieces sliding down the throat, cloying odor pervading the nostrils. She gagged some more just thinking about it.

When the morphine hit her system Chloris finally relaxed. Al sat next to her, relieved by her relief. They would let her rest here a while. The kidney stone would probably pass on its own, as usual.

Al was slumped in his chair, drool slipping from his mouth, when Chloris woke up hungry. Between the morphine and the medicine for nausea, her sense and her speech were slurred. She had to tell Al three times before he finally shuffled off to the cafeteria. “And don’t screw it up like you always do,” she sniped.

He came back with a bowl of peaches.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Star Wars Personality Test

I am:

Who are you?

Go here to take the Star Wars Personality Test and find out.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Shaving the Truth

Shaving the Truth

Then sweep me off my feet into your palm;
with fallow smiles are hearts broken open
like watermelons, split to spill
red ripe skies winking black stars.

At fallow smiles, their hearts break open,
easy fruit hastened to maturity,
red and ripe. Skies wink black, stars
sparkle tiny lies of bright existence.

They were easy – fruit hastened to maturity
too soon – but I am not blinded
by his sparkle, lies hiding tiny existence.
I set him at my feet, sweep him into my palm.

This is my first (and probably only) attempt at the pantoum form.

Friday, June 10, 2005


Recently I've discovered the serenity and wit of haiga. Haiga is an artform that combines the elements of calligraphy, haiku, and simple watercolor painting. The elements play off one another with simplicity and irony, often creating a humorous effect.

The current issue of Gator Springs Gazette contains some very lovely haiga by Jerry Dreesen. These pieces are tiny slips of serenity and humor, and are well worth contemplating. More of Jerry's art and poetry can be found on his website.

Contemporary haiga can also be found at haiga online, while The Haiga Pages presents both traditional and modern work.

Take a short haiga break today and see if it doesn't lift your spirits.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

In Memoriam

I just found out that a dear writing friend of mine died suddenly this morning of an aneurism. Vicki Graf was kind, generous, and a fine writer. Although she suffered from several health problems, including diabetes, she was not one to complain or be slowed down. She was always incredibly supportive and an excellent reader who knew how to provide gentle suggestions for improvement. She will be greatly missed.

Please read her story Iron Butterfly, published last spring in Flashquake. It can also be read in print in the current issue of Mindprints.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Habitat of the Heart

My poem Habitat of the Heart is featured in Salome this week.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A quick rant

After having two children, I'm carrying more pounds than I'd like these days. I was also born in West Virginia and still have plenty of relatives who live there. So this headline caught my attention immediately: W.Va. Sends Out SOS for Obesity Problem

The good news is, West Virginia realizes it has a serious problem and is taking a serious approach to try and deal with it, by calling in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are treating obesity in the state (consistently one of the top three for obesity) as a disease.

The bad news is, the world seems to have taken leave of reality, as demonstrated by this quote from Michael Meit, director of the Center for Rural Health Practice at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford (emphasis added):

"The issue of food selection in rural areas is a big challenge," Meit said. "They tend to have smaller grocery stores with less selection, and exercising outdoors can be difficult because of the terrain and there are no malls for walking."

What?! People can't exercise because they don't have malls? I guess the thousands of years of human history in which people got plenty of exercise in the outdoors was just a fluke.

If this is the kind of sense our scientists and researchers are using, is it any wonder our country is in the shape (physically and intellectually) that it currently is?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

An intersection of art and story

If you haven't checked out Born Magazine yet, this is a great time to do so. The spring issue is live and the archives are filled with lots of interesting, entertaining, and thought-provoking work.

Born combines the written word (poetry and short stories) with art and music. The results are often stunning and always unique. This is a magazine that utilizes the potential of the internet more fully than any other online venues I have seen.

The poem Lydia Sparrow is truly interactive, prompting the reader to answer questions which at the end lead to the creation of a new piece of art.

Like any other literary magazine or art collection, not every piece will appeal to every reader, but wander around a bit and see if something doesn't catch your eye.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Everyday activity critical to weight loss

A new study shows that big workouts at the gym aren't necessary for weight loss. Apparently,
ordinary daily movements can shed pounds

Researchers put volunteers into special underwear that recorded every tiny motion and change in posture, revealing that it's the little movements (or lack of same) throughout the day that can add up to a huge difference. They might have saved themselves time and expense by talking to the mothers of toddlers, who know all too well how much energy is expended daily by keeping the body in continuous motion.

Looking to drop a few pounds? Start fidgeting! And remember, that strange guy on the bus who won't stop shaking his leg is probably just burning off those Krispy Kremes he had for breakfast.

The State Quiz

You're Colorado!

You really enjoy getting high. Even though it's often a lot of work, the view from the top is almost always worth the effort. Your distance from others makes your relationship with them rather rocky at times, but they do look up to you. Be very careful around schools. And stop being quite so focused on the number 5,280!

Take the State Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Another great stress reliever - juggling! It's even more fun when you make the balls yourself.

What do you do to blow off steam and rejuvenate?

I can also make practical things, like this dishcloth, for myself.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Knitting is a great way of relieving stress, plus I get to make fun things for my kids, like this bag.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Promoting Sameness: A Lack of Excellence in America

Last year's animated movie The Incredibles took a comic book view of a world in which superheroes were forced to conform by hiding their superpowers and pretending to be merely average.

In one scene, the young son complains about not being able to use his extraordinary powers by competing in track, powers he believes make him special. The mother tells him that everyone is special, at which the boy ruefully observes that this is just another way of saying no one is.

It's an astute observation, and one which I believe applies all too increasingly in the United States. Call it political correctness or dumbing down, but whatever the label, the result is the same - we are becoming a society in which the least common denominator is preferred over individual expression or superior achievement.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the American educational system. The No Child Left Behind Act posits the absurd notion that testing children at each grade level will provide a means of holding teachers and schools accountable for their education. As President Bush says in his foreward to the NCLB Act: "If our country fails in its responsibility to educate every child, were [sic] likely to fail in many other areas."

The result of mandating that every child, including those with learning disabilities, non-English speakers, and others, be 'educated' (i.e., pass standardized tests) is that schools must now put all their efforts into reaching these arbitrary goals instead of educating children individually, according to each child's abilities. And one of the consequences of this is that gifted or advanced students have increasingly fewer programs and resources available. Who has time to help the very brightest achieve even more when it is an absolute requirement that slower learners must attain a level of proficiency determined by the federal government?

A clear example of this is happening at Portland's Franklin High School, where Honors classes are being phased out in favor of 'academies' in which all students are lumped together and taught a single curriculum, regardless of academic achievement, ability, or even previously completed coursework: The sorry demise of high school honors classes. Apparently, providing the opportunity for students to excel is less important than rigorously shoving everyone into a middle ground of mediocrity.

Are we sacrificing our country's future in the name of equal opportunity? One thing seems apparent - while no child is left behind, no child can get ahead.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Kid Lit

My daughter Emma, who just turned 5 three weeks ago, wrote this tonight. She's written stories before, by dictating to me as I typed, but this is the first one she's done entirely on her own, writing it all out by hand on a piece of paper. We are a family of bookworms and writers...

Emma Butterfly's Easter

The night before Easter was a special night for the butterflies. Emma woke up in it. Emma called her Mommy, "Help! My dreamcatcher's off, I can't reach it...unh..."

"Why don't you get the stepstool?"

Emma got the stepstool and put it on her bed and reached the dreamcatcher.

The End

Wednesday, May 18, 2005



They say hellfire hungers
for fuel, for those who will not follow.
So cremate my breathing body.
Stir the ashes into a soup
served up to the faithful
in soft, felted footsteps
of purple and tangerine.
I will raise a fist, flip a finger.
I want to stick in their throats
because I am too slick to swallow,
because their belief is blinding
me with honey smiles
and hands laid in numinous touch.
Burn away my body
and make my breath
an eternal flame
of unbelief.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Cecilia Miller in Salome

Read Cecilia Miller's honest, beautifully written essay Crisis of Faith.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Little girls, gas bubbles, and pediatric physicians

Last night was very long. The day was going great - I was having a day off while my husband took care of all things kid-related, and he even insisted on taking me out to dinner. We decided to try a brand-new restaurant that just opened near our house. That's when things started to go bad.

Our youngest, 27-month old Kate, wouldn't eat. Instead, she kept pointing to her left side and saying there was an owie in there. I've never heard a two year old complain of a stomach ache before, so that was odd. Then she said she wanted to go back in the car, and insisted on being held. We rushed through our dinner and my husband took her out to the car while I paid the bill. When I got out there, he said Kate felt hot.

Long story short, we ended up first at the local Immediate Care center, where Kate was the very last patient to be seen. Unfortunately, she has a terrible fear of doctors and the instant the nurse called us back she began pitching the worst tantrum, screaming and flailing and kicking. The doctor who looked at her panicked a bit, I think because of the tantrum (which is perfectly normal for Kate at a doctor's office) and sent us to the hospital to have her checked there. She mentioned something I'd never heard of - intussusception - and suggested Kate might need to be sedated in order to figure out what was wrong with her. I couldn't catch all she said, thanks to Kate's screaming, but I caught enough to understand this woman was worried and we needed to get to the ER immediately.

Our pediatrician refers all her patients to a specific hospital in north Portland that has an entire ER just for kids, so we had to drive all the way into town. We then spent about 2 1/2 hours in the waiting room of the children's ER watching Kate run around, skip, laugh, and have a generally grand time. She seemed perfectly fine and didn't complain about the pain anymore. When we were finally seen by a doctor, she was pretty good (for her), with only moderate flailing and crying. The diagnosis: gas bubbles.

As it turns out, major abdominal problems like intussusception and appendicitis are almost always on the right side. Kate consistently pointed to her left. Her pain was sporadic, coming and going suddenly, but it was not intense enough to make her cry or double over. When I looked up intussusception later, it was described as something that makes children (usually infants) pull their legs up to their chest and cry and scream. Clearly, it did not really fit her symptoms in other than a very superficial manner. I understand that the Immediate Care doctor was just being cautious, because it could potentially have been something serious, but I also suspect that, not being a pediatrician, she was really not well qualified to diagnose a toddler's abdominal pain.

We finally got home about 10:15, well past the kids' bedtime, exhausted and stressed, but greatly relieved. Nothing puts the world into perspective better than getting a glimpse of how quickly it might change. Today, I've hugged and kissed both of my kids many times. Have you hugged yours?

Friday, May 13, 2005

Blog interview

My blog interview, with questions from Dave Clapper

1. How do anthropology and archeology affect your writing?

My profession permeates my writing, in many ways. There’s the obvious influence of subject matter - I’m currently writing a collection of poems based on archaeological burials, and I have a novel on the back burner in which the protagonist is a physical anthropologist. I also have a series of children’s novels planned, involving the adventures of a boy whose parents are an archaeologist and a physical anthropologist. Also, many of my stories and poems share a theme of change through time and a sense of the humanity in every situation.

Less overtly, my background in anthropology/archaeology shapes the way I see the world and therefore dictates the way I create worlds in my writing. I’ve been trained to pick up fragments of the past and connect them to create a picture of what went before, and I think that training helps me in my writing to use details like pieces of an incomplete puzzle, putting the right words together to reveal just enough of a hint that readers can imagine the picture for themselves.

Anthropology also gives me a good understanding of how similar all human beings are, regardless of social or cultural circumstances. We all want pretty much the same things and share the same emotions, and keeping that in mind helps me put myself in the shoes of characters that are very different from myself.

2. Are you native to Oregon? If not, how long have you been there, and what made you decide to move there?

I’m not a native Oregonian, though I might as well be by now. While growing up, I lived in lots of places, mainly in the Pacific Northwest, including Oregon. Later I came back and attended the University of Oregon in Eugene. I then spent twelve long years in the sprawl around Phoenix, and though I love the desert, I did not love the extreme heat or the heavy traffic and huge population. When we were expecting our second child, my husband and I decided enough was enough, and escaped back up to the sanity of Oregon. I love living here - the weather is much more kid-friendly (you can’t play outside when it’s 110 degrees) despite the rain, there’s lot of lovely green plants, and there’s much more of a small-town feel to our community than the impersonal concrete suburban expanse of the Valley of the Sun.

3. Do you think geography affects writing style? If so, what is the Pacific Northwest's impact on your writing?

I think geography affects everything in my life. I’ve always had a strong sense of place and am very much a Westerner at heart, despite having been born in West Virginia. I identify mostly with the basin and range landscape, having spent the most years in Idaho during my childhood. And that probably does affect my writing, now that I think of it, because I tend to write in a style that is spare and lean, much like the high desert I love so much. We’ll have to wait and see whether the forested abundance of western Oregon begins to creep in as well.

4. What market is your number one target to get into these days?

Hmmm, that’s tough, because there are lots of markets I’d love to get into. I’ve been reading literary magazines by the bushel and have found several that I particularly enjoy, so those are right up there on my list:

Quarterly West
The Gettysburg Review
Alaska Quarterly Review
Night Train
Hunger Mountain

If I had to pick what I consider my own personal literary coup, it would be getting a story into Glimmer Train. I think they consistently showcase solid (if not daring) work, and their production value is without a doubt the most professional, highest-quality, that I have seen.

I’m also dying to get a piece into Born Magazine, which is, I think, the fullest realization of the internet’s potential for combining literary works and art.

Other online venues I covet include:
Double Room
Café Irreal

I’d love to get another piece into SmokeLong Quarterly, too.

5. Which do you prefer to write, flash or poetry?

I actually consider flash and poetry to be two ends of a single continuous spectrum, and sometimes it’s hard to tell where a particular piece falls. I have written things that began as poems and ended up as flash fiction, and vice versa. In a few cases, I still haven’t figured out which label is most appropriate.

I like these short forms for several reasons. The first is the most obvious, perhaps - as a busy mom of two small children, I simply find it easiest to write something very short. I can often knock off the first draft of a poem or a flash in a single sitting, whereas I seldom have the time to finish even the bare bones of a longer story in one writing session. But I also like flash and poetry because the conciseness suits my writing style. I like the challenge of conveying a story or an emotion in a few words, the need for precise language, and the thumbnail nature of sketching a rich, full world by using both what is said and what is unsaid. It’s kind of like playing a game with the reader by running up ahead and hallooing back, then waiting to see if the echoes are enough to lead them to me.

Great questions, Dave! Thank you.

Rules for those of you interested in further interviews...
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by asking you five questions of my choosing.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. If you don't have a blog, you can post your responses in my comments section.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post, following the same rules.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

At Sunset

At Sunset

The sky screams in shades of orange
and pink brilliantine, thrusting
an undulating tongue
towards the night
as we walk hand in hand
along sidewalks scrubbed
clean by the morning’s hard rain.

Lights wink on around us
in neon gestures
pitching beer and cigarettes.
Pausing quayside, we watch the slow sway
of electric clusters floating
above the decks of houseboats.

We haven’t spoken since I opened
the letter that said he’s dying,
though you held me tight
and sat close as I packed.

At the corner where we hear
the trains we squeeze hands
together. I turn for the station,
our fingers brushing slowly apart
as the sun spits its last drops
of blood-red light into the sky’s face.

Inspired by the lovely photo on Debra Broughton's website.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Where have all the salmon gone?

Weak Salmon Run Shuts the Northwest's Fisheries
"Tens of thousands of adult salmon that were expected to swim up the Columbia River this spring are missing..."

"The salmon is the ultimate symbol of the Pacific Northwest. These stalwarts have fought all the obstacles we've put before them in order to return to the spawning grounds of their birth. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves if we can't save them."
- Cecil D. Andrus, Governor of Idaho

Salmon by Kim Addonizio

Of long weekends and abundant chocolate

Friday we drove to my parents' house for the weekend. What should have been a 7-8 hour drive turned into a 12 hour day thanks to a rented minivan that smelled like a wet dog (returned), the hassle of renting a new minivan, and all the attendant pit stops of traveling with a five year old and a two year old.

Saturday and Sunday were lovely, though, and well worth the trip. The girls love being at Grandma and Grandaddy's house and were revved up the whole time. Sunday was a real treat, being Mother's Day for both myself and my mom, as well as my birthday. I got to lounge around taking it easy while my husband kept the kids entertained in my parents' huge backyard.

Yesterday was another long day, though not as long as Friday. We were all exhausted by the time we got home, and just carried all our bags in and dropped them. I guess now it's time to face the music and start unpacking, but that can wait till tomorrow. Today, I'm ready to sit back and relax.

I've got new books to read:
The Mercury 13 : The Untold Story of Thirteen American Women and the Dream of Space Flight

The 100 Best Poems of All Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Archaeology as a Process: Processualism and Its Progeny

I've also got the wonderful series Reilly - Ace of Spies to watch on DVD, as well as a bunch of new yarn to knit with, and loads of my favorite chocolates, like turtles (slowpokes), mint sandwiches, and non-pareils, from Lee’s Candies.

Yep, it was a crazy, busy, long weekend. It was also great fun and so terrific to be with my family. Now, where did I put that chocolate...

Coming soon: my blog interview questions from Dave Clapper