Friday, December 31, 2010

Ring Out, Wild Bells

Ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring, happy bells, across the snow;
The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind, For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor, Ring in redress to humankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause, And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life, With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin, The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes, But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood, The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right, Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease, Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old, Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant soul and free, The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land, Ring in the Life that is to be.

~Alfred Lord Tennyson, adapted


I'm not one for resolutions, they're pretty much vows to do more of something good or less of something less good.

Happy New Year. Thank you for traveling through 2010 with me -- I look forward to sharing 2011 with you. Peace, Linda

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reiki Master

The morning Merilee disappeared, my lover died in a fire that started and ended in her queen-sized bed. The fire department declared arson, perhaps self-immolation, although they never found traces of accelerant. But I’d discovered Twenty-One Love Poems spread open on the rug, and remembered the heat from her hands stilled inches above my mons.

Inspired by the 52-250 Flash a Year theme -- spontaneous combustion -- and the urge to write a 55-word story. Heck, why not? Brevity is good. And feeling a tad naughty as I head into the new year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


twenty-six is out.

The best of the second quarter of 52/250 flashes, 26 features tremendous writers and artisits, including Marcus Speh, Catherine Russell, Kim Hutchsinson, the Susans (Susan Tepper and Susan Gibb), Dorothee Lang, Elizabeth Kate Switaj, Guy Yasko, the Matts (Matt Hamilton and Matt Potter), Al Mc Dermid, Nicolette Wong, Bernard Heise, Stephen Hastings-King, and about two dozen others, give or take. And of course, the flash-wisdom of congenial hosts Michelle Elvy, John Wentworth Chapin, and Walter Bjorkman.

Thank you kind editors for selecting several of my stories, including STONE, which you can listen to HERE.

Come join in the fun. Read and listen, then take your own spin at the weekly theme. Peace...

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Two years ago, after a visit to a tree farm, my children asked me to write a children's story. I wrote The Loneliest Tree for them, and for all the people in the world who are -- or who have ever been -- children. My gift to you. Blessed be, happiest of holidays, and peace...

Once, high on a golden hill, lived the smallest fir tree. His older brothers and sisters often sent him special gifts: a spider trailing on a silken thread, milkweed spores drifting on a summer breeze, soft pollen that painted him yellow. These presents made the littlest fir tree tremble with joy. But when the spider lifted away, the downy milkweed fluttered to the field, and the wind dusted off the pollen, the littlest fir tree was lonelier than ever.

One Spring day, a wren chose to nest in the smallest fir tree. Mornings, the baby birds chortled as their mother searched for grubs and worms. One afternoon, as the littlest fir tree and the baby wrens drowsed in the wan sun, the wren squawked loudly, rousting her family from the tree. A man and a boy, both clad in overalls, walked through the orchard, throwing fertilizer around the firs.

“There, there.” The boy tossed pellets under the littlest fir tree’s boughs. “Grow strong and healthy and green.”

He squinted up at the nest perched in the littlest tree, his Red Sox cap on backwards. His fingers stroked the needles and the tree shivered.

“So soft, papa,” the boy said. “Like a kitten’s tail.”

“Yup,” said the man. “He’s the youngun here – just like you.”

That summer, the wind smelled of sweet hay. Buzzing bees filled the air with song. The farmer and his son came to the hill almost every day, watering the trees when the sun withered their needles. The boy panted and groaned as he hauled the full pails up the hill, but he always watered the littlest fir tree. Afterwards, he collapsed in the cool shade cast by the littlest fir tree and told stories about the puffy cloud creatures scudding across the sky.

One day, the farmer came with a machine that whirred and twirled. The smallest fir tree watched the farmer trim his brothers and sisters into triangle shapes. The other trees danced in the breeze, happy with their new look, but the buzzing tool scared the smallest fir tree.

“This won’t hurt,” the boy said.

And it didn’t, the tool tickled. The fir tree shivered with delight.

The leaves of the forest Maples flamed red. Shadows stretched long across the meadow. The man came to the orchard, but always alone; the littlest fir tree missed the boy’s visits. On the first hard frost, the hill sparkled with diamonds. The man walked the orchard, still alone, pulling long red and white and yellow ribbons from a leather bag slung over his shoulder. He tied a ribbon on each tree and soon, the ribbons fluttered like flags in the brisk autumnal air. The littlest fir tree wondered what color ribbon the farmer would tie on him. But when the man reached the hilltop, he paused before the littlest tree and sighed a deep sigh, then walked back down the hill.

The sun dropped behind the forest ridge. The littlest fir tree shivered, sending needles to the ground.

The ground rumbled. Cars and trucks filled the bottom field. Shouts of children filled the air.

“There! This tree!”

“No, this one!”

The children swarmed around the littlest fir tree, sometimes even saying “This one!”

But the fathers said, “This tree is too puny. Besides, it has no ribbon,” and strode past, saws and axes thrown over their shoulders. The littlest fir tree trembled as his brothers and sisters groaned and fell to the ground.

Snow dusted the stump-stubbled hill. Without the protection of his brothers and sisters, the northeast gusted hard and cold, coating the trembling fir tree in ice. The mockingbird trilled as the wagon, pulled by the man, bumped and creaked up the hill. When the man reached the top, he pulled off his wool hat and wiped his sweat-shined forehead. In the wagon, the bundle of blankets moved; the small boy, pale and drawn, poked out his head. He smiled at the littlest tree, but the smile seemed as big an effort as lugging pails of water.

“This one?” the man asked the boy. “You’re sure?”

The little boy nodded and closed his eyes. The man gazed at the boy for a long moment, then turned away, a tear frozen on his cheek.

The littlest fir tree looked down the hill at the stumps of his family one last time. Then he pulled his limbs tight and waited for the axe’s blow. But the man plunged a shovel into the frozen earth. He chipped a circle, deeper and deeper, around the tree, loosening the dirt around the fir tree’s roots.

The man pulled the tree tight to his chest; more than anything, the littlest tree wanted to stay in his embrace. But the man tugged hard, yanking the tree from the cold ground. The boy clapped his hands, his laugh sounded like birdsong.

“Your little tree will grow strong in the front yard,” the man said. “There, we can see him from the kitchen.”

“And I can visit him in the spring?” the boy whispered.

“Yes.” The man wiped at his shiny cheek. “Yes, you can.”

The man wrapped the trembling tree in burlap and nestled him in the wagon beside the boy. The boy snuggled into the littlest fir tree all the way down the hill and across the bumpy field. When the wagon stopped, the farmer unfurled the littlest fir tree from the cloth and propped him in a large hole. Shovels of dirt and snow covered his roots. The boy clambered from the wagon, falling twice in the deep snow. When he hugged the littlest fir tree, icicles tinkled to the ground.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Golden Moment

I draw the bow across the strings, the trembling G of Chopin’s Largo, and wait for the small gap of time suspended between noise and its absence, the space where the note vibratos into nothingness. I lower the bow, and the hall thunders.

Planes careen into fields and skyscrapers, a cacophony of metal and fire. After, the sky stills, an eerie instant slouching towards an infinity of sorts. I rest my cello in its velvet-lined case, and close the lid.

You enter this world amidst the clack and clatter of machinery, the urgency of voices, and the stench of laser-burnt skin. The surgeon reaches into my abdomen and your head crowns, waxed with blood. The surgical suite melts into white static and you yelp your hello.

Your science project involves water tension and other physics I do not understand. I watch you release the eyedropper, amazed at the utter perfection with which each bead breaks the awaiting meniscus. You record the seconds it takes for the water to resume its placid surface.

The hushed morning after the snowstorm, you sleep upstairs. The ground glitters with diamond dust, the only sound the tinkle of flakes falling. I pick up my cello and play to find the space in between.

Inspired by this week's 52-250 Flash a Year Challenge theme: silence. What is often most significant is that left unsaid: the blank page, the unbroken snow, the beat between notes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

12 Reads of Christmas -- Serious Stuff for the Stockings

My 2010 reading list sounds a bit like Goldilocks when she entered the bear's home -- books too big, too small, and just right. All three classics are worthy of a read.

TOO BIG... Without doubt, GRAVITY'S RAINBOW (Thomas Pynchon) is a tad gargantuan. Weighing over one pound and clocking in at 776 pages (and the font -- so small!), this tome deserves its own spot under the tree. I admit -- GR IS a tough slog, but the prose is so worth the effort. I read along with a reading group, which lessened the pain and helped when I hit a WTF spot in the story. First sentence: A screaming comes across the sky.

TOO SMALL... A teeny book with huge payout is TINKERS (Paul Harding). This DEBUT novel published by a small press (Bellevue Literary Press) won the Pulitzer this year. A gorgeous book about the love of a son for his father and understanding how epilepsy changes lives. (DO check out the quarterly literary journal put out by BLR -- among the best essays, poems, and fiction focusing on health and disability. I have subscribed for four years and just signed up for another 3 year stint). First sentence: GEORGE WASHINGTON CROSBY began to hallucinate eight days before he died.

JUST RIGHT... THE CORRECTIONS by Jonathan Franzen. A beautiful tale of family dysfunction and how we carry what we learn from our parents into our own lives. All that dysfunction comes to a when the patriarch's failing health due to Parkinson's disease brings the kids home. I heard Franzen speak two years ago at Grub Street's Muse and the Marketplace and finally got around to reading this masterpiece. First sentence: THE MADNESS of an autumn prairie cold front coming through.

I've been shopping hard for others, and need a few treats myself. Here's what I've ordered for MY stocking:

WHAT MAY HAVE BEEN - Love Letters of Jackson Pollock and Dori G by Gary Percesepe and Susan Tepper (Cervena Books Press). Because it just sounds so SEXY! And friends have recommended it. And because I love Pollock.

Coming soon... WEST OF HERE by Jonathan Evison. I adored ALL ABOUT LULU. Enuf said.

Jennifer Egan's A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD has a lot of people talking. She presents her story in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd POVs, along with a powerpoint presentation. Must read for myself to see how pulls the story off.

Happy reading, writing, and shopping! And whenever possible, please purchase your books through independent retailers! Peace, Linda

Sunday, December 19, 2010

12 Reads of Christmas -- Collectable Collections

Being on the diminutive side, I remain partial to all things small, including my reads. Here, three of my favorite collections from 2010.

HINT FICTION (edited by Robert Swartwood; Norton) proves the adage great things come in small packages. Swartwood, who coined the term hint fiction, says a story of 25 words or less "should not be complete by standing by having a beginning, middle, and end. Instead it should be complete by standing by itself as its own little world." This small book delivers over 100 stories (culled from over 2,400 entries) written by award-winning authors such as Joyce Carol Oates, J.S. Konrath, Ha Jin, Tess Gerritsen, and James Frey, but also lesser known but equally talented writers, including Kelly Sptizer, Jane Hammons, David Erlewine, Roxanne Gay, and a host of others, including my novel writing buddy Jennifer Haddock.

Pregnancy Test (Jennifer Haddock)
A drop of pee. An unanswered prayer. The second pink line draws one childhood to an end as another begins.

Golden Years (Edith Pearlman)
She: Macular. He: Parkinsons. She pushing, he directing, they get down the ramp, across the grass, through the gate. The wheels roll riverwards.

Progress (Joe Schreiber)
After seventeen days she finally broke down and called him "Daddy."

WHet your appetite for more? Read HINT FICTION's oodles of accolades and pick up a copy for yourself.

I have traveled a lot the last few months, and the first item packed after my laptop is BEST OF THE WEB 2010 (DZANC Books; Guest Editor Kathy Fish, Series Editor Matt Bell). Almost 100 stories, poems, and essays covering a lot of writers -- Dan Chaon, Terese Svoboda, Robert Olen Butler, Claudia Emerson, J.A. Tyler -- published in some of the finest online literary journals -- BluePrint Review, >kill author, failbetter, Necessary Fiction, elimae, Wigleaf, Guernica, Brevity.

I have no favorite piece; I keep reading and rereading, enjoying as a reader, learning as a writer. Here, GLORY, by Cami Park, a talented author who died too young and too early (originally published in Staccato).

A woman's hair is her crowning glory, my grandmother always said. Brush it every night, one hundred strokes.

She also once told me she felt like she was drowning. We had been doing the dishes together in silence, her freckled hands wrist-deep in suds. I placed the plate I'd been drying in the rack and leaned over the sink on tiptoe to look out the window at the star-speckled sky. Searched for the Milky Way, scanned for the moon.

Purchase your copy from DZANC Books. Of course.

Not too long ago, I wrote nice things about Peter Selgin and he kindly sent me a copy of 179 WAYS TO SAVE A NOVEL (Writers Digest Books). Since he's read my work through DZANC's Creative Writing Sessions, I assumed he thought this craft book might salvage my own Works-In-Progress, and it just might. Divided into six sections such as Matters of Substance and Matters of Style, each page is like a meditation with a get tough message.

My favorite today is #48: The Quest for Happiness and Other Irritants: Two Plots -- Only, which pretty much distills all literary stories to two plots. Since I struggle with plot constantly, this message simplifies my writing life immensely. I already own every one of Peter Selgin's books (though he has a new one coming out early 2011), so I'm hoping this time he sends me an agent ;^) Purchase your copy at Writer's Digest Books -- pssst, they're having a SALE!

Next up, three favorite serious reads from the past year, and the three books I've slipped into my own stocking. Peace, Linda

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Missing the Bus

Grey clouds tangled in leafless tree limbs and telephone lines. Gertrude twisted the watch, puzzling at the liver patches circling her wrist. Almost noon -- where was the bus? If she was late who would feed Norry her tomato soup and animal cracker lunch? Who would put her down for her afternoon nap?

The wind whipped leaves into an eddy of bronze and carried the raw smell of impending rain. Perhaps she should not have tarried for coffee after her shift -- her co-workers were such awful gossips. But what wicked fun. And she deserved some fun, Gertrude thought. She worked hard to put the potatoes in the larder.

A bus rumbled past. The Number 9 to City Square. Panic wormed through her stomach and seeped to her chest. Where was the 55 to home? Raindrops splattered her flannel slippers. She looked down at the deepening puddle. Where were her white shoes? She touched her head. Her nursing cap?

The sky cracked open. Gertrude hiccoughed a rending sob and sank knee-first to the muddy ground. She clasped her hands in prayer. Mother Mary, take care of Norry and bring me to her.

A siren wailed lonesome. She crunched her eyes and prayed harder. Behind her, feet pattered closer. Firm hands grasped her shoulders.

“Thank God we found you!”

Gertrude stopped her prayers. She wobbled up and let the kind-faced lady lead her down the street. Something about her eyes reminded her of Noreen.


Inspired by this week's 52-250 Flash a Week Challenge Theme: missed the bus.

It's snowing here ;^)

Peace, Linda

Armchair Traveling ==> Language/Place Blog Carnival

Writers from all over the world share their places and spaces. The second issue of LANGUAGE/PLACE CARNIVAL BLOG live at Meditations in an Emergency, hosted by the congenial and talented Nicolette Wong.

My small contribution -- Lost in Suomi. Alongside word weavings by Dorothee Lang, Marcus Speh, Stella Pierides, and Nicolette Wong.

Come, travel with us. Peace, Linda

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Twelve Reads of Christmas -- Great Things Come in Small Packages

'Tis the gifting season, and what better present than a book? Over these final 10 shopping days, I'll highlight 12 of my picks for giving. Up first, three small gems well worth purchasing for a friend -- or yourself.

MYRA KING is an amazingly versatile writer whose collection of short stories, CITY PADDOCK AND OTHER STORIES (Ginninderra Press) hit the Australian bookstores this spring. Ten stories, each packing its own particular wallop: a former soldier's love for the dignity of his horses and his life, the futility of bringing a child into a bitter and brutal world, a future where love is prohibited. Here, the opening of CITY PADDOCK: I've been watching grass grow. Every morning you can see me, an old bloke, on my way to the shops, lifting my feet carefully as I cross over a strip of it outlining a path.

A beautiful little book by Tim Horvath, CIRCULATION (Sunnyoutside Press) pays homage to books and maps and the intricate relationships we have with our parents. Tim Horvath writes lush and spare; yes, I intend the apparent contradiction. The first sentence: When we were awash with youth, we were all led to believe that our father was assembling a book called The Atlas of the Voyages of Things. Buy it ==> HERE.

LAST WINTER'S LEAVES is an intimate and moving chapbook of poems and micro-short stories by MICHAEL SOLENDER (Full of Crow Chapbook Series). The contents show a 'tender' side of Michael, and a personal side: the poems and stories reflect the end of a crippling despondancy. From his poem PANIC ATTACK: Panic skips like flat spinning stones my mind's stagnant river/apathy growing at desire... Interested in a copy? Contact the writer himself ==> HERE.

Please support authors and their creations. Next up, collections for the pack rats among us. Happy shopping! Peace...

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Watch

After the wolves killed the sheep, then Damien, I fled the backcountry. Without cricket and tree frog song, the silence grew too deep.

I packed light: food for a lifetime, clothes and boots, and all the guns. One photo of my love, sewn into the pocket over my heart. The audio of our poetry.

On the last night, I siphoned 30 gallons of ethanol to power the ATV, and sloshed the rest around the perimeter of the house, the shed, the still. The timber flared with a loud wumph. The wolves gathered, mesmerized by the flames. Their low snarls trailed me as I drove from the forest, the evening star obscured by smoke.

It took three days to reach the City. From the top of the tower, I watched the horizon. The tinny pop of guns from the last of the resistance punctuated the low whine of advancing tanks. For some reason, these noises comforted me.


The cusp of a new year always brings out the dystopian in me. Inspired by the 52-250 Flash a Year Challenge Theme: Urban Convert.

Coming up next week: The Twelve Days of Books. Stay tuned. And stay warm! Peace, Linda

Saturday, December 04, 2010

One Year...

One year ago today my father breathed his last breath. I love him. I miss him.

He was happiest at the ocean, his family and dog with him...

I walk the beach, south to the point. Waves tease the beach with a lazy roar, sea oats rustle from the dunes. Smooth as silvered glass, the sea melds into sky, endless horizon. Here, there are only two colors: sun and water. Hermit crabs scuttle before my shadow. The receding tide leaves foam memories. I walk. Sand squishes fine and smooth between my toes, polished for eternity by God’s rock tumbler. The pack bangs lightly on my back with each step. The sun settles an inch above sea’s edge. I look back to where I was and the memory is miniscule, my footprints swirled away.

Oh Daddy… remember?

Those mornings you fished, we always walked, my sister and I. She skipped ahead, seeking the next adventure and casting sideways looks at the sun-baked boys in their bleached cut-offs. While I, the slower, more serious one, kept eyes to the ground, seeking a starfish, an intact sand-dollar, a smoothed piece of colored glass. We walked and walked, chattering about everything and nothing, stopping to poke birds and beached jellies, diverting into the dunes to imagine forts made among the stilts of unoccupied beach-houses. Oblivious to time and distance and all that left behind. Until some sound, a keening tern perhaps, or maybe a red kite swooping from the sun, reminded us how far we’d come. We’d turn around, panicked that we’d strayed too far, that you’d be done with the fishing and packed up, ready to leave without us. We’d run back, mile and miles, chests heaving, toes digging into soft sand, until the jeep distinguished itself from the endless beach, and you standing by your poles, staring to the end of the world. Mom would sit in the front seat staring at the same spot you were, that faraway place, her knitting on her lap, the dog curled beside her where you sat. Our return animated you and mom, you would smile slow like you’d been asleep for a long time. We related our adventures, gave news of the beach beyond the point, displayed our treasures proudly. You laughed, indulging us, and mom unwrapped tuna salad sandwiches in hot dog buns, celery sticks, chips, all gritty from sand.

That was how it was, each day new and yet the same, finite and never-ending.

Daddy, I wish you were here now…

The tide’s coming in, and the water churns here at the confluence of sound and sea. I walk past the fisherman and their four-wheel-drives pocking the point. From a distance, they seemed charcoal smudges: a log, a boat’s broken hull, a beached seal or other detritus tossed carelessly upon the shore by a rogue wave. Closer, details emerged, rods stuck in sand, lines tight, silver filaments set to garrote the unsuspecting who pass by. Have you ever noticed how fishing lines, when taut, sing when the world spins away from the sun? They smile at me when I peek into their white buckets filled with the bluefish, silver-scales reflecting sky streaked orange. But when I look up, into their brown wind-carved faces, I see you. Waiting for the big one.

Daddy, the blues are running...

Seagulls and cormorants squawk and dive bomb into the writhing waves. Even pelicans gather, skimming low to the sea’s surface. The men reel in fast, rods and arms quivering. I sit at the dune’s base, back pack snuggled in the sand at my feet. I withdraw the box. It’s heavy, made of wood, I know the inside is steel-lined though I haven’t yet opened the lid. The sun taints the fish-covered beach in blood. I wait. The men load their buckets, their trucks, and soon all that is left are deep treads leading away.

The sun melts into the sea, shimmering like molten lava. The box feels lighter somehow. At water's edge, droplets of saltiness kiss my face, so many tears. The lid comes off easily. The wind wisps the dust and instinctively I reach but it’s gone, it’s gone, you're gone, and I reach inside, your fire-polished ash so fine in my hand, so much finer than the sand under my feet yet as timeless, and I toss the first handful intothe air. The wind shifts, carries the dustiness of you aloft above the waves… daddy, oh daddy… the blues are running, the blues are running, and the waves will carry you, carry you, so you will be one with them… oh daddy, you’re running with those blues…

Love you Daddy. Every time I feel the tide tugging, the sand shifting below my feet, the smell of salt and the keen of a gull, I think of you. Peace...

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Palm of Her Hand

When Lorelei emerged from the Bentley draped in pink silk and pearls, E.B. Whiting’s heart quaked all the way down to his RocketBuster boots. For over a year he had pursued the Geisha, through the cobbled streets of the French Quarter to the high rises of Hong Kong. Rebuffed in every city, he paid for her best courtesans instead. The next morning, he sent her ivory roses, accepted but never acknowledged.

He strode across the foyer, Dom Perignon clutched in his hand. She followed him to the window. Below, the Dallas skyline glittered. American flags and Whiting banners floated ghostlike from dozens of cranes silhouetted in tiny white lights.

“You have built a kingdom,” she said.

“As have you.” They clinked flutes. “Have you considered my proposal?”

She rested the champagne on the table and took his hand. The subtle scent of vanilla wafted from her. He trembled as she splayed open his palm and traced the left side with her finger.

“Long career line. And success, but the two do not intersect.” She pulled his hand closer, her breath warm on his skin. “Love line also long, but see?” She drew quick perpendicular cross-hatches with her nail. He winced.

“Marry me,” he whispered. “Please.”

“Life line starts here.” She slowly trailed her forefinger from the base of the thumb to the middle of his palm, and stopped. A frown creased her forehead, then smoothed.

“Yes,” she said and smiled. “Let us marry.”


Inspired by the 52-250 Theme: Palm of Your Hand, as well as by my former graduate student who read my palm during dinner at Emeril's in New Orleans.

Thank goodness my palm has a longer life line!

Peace, Linda

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Gobble, gobble... pass ON the pie, please!

Good news! Being super-skinny isn't healthy. In a new study published this week by the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that folks with the lowest mortality rates are those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 20 and 24.9. Those on the lowest end of the BMI scale comprised a mixed group of sicker indiivduals (current smokers, those with illnesses with a wasting component, such as HIV/AIDS or cancer) and healthier folks (those who eat lean and run mean). In the study, those with the highest BMIs had the highest mortality.

The study used a meta-analysis technique that reviews already conducted studies, and controlled for important factors that influence death, such as alcohol consumption, smoking, cardiovascular disease, and other confounders.

Curious how you stack up? Calculate your own BMI HERE.

So before you slather on that extra dollop of whipped cream, think... BMI.

Peace, Linda

(So, what inspired this post on pie and BMI? Stress. The holidays, work, life... I've been a two-fisted stress eater of late, and when I saw this little blurb on BMI, it both heartened me and motivated me. Writing and professing are sedentary pursuits and I need to kick my life up a notch).

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Remember those you love, and give thanks for all you have. The smallest things mean so much, even a can of hash.

My small plate offered up at Michael Solender's Feast of Flash ==> THANKSGIVING

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hola NOLA!

A typical day in New Orleans is anything but. Here for a gerontology conference, the Indian Summer weather and riverside location connived to make the city even more alluring. I'm leaving on a jet plane up to Boston for the break, but wanted to share a sampling of NOLA's charms:

The People! SO friendly and helpful. Everyone smiles down here. I miss the South...

The Culture! Faulkner House sponsored the WORDS and MUSIC literary fest this week, and I made it to the Friday evening gala held at the World War II museum. Imagine dining on oysters bathed in creme fraiche, truffle-mashed potatoes, and beef tenderloin while sitting under the belly of a C-47 bomber. Best of all, though, was meeting Simon Mawer, author of The Glass Room and winner of last year's Man Booker Prize (which I reviewed ==> HERE). He and his wife Connie are gracious, funny, lovely people.

The next day dawned clear and warm, so what better than to walk the Quarter? Off to Preservation Hall for a funeral parade to celebrate the life and brilliance of jazz musician William Patton, then on to shrimp and goat cheese crepes al fresco. Throw in a couple of cups of Community Coffee and the bluesy swells of Tuba Skinny, and you have a perfect afternoon.

The Food! You know you're in heaven when the worst meal you eat is at Emeril's! Think flash-fried calamari with an olive salsa, pan-seared grouper in a safron sauce, the signature banana cream pie. We ate light the next day for lunch, fried shrimp and soft-shell crab po boys at Johnny's, eaten in the madness of Jackson Square. Dinner at Le Foret... elegance bar none: amusements that included an artichoke bisque so smooth you could skip a crouton across it; a fois gras and shitake appetizer (shaped like forest mushrooms) paired with hazelnut-sprinkled shaved apple; quail perfectly braised and served with quail yolk-stuffed ravioli; and a sampling of excellent desserts. Exquisito.

Just when I thought the food could not get better, we traveled uptown to partake of the victuals at Dante's Kitchen. The kitchen preserves it's own pickles and veggies, all procured locally, and makes it's own flavored vodkas and brandies. I shared several small plates with my graduate student -- shrimp and stone ground grits with a red-eye andouille gravy (head-on prawns 4-6 inches long!); baby squash taglietelle with chocolate cherry tomatoes; duck two-ways, but I was loathe to share the Mexican hot chocolate pot topped with orange blossom marshmallows. All chased with a Violet Lemondrop, a scrumptious concoction of homemade sweet violet liquor and lemon-infused vodka.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lost in Suomi

The map rested in my lap, a useless blur of ‘k’s and ‘l’s and ‘i’s. The GPS bleated unintelligible directives. I’d wanted to take the train, then the bus, to the cabin perched on the brim of the Arctic Circle, but Chris insisted on driving.

“Better to see the land of your ancestors,” he said. “Besides, we’re in no hurry.”

But I was in a hurry.

“See? North.” He pointed to the compass, smiling. “So rest. And trust me to get us to our destination.”

I closed my eyes. He was right, trust and rest; the chemo had robbed me of all my energy. The sun strobed through the birch forest, flinging dappled warmth on my cheeks. The crumpled map slid to the floor.

When I woke, the clock said eight at night but the sky looked like mid-afternoon. Chris rolled down the windows. Wind pummeled me awake, smelling of pine and some quality of freshness, of newness, I could not identify. He hummed softly and kept patting my knee.

“Almost there,” he said.

The trees thinned. I wanted to sleep more, but Chris cut the engine.

“Where are we?”

He helped me from the car. My hips ached. I leaned against him. Pine needles blanketed the ground. Then, the woods ended and sky spread before us, a never-ending canvas of liquid silver that melted into water, blue as his eyes, as blue as our daughter’s, now grown.

He squeezed my hand. “We are exactly where we need to be.”


Inspired by the 52-250 Flash-a-Year Challenge theme -- Lost in Translation. As well as memories of my own distant trip to Finland.

And speaking of lost... I'm off to New Orleans for the Gerontological Society of America annual meeting. My graduate students will be strutting their stuff -- I am so proud of them. Of course, I will enjoy my downtime -- WORDS and MUSIC overlaps with my stay.


Thursday, November 11, 2010


The sign across the street winked neon: Walk-ins Welcome. Bells jingled when I pushed the glass door. A sleepy-looking woman looked up from a magazine.

“Is it too late for a haircut?”

“I can take you now,” she said.

I followed her to the back. Chairs reclined against industrial sinks. She lowered the heft of my hair into the tub. Warm water pulsed over my scalp and her gentle hands worked soap into lather. Head wrapped in terry, I trailed her to the front window and perched in a chair before the large mirror. She unwound the towel and my hair, au-lait brown from the shampooing, cascaded down my back.

“Just a trim?”

“Cut it off.”

“All of it?”

“To my shoulders.”

“But you have beautiful hair,” she said.

I shrugged; time for something new. She combed with care, starting from the bottom. Shears rasped through the strands. I closed my eyes. With each snip, I remembered: Ben slowly unbraiding my hair, kissing my bared neck, sending shivers down my spine.

But he was gone. The blow-dryer seared my cheeks, scattering small bristles down my neckline. On the radio Elton John wailed about yellow brick roads. She swiveled me around to face my reflection.

Long clumps of gold covered the scuffed linoleum floor, my lap, the tips of my shoes peeking beneath the nylon smock. Piles and piles of my hair. My chest filled with unexpected pressure.

For some reason, I thought I would feel lighter.

Inspired by the 52-250 Flash-A-Year Challenge theme -- 'bad haircut'.

I admit; I cheated a bit. This is an extension of a scene from BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, which is undergoing major surgery. So the words are only semi-fresh.

Peace y'all! Linda

Monday, November 08, 2010

Between the Black

We were blackening pages, all of us, covering them with charcoal, leaving no traces of white showing, turning them black as Con Edison smoke, as abandoned subway station platforms and third rail rats. As black as vacuum-packed blackness between stars. (LIFE GOES TO THe MOVIES, Peter Selgin)

I think of my friends doing NaNoWriMo this month, of the frenzy of blackening their pages with words, a rabble of courier and times roman and georgia fonts. The beauty of the first draft of anything, be it a novel or poem, a song or a script, is the building up. The thrill of mounting word count, of sentences bleeding into paragraphs, and paragraphs seeping into pages.

I miss the blackness.

My quest these grey November days is to create white space. To cut wide swathes through my story and leave scenes that make the reader fill in between words. When you cross a river, do you remember the water or the stones? I think of each scene as a river rock, the water raging below the page, full of unwritten tension.

I am committing surgery, rather drastic cutting that might qualify for an episode of Nip and Tuck, on BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT. My first novel, one I thought 'finished' over a year ago. I have murdered many darlings, including the opening scene which won me a very nice monetary prize two years ago. But the opening was cliche, dwelled overmuch in backstory, and, as one esteemed small press who actually read the first 50 pages put it, "tried to create empathy for Ben before he had earned it."

Only in hindsight. And yes, the best rejection I have ever received, as it came 16 months after I'd submitted and the house noted emphatically in it's submission guidelines that it does not respond to manuscripts it is not interested in.

So my quest is to create more white space. I have parsed 2,800 words from the first 77 pages. I have miles to go.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Three sabbatical applications. One slot.

The Department Chair taps the manila envelopes into a pile then splays them over her desk like a short deck of cards.

She sips her Tazo Lotus and Zen tea. Dinner. What she’d really like is a porterhouse rare and a Tanqueray martini with extra olives. But like most nights, she’s in her office catching up on administrative detritus. The Dean expects her decision tomorrow morning. Who to choose?

Dr. R-W: The rising star: three graduate students win prestigious dissertation awards, eleven first-author manuscripts, an impressive NIH grant portfolio. Up for promotion to Full Professor in two years but already can check ‘Distinguished’ in service, scholarship, teaching. All while popping out two kids.

Dr. S: Emeritus. Proverbial dead wood, but so agreeable with the Chair – on everything. Smiles a lot. Does as told. Tremendous talent greasing the Dean’s wheels. Aims to re-energize flagging research.

Dr. W: Highly productive, well-connected, funds half the programming staff. Asshole prima donna -- he threw a pencil at a post-doc, who’s now rumbling about suing the university on charges of bullying and harassment. Her greatest headache.

She leans back and stares at the empty cup, looking for an answer, but the tea’s bagged not loose. She weighs the data: expedience or merit? Seniority or promise? Hell, she never got a sabbatical -- she deserves a break.

She types the recommendation. Tonight she’ll treat herself to a congratulatory dinner after all – work will be more pleasant next year.


Inspired by this week's 52-250 Flash a Year Challenge theme: least favorite. And hey, this is kind of how it really is in the Ivory Tower. Peace, Linda

Sunday, October 31, 2010

NoNo NaNo

No NaNo for me this year.

This would be my fourth NaNoWriMo. I feel sad not partaking of this annual gluttony of words, this month of the inner critic taking a long cruise. But my editor's taken up residence, stubborn as she sits on my shoulder, assisting me with hack-saws and fettling knives, polish cloths and a bit of spit for shine.

With two novels lingering somewhere between second draft and final, I don't feel entitled -- or compelled -- to tackle a new story. Not that they're not lingering in the background -- I have at least three, including two YAs, itching for birth.

Alas, not this month. Not even this year, and perhaps not even next. My one luxury while in major edit mode is penning my weekly 52/250/#fridayflash shorty. And sometimes even writing 250 words seems Herculean.

So to all my friends doing the NaNo -- write forth! Write unencumbered! Write for sheer joy! I'll cheer you from the sidelines, a little envious of your free writing. But perhaps seeing sprint towards the 50K finish line will motivate me to really finish CLOSER TO NORMAL (yep, new title) and PURE by October 31, 2011.

Live hard, write harder, love hardest.

Peace, Linda

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Every day Man shuffles through Land of Stones hunched over his stick. Bright-Eyes chitters loud and scrambles down Oak. My tail twitches, alert. Hungry. Sun scared away Rainclouds and the acorns are small and hard. Bright-Eyes hides them in our secret nooks anyway, for the kits who will come after Snow.

Bright-Eyes looks thin perched on top of Stone. Man hobbles slowly. He looks thin, too. When he arrives, Bright-Eyes scampers behind the tree, waiting. Man stops, leans on his stick, and sighs. He stares at Stone. He waters Earth with his eyes.

“Carol,” he says. “I miss you.”

His hand plunges into his skin, grey like Sky. Seeds shower the yellowed grass. Bright-Eyes dashes out, filling his cheeks with corn and nuts. Blue Jay swoops down from the branch for his share. Man watches with sad eyes, then leaves.

Every morning Man sprinkles his Water and Seed before Stone. Bright-Eyes lines our nest with fallen leaves. Sky turns black and blows cold. Bright-Eyes brings me acorns but does not eat. My belly swells.

White arrives. Man does not visit. We wait and wait. Still Man does not come. White piles higher than Stone. Bright-Eyes returns with the last acorn. He gives it to me.

One morning, White goes away. Yellow Bird rumbles beside Oak and digs through White and Earth with his beak. Men circle around the hole, but not our Man. They fill the hole and right another Stone.

White returns. Bright-Eyes does not wake. I wait.


A departure of sorts for me -- I've never written from a critter's POV, though I have written from a tree's. Inspired by the 52-250 Flash a Year Challenge theme: tombstones.

Redoing BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT. It's kind of fun. I even have a new title.

Peace, Linda

Monday, October 25, 2010

Good Things In Life Take a Long Time

Patience. Persistence. Perspiration.

Sometimes I'm not sure I have what it takes to keep on keeping on. With my writing. With my work. With people who inadvertently hurt me and the ones I love.

I'm tired.

But then a few things happen and I get pumped again. People are reading my stories. Not writers, but readers. I found out today a student in a New England college, tasked with finding a story on-line, chose one of mine posted at fictionaut. They discussed it in class. My words had utility and, I hope, resonated.

This moves me.

A friend is sharing several of my stories and poems with her book club.

This also moves me.

A pharmacy student comes by with chocolate she brought back from an internship in Geneva.

This moves me, and makes my taste buds sing.

And then, after a less-than-optimal weekend, I hear this song and am reminded that there are good things, always, in life, if you hang in there long enough...

Peace, Linda

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Wind slams the trailer. Dolores and Marty cook through the Nor’easter. JJ’s late.

“He ain’t coming,” Marty says. “Time to sample the goods.”

The blade slices the white mound, tap-tap-tapping crystalline lines on glass.

“JJ’s gonna be pissed.” Dolores malt-liquored breath scatters the powder.

Marty shrugs, rolls the twenty. Saliva gushes.

The door blows open.


Inspired by the 52-250 Flash A Year Challenge theme: long lines.

Of course, my head always goes to drugs. Also inspired the oddly satisfying challenge of writing 55-word stories. Peace, Linda

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Am Grateful For ===> Cathy Olliffe Webster!

Who busts up the murk of Monday with her pos-i-ti-vee-tee? Who can make me laugh and cry in the same post? Who always has a kind word and a generous heart?

My favorite newly-wed Cathy Olliffe Webster!

This third Canadian, whose gratitudes graced my blog nearly every day last month, is a dynamo of energy, compassion, and grace. She blogs from MUSKOKA RIVER, a place somewhere north I'd never heard of until I 'met' Cathy. We caught up in between stops on her whirlwind honeymoon with Dave. Their adventures included meeting up Laurita Miller, fellow writer and gratitude ‘winner’ (and please go vote for round II for her BRAIN DROPPINGS, Canadian Blog Awards nominated for the Canadian Blog Awards).

Here's Cathy waxing on the important things in life...

What three things are you most grateful for today?
Today is rather spectacular, not my average day at all. First of all, it's Monday and I'm not at work (I'm grateful for that, who wouldn't be?). I'm on my honeymoon with an incredible man who loves me no matter what.(So grateful for that.) And I'm staying in one of the world's most beautiful places, Gros Morne National Park on the west coast of Newfoundland. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you can imagine a place where mountains covered with craggy rock and autumn leaves reach out to touch the Atlantic Ocean; a place dotted with charming fishing villages; a place where people are warm and wonderful – that's where I am today. And inside that beautiful place I am in a gorgeous boutique hotel, in the honeymoon suite, with a jacuzzi and a fireplace and wireless internet!! (Yay!) I'm grateful for all of it, today. I do believe it's the best Monday I've ever had in my whole life.

What gives you the most joy?
My family. My new husband, Dave, my children Angus and Sam. My wonderful mother, Dorothy. Writing also gives me joy, makes me feel whole. Gives me a reason to exist.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where when 10 is as blissed out as one could be, where would you rate your mean happiness?
I live life on an emotional rollercoaster sometimes, seeming to roll from highs to lows in a heartbeat. But, on average, I would say I'm a happy, positive person. Mark me in at seven.

What impedes your ability to attaining joy?
I'm my own worst enemy. I think I'm a very sensitive person, sensitive to the feelings and emotions of those around me, so it doesn't take much negativity to bring me down. I used to try to please everybody. But at this stage of my life I try to surround myself with people who are positive. It makes me positive, it makes me happy. And I love feeling that way.

I'm also prone to depression but I'm looking after myself as best I can. Here's my advice: see a doctor. Get some exercise. Get some sleep. Break away from people who drag you down. Surround yourself with loving, happy people. Do things that make you happy.

Wise words, Cathy -- giving love to those you love begats love back.

She emailed me today. Despite work stress and returning to oodles of stuff to do, not to mention cranky novel critique-ers, she remains pretty dang happy.

“Married life is awesome. Funny thing - it all felt weird until we got home from the honeymoon. Then I settled down and realized, hey, it's Dave, we're the same. We're fine! And now it's all good.”

THANK YOU Cathy for spreading your enthusiasm and good cheer across the cyberverse. Most of all, thank you for extending your friendship to me, a thousand miles away.

Peace, Linda

Monday, October 18, 2010

Doppelgangers and Other Detritus

Isn't it funny how, when you're in the thick of a story, you see your characters everywhere? When I was in DC a week ago, one of the speakers at the mental health conference was a shoo-in for my Ben. Same name, same field, same physique, same hair, same age, even the same damn Ivy League institution. Freaky. And then, this weekend in Mount Washington the waitress was a clone of Althea. Pinch me...


Work is a lot like Survivor these days. Lots of whispering, behind-closed-doors-crud, alliances formed and broken. I just wish I could find the damn immunity idol.


This weekend my kids and I took a clay class together. I had more fun than the kiddos, and twisting coils and cutting slabs made me realize how much I missed working in this medium. Clay will be part of my 5-year plan.


I found out I 'won' a beautiful native American flute. Gorgeous creature, made of cedar and walnut. Birthed into this world by KEN LIGHT, a master flute maker. Now I need to learn how to play it. Also part of the 5-year plan.


I'm assembling a chapbook of short stories and prose poems. Not sure what I'll do with it, but it is mighty satisfying to see the words I've created assembled into a manuscript.


The Reading... Mary Gaitskill's BAD BEHAVIOR. Deliciously decadent. A slew of books winging my way NOW -- Tim Horvath, Matt Bell, Hint Fiction. Yum.

The Writing... A flash a week is about all I can eke out for new stuff. Otherwise, editing and revising through to the end of Brighter than Bright. I am in turns amazed at how good and horrified at how awful various sections read.

MUST READ ==> The chilling story CHARCOAL/VANILLA by Spencer Dew. While you're at the NEW Fall Issue of JMWW, mosey around and read Tim Horvath, Terese Svoboda, Ken Sparling, and all the other great stuff.

MUST RETURN ==> Here. Wednesday. To read about my gratitude for Cathy (Ouliffe) Webster.

MUST RELAX ==> Monday is over. Please, sit down and pour yourself a Drambuie.

Love. Live. Laugh. And don't sweat the small stuff. Peace, Linda

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Comfort of Friends

She sat with me in the white bathroom, holding my hair while I upchucked in the once-pristine commode. When there was nothing left to hold, she rubbed small circles between my shoulder blades. At the wig shop, she held up a red bob.

“Spunky,” she said. “And sexy.”

She drove me to radiation, to acupuncture and support group. She brewed herbal concoctions that smelled of twigs and dirt. She brought casseroles and cookies, and later, applesauce and other soft sick-foods. She painted yellow happy faces on my toe nails, upside-down so my piggies smiled up at me during infusions.

After I survived the treatment, I weighed the possibility of reconstruction. She came with me for the fitting. I cried at the scars cratering my chest, mourning how my husband once caressed the soft fullness of my breasts, kissed my rosebud nipples. She squeezed my hand the way only a best friend could reassure.

“He loves all of you, not just your body parts.” She held up a C-cup mastectomy bra, a full size bigger than what I’d lost. “So let’s go, Dolly,” she said, and we both laughed.

Turns out she brought more than food for comfort. Now my husband begs me to take him back, but I don’t return his phone calls, or hers. Nights I climb the stairs to the empty bedroom, rubbing the stubble growing newly black on my head, the prosthesis stashed deep in his underwear drawer.


Inspired by the 52-250 Flash a Year Challenge theme: the brutality of friends. Inspired also by true circumstances, thankfully not my own. Be careful who you trust with your heart.

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I'm Grateful for ==> Laurita Miller

Lovely Laurita.

When I think of Laurita, I think of sunshine. Of grace and generosity. At least that's her internet 'personality', though I hear first-hand that Laurita's the real deal. I'll have to head north someday to find out for myself.

Laurita weaves words from air, makes the prosaic into poetry. If you doubt me, please check out ESCAPE INTO LIFE, featuring 4 of her micro-stories, each an elegant literary truffle. Whenever I pop by her blog I never know what to expect -- a poem, a horror story, a love story, a description of her day -- but know it will be time best spent.

During the 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge, Laurita expressed the most heartfelt gratitudes. On the first day, she left a gorgeous gratitude: I am grateful for those people who take just one quick moment to point out the good in someone else. That one moment can make a world of difference.

I've thought often about this particular gratitude -- it's like a mantra of sorts when someone angers or disappoints me. It reminds me to make change through kindness rather than force of personality or power or strength.

Laurita had a few more things to say about the power of thanks. Here, in her own words...

What three things are you most grateful for TODAY?

Today, I am grateful that I live where I do. Clean air, clean water, and an abundance of beauty. I truly believe I live in the best place in the world.

Today I am also grateful for sunshine. And for my family. Always for family.

What brings you the most joy?

The easy thing is to say my family, but that’s true. I have a large extended family and we’re all close. They’re a bunch of silly loons and I love them all. Throw an hour or two of writing time into the mix and I am one happy woman.

If there was a general happiness scale ranging from 1-10, where 1 is absolutely-the-most-miserable-a-body-can-be and 10 is blissed out to the max, where would you fall?

On average, I’d be about an 8. I’m pretty happy most of the time. Disgustingly so really.

What are your greatest obstacles to achieving happiness, however you define it?

Worry. I try not to, but it’s hard when you’re a mother. Worry about the kids is the biggest obstacle to happiness, for me. Most of it is unfounded, and worry is a useless thing anyway, but it’s tough when little pieces of your heart are running around out in the big world.

Thank you Laurita for gracing my blog and gracing our world.

Peace, Linda

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hint Fiction @ Nanoism

A very small story of mine is up today at NANOISM, the premier twitter-fic zine.

This is the story (PINK SLIP) that garnered an honorable mention in Robert Swartwood's last Hint Fiction contest, judged by James Frey.

A hearty thanks to editor Ben White for sharing my little treatise on the economic downturn with the whole dang world!

Peace, Linda

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Rules for Surviving Eighth Grade

Rule #1) Never hurry home. After soccer, hang out at the library. Try to get invited to Marcy’s house for dinner. Just don’t act too desperate.

Rule #2) Don’t have friends over. If they ask why, say, “My mom works nights and sleeps in the afternoon.”

Rule #3) When you do come home, don’t change the TV channel or mute the volume, even if she’s sleeping on the couch. It’s not worth the fight.

Rule #4) Go to bed early. Wake up early.

Rule #5) Never talk about it, even with Nana on the phone. Never, ever with teachers or the counselor. Better here than with your dad.

Rule #6) Never water down the Stoli. Then you’ll have to explain the bruises.

Rule #7) Keep the babysitting money in your locker for lunch and tampons.

Rule #8) Don’t sign up for band because you’ll need a ride to the concerts and she’s always losing her license.

Rule #9) Always listen when she says she loves you, even when she’s too drunk to remember the next day. Tell her you love her too, even if it’s a lie, and hope Jesus understands.

Rule #10) Hide your journal in the cellar behind the dryer – she never washes clothes and besides, she’s afraid of spiders and falling down the stairs. But don’t stash it under the same loose tile as the pot, just in case.


Trying out YA voices, so had some fun with this story, inspired by the 52-250 Flash a Year Challenge theme: unseen.

On the writing front, I'm workshopping BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT (remember that novel?) through the end of the year in hopes of purtying it up for marketing. So I may be scarcer than usual. PURE is marinating until after the holidays, preparing for another skirmish with moi.

Live hard, write harder, love hardest. Peace...

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

CPR on Tuesday

Not the mouth-to-mouth variety. Rather, Camroc Press Review has two of my poems on tap -- A ∩ B and THE LAST TIME.

Which makes me very happy!

While there, scroll down for a peek at Dawn West's THE FUNERAL -- gorgeous sad piece of writing.

Thank you BARRY BASDEN for featuring my words!

Peace, Linda

Sunday, October 03, 2010

I Am Grateful for... UMBRELLALADY!

Who is this mysterious Umbrellalady, who pops by blogs and leaves marvelous comments full of wisdom and kindness? This is the question I wondered myself, especially when I ran my 30 Days of Gratitude challenge and she offered up a gratitude nearly every single day.

I envisioned a kindly Mary Poppins, surrounded by children and animals, leaping through the air with a smile on her face. I found Kathy Bruederlin at her blog QUILT SEAMS JUST RIGHT, rambling about quilting, cooking, creating, maing wine, and life in general. Sounds good to me!

Kathy was the most prolific of gratitude commenters and found gratitude in many small things we take for granted. Now a chance for you meet this most wonderful woman from the North. In her own words...

What three things are you most grateful for today?
1) Just being, because I almost wasn't and that is pretty scary. I know I say this frequently but it is because I truly am grateful for being here every day and consider myself one of the luckiest persons in the world.

2) The cold rain finally quit. I hate getting rained on and we had a fire drill yesterday in the pouring rain. I guess the principal forgot to tell the new vice-principal that fire drills are supposed to only fall on dry days and she scheduled this one without this rather important tidbit of information. We had a few hundred teenagers and many very cold, soaking wet staff who were definitely not very impressed. (I am not called umbrellalady without a reason - my umbrella was quite happily in my bag that was with me!! I shared...)

3) Kiwi the dog. She always greets me at the door with a happy heart that she shares freely, which speaks for itself.

What gives you the most joy?
The fact that I am here and enjoy life, not only the good times but those lousy, rotten times as well. How else would you know if you were happy if you weren't ever sad? The other thing that gives me a lot of joy is sharing with and giving to others - sometimes to people who are close to me and other times just because I can help someone out.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where when 10 is as blissed out as one could be, where would you rate your mean happiness?
I would say that on average I am a pretty solid 7/8 (7.5?) on the happiness scale. I have a wonderful, somewhat quirky husband and two beautiful daughters who make my life so happy. I am a person who finds joy in the little things in life (like baking bread, doggy and kitty kisses - sort of, lack of mosquitoes), and in the big things are like winning a lottery, like a new fancy-schmancy sidewalk and small patio in the back yard coming up at the end of this month!

My mother used to say to tell me when I was a child, I was so happy I always woke up with a huge smile on my face. I actually remember this because I used to love waking up nice and cozy under my ballerina quilt and see the sunlight shining in. It always felt so darn good.

What impedes your ability to attaining joy?
My greatest obstacle to achieving happiness is myself - I am my biggest critic and am way, way too empathetic to other people's problems. However, if I got any happier, I would be more obnoxious than I already am, lol!

I can always tell when I am super happy because I start singing to myself. The odd thing is that I don't even realize I am doing it until someone asks me why I am singing. I guess it just feels good and it just spills out of me. Corny - eh?

Thank you for sharing yourself with me and the rest of the blogging community. Keep on spreading your cheer. And here's one for you...

louis armstrong "what a wonderful world"
Uploaded by GO-GO-STALIN. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wolves and Butterflies

Yang to my yin, you attack my defenses, hard-wired to protect against hepatitis, Clostridium difficile and any number of God's afflictions. Vigilant even in your latency, your troops spread from bone and lymph to destroy my soldiers of antibodies and white blood cells. You gnaw on epidermis, feast on capillaries and nerves feeding into larger organs — tendon, kidney, liver, brain. Soon, I am sure, you will swallow my soul.

Every morning brings a new battlefield. Puffed up on prednisone, I drowse, immune to most skirmishes. But now you gather at the border of my heart, Capulets to my Montagues, no mere guerilla tactic -- I know, the x-rays confirm. So I shore up my armamentarium of corticosteroids, ibuprofen, Plaquenil, acupuncture to beat back the cells you've suborned and inflamed.

When you claimed the sun as your friend, you almost won. I admit, I mourn the day warming my face while I sat with my morning coffee, the slant of sun through dappled leaves, the buzz of birds and insects. (I do not miss butterflies.)

Then I found my anger and allied with the night. In dark safety, I shovel my holes and children make fun of me. “Werewolf,” they whisper. But I do not dig graves, only cradles, for wolfsbane and moonflower, evening primrose and columbine. When the plants are sunk, I sit on moon-licked grass, swaddled in the earth's loamy must and the flutter of moths, the night noises louder than my howl.


Inspired by the 52/250 Flash a Year Challenge theme 'rivals'. Also inspired by my Nana, dead now for some time from complications of lupus, an autoimmune disease famously noted for the butterfly rash that adorns sufferers during a flare. Like wolves, tdhose with lupus do not tolerate light. Peace, Linda

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's All In Your Head Blah-Blah-Blah...

Been quiet lately, hiding behind work and life. Wish I was writing -- that's come hard of late, my head's morphed to mush. Maybe it's the low pushed ahead by the tropical storm wending itself up the eastern seaboard. Maybe it's thoughts of grant proposals I'll need to develop over the next few months, a tremendous endeavor that taxes my creative juices. Maybe it's ennui or the change of seasons which always tinges me with melancholy. Maybe I'm just tired...

Or maybe I'm sad. Three of my friends lost parents this past week, and a lot of friends are out of work. My family has it's own pressure and anxieties as well...

Or maybe I need to see the doctor. But my doctor never calls me back. I worry about health care reform -- do we have enough doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care providers? I mean, if someone like myself with better-than-adequate insurance and insider savvy on working the system can't get her doctor to pay attention to a radiology report, then how the hell will the system deal with the rapid expansion of twenty percent MORE patients in the pool? This keeps me up at night. Think of it -- the queues of Canada meld with the over-priced bloated US health care 'system'...

Just back from a two day conference in DC sponsored by the National Institute on Mental Health that looked at the psychiatric aspects of health care reform. No answers, not yet, but at least I came back re-energized and with ideas for grant proposals. I stayed north of Dupont Circle and south of the zoo, old stomping grounds when I was a college intern. Drank too much coffee, probably the culprit behind the nagging ache in my brain...

Speaking of brains, Charlie Rose recently hosted a series on The Brain. Lots of talking heads talking about the insides of our heads -- addictions, anxciety, schizophrenia, memory loss. Fascinating stuff. You can buy the DVD series from amazon, or just view them for free here...

And speaking of free, one of the absolute best things I've read this week, ANYTHING AGAIN by Claire King, a gorgeous story of loss and food. And the other absolutely best thing I've read is Lou Freshwater's LOVE. Check them out, along with 35 other 250 word stories about 'the last time' up at 52-250.

I suppose I should go write a poem or something, stuff's due, but maybe I'll just eat mango ice cream. Peace, Linda

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Should Not Have Rushed You Through The Rain

At the hospital, we know the routine. I haul out my laptop, emailing students, writing papers no one reads. You stare at the same first page of the John Grisham you’ve carted here for weeks. An hour passes. A nurse finally walks you to the bathroom to pee in a cup. Another hour. The phlebotomist ambles in and pricks your arm. Blood fills the tubes, purple and thick. Three hours. No doctor, no saline drip, no reassurances of ‘soon, soon’. On the way out for coffee, I blast the woman behind reception. I should realize when she says pharmacy hasn’t received orders to prep your erlotinib. But I don’t. I fume through the hospital lobby, paging the clinical trial coordinator, rescheduling lectures and exams, scowling at my watch.

When I return, the doc stands over you scrunched in the arm chair. He taps an x-ray and shakes his head. You push yourself up, using the armrests for leverage. It takes three tries, but at last you waver on your feet, hand extended. You thank him. The doctor leaves, not recognizing me when he passes, and you collapse. What looks like tears on your cheeks is sweat.

I wheel you down to valet parking. It’s late afternoon, the ride home will be hell. You reach back for my hand, squeeze it. A fine cool mist falls from the opaque sky and splatters crystals in your hair. You smile and try to say something, but the car arrives.


Inspired by this week's 52-250 theme 'The Last Time', chosen by YT. Inspired by a host of other things as well, including the last line of a short poem forthcoming soon in Camroc Press Review. The last year of my father's life was full of many lasts, for him and for me. Looking back, I realize that waiting in the rain was when he told me goodbye.

Between work and getting into school routines (2 kids, 2 schools), life's been rather chaotic; I apologize for not blog-hopping as much as I'd like. Soon, soon...

Live well, love better. Peace, Linda

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Escape Into Life

I am honored to have three of my pieces featured today in ESCAPE INTO LIFE, a literary salon celebrating art, poetry, fiction, and philosophy. The legacy of the late brilliant and generous Chris Al-Aswad, EIL is the ultimate cyber coffee table book -- glossy, gorgeous, and not at all fluffy or stuffy. Escape Into Life is a festival of words, art, and song.

A huge thanks to Simon Kartar (read his brilliant Everything is Changing) and the rest of the editors at EIL.

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Three Minutes, Please...

That is how long it should take you to devour this sweet yet terrifying chap from Right Hand Pointing: WORD COUNT

10 poems < 30 words.

No fat, zippo calories.

Including one by YT (and Howie Good and Doug Mathewson and...). Thank you Dale Wisely, editor-in-chief!

Peace, Linda

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Third Time's The Charm


Gimme lucky three.


Third wife, a trio of kiddos, three-bedroom rancher. Once, in Reno, I rolled threesies, won 30k. Still owe that much on the trawler.


Clickety-click. Click.

Now, damn boat’s on blocks -- three years ‘til the shrimp come clean. No jobs except drinking. Plum outta luck, one bullet left.



Inspired by so many things: the 52-250 Flash Challenge theme 'lucky number'; another 55-word story challenge; and theme challenge 'oil'.

But mostly inspired by a quiet report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that finds the BP catastrophe has wrought human troubles as well, including including depression and suicide among those who rely on healthy Gulf water to eke out a living.

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

We're Building Stories Here - With Words!

The most excellent Deanna Schrayer believes in the power of the word. And the right of all to be able to use and understand words. Last Wednesday was International Literacy Day. To celebrate Deanna created this gorgeous award.

Being the generous soul she is, Deanna passed the award to several folks, including Yours Truly, as well as the talented and eclectic Jai Joshi. In turn, Jai also passed this wonderful award to me.


So I'm supposed to share five of my favorite words. I like words with good mouth feel, ones that resonate when said aloud. Good poetry words:

Sully -- This words sounds dirty, just what it means.
Effervesce -- Makes me smile -- Asti anyone?
Seraphim -- Angelic.
Detritus -- I love the gutteralness of this word, so hard and final.
Melancholy -- The Chinese character for this word means 'after the harvest', that bittersweet time before winter sets in and the fields go fallow.

Since I received the award twice, I suppose I should offer up five more words. I like verbs with strength, so here's five more unusual ones:

Veneer -- A thin skin used as a noun or verb.
Loiter -- A better word for lazy or hanging.
Bypass -- Use it next time instead of walk around or walk past.
Surge -- Waves, power, energy.
Polarize -- To mute or mutate, or to amplify tension. Not just for RayBans any more!

My favorite words, no explanation needed:


My turn to pass the karma forward. The three writers below each exploit language to its fullest. Please visit their blogs and revel in their words:

Lou Freshwater @ Baby's Black Balloon: Master weaver of words that evoke emotion.

Mark Kerstetter @ The Bricoleur: Brick and word-builder extraordinaire.

Marc Nash @ The Sulci Collective: The man's a veritable walking, talking dictionary.

Peace, Linda

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In Memoriam

Perfect day dawned in brilliant blue,
shocking canvas of contrast: planes
fly black against far-flung heaven.
Even unbelieving prayer
muttered with quiet resigned breaths
can not foretell or forestall stains

gouging ground, splintering sky, staining
steel, scuttled lives, exhaling blue,
imploding in hydraulic breaths
screaming through city, hill, and plain.
Common words, sweet sacred prayers
lip-synched by believers heaven

sent from hell to transform heaven
marked by the golden crescent, stain
of a singular god and prayer,
cloaked in cheap polyester blue,
costume of the West, boarding planes
inhaling, exhaling, one breath

holy comingling with all breaths,
lifting as one to make heaven
on earth, to be done, in the plane.
It is foretold, on pages stained
sepia older than time, blue
ink and red seeping in prayer.

Father, mother, children all - pray
the ancient songs with soft breaths,
for God cannot hear in this blue
twilight; sing who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name, thy love stained
by unseen portents, for the plane

is a steel-bound casket, the plane
pulses with souls insistent, prey
trembling, mortal flesh and smoke-stained,
metal-wrapped in a dragon’s breath.
For the meek, the blessed, to heaven
will float ashen to brilliant blue.

Blue sky trailed by white plane flumes
marking a heaven all pray exists;
God’s breath stained by metal and fire.



Peace, Linda

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Statistics (or: Walking Through Lexington Market on the Way to Work)

At the metro, I don’t take the escalator – too many pick-pockets. My feet crunch on the abandoned peanut shells, cigarette butts, and gnawed chicken bones littering the granite steps. A covey of young men loiter by the exit, voices excited, muscle tees framing black-inked tats. Absorbed in their furtive closed palm exchanges of rolled-up bills for baggies, they ignore me.

Outside, summer’s swelter carries the usual market smells of over-ripe fruit, worn-out peanut oil, and stale urine. I walk quickly, breathing though my mouth. Around the corner I bypass a puddle of vomit and almost trip over the legs of a woman propped against the Market’s brick wall. Sweat pours down her face; I fight the strong urge to yank off her puffy purple parka so she can cool off. She stares at me, eyes filmy from glaucoma or some other affliction, but I walk past, averting my gaze to the crab grass pushing through broken concrete, the spent condoms, the empty vodka nips rolling at her stockinged feet.

Campus security patrols the intersection. We smile at each other, as we do every day, small reassuring grimaces. The ham and Swiss hangs heavy in my lunch bag like a bad conscience. The light changes. I hurry across to the air-conditioned safety of the hospital, to the day of running yesterday’s numbers: admissions, discharges, dollars, death. But first, I stop for a latte, hoping to usher energy enough to feel the morning’s sting.


This story inspired by this week's 52-250 theme theme: we are not responsible. Peace, Linda

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Thirteen (or, if it's Tuesday it must be new lit day)

There's a new litzine in town -- THIRTEEN. Edited by the Michelle Elvy, Walter Bjorkman, and John Wentworth Chapin, Thirteen is dedicated to the 52 best flashes under 250 words generated in the weekly themed 52/250 Flash a Year challenge.

And what gorgeous, eclectic stuff. Stories (and poems) about strange worlds, terror, red meat, smoke in cars, and space camp. Indulge yourself in these petite treats. I'm honored to see my poem Partly Revealed (theme = cartography) in the company of such fine stories. Scroll down and read my Biography when you have a chance -- it's different, I promise.

Thank you to Michelle, John, and Walter -- you three have created marvelous community and an elegant new journal.


For an entirely different experience, grab some popcorn and head over to At The Bijou for tonight's feature presentation WELCOME TO INTERIM. Truly a collaborative work, Welcome to Interim is told in four voices, played by Salvatore Buttaci, Laurita Miller, Anthony Venutolo, and Yours Truly (I'm Mimosa, in case you can't figure it out). Thanks Kate for hosting us -- hope we don't wreck the place!


Tickled pink that Camroc Press Review will run A ∩ B (an original 52/250 flash) and Last Time in October. Whew! The dry spell is over. Thanks Barry!

And that wraps it up for today. Live well, write well, love better. Peace, Linda

Saturday, September 04, 2010

A Month's Worth of Gratitude

A month ago, I was feeling low. Most everything sucked -- work, writing, petty colleagues and acquaintances, whiny, needy others. I wallowed in an existential pity-party, well-deserved I thought; I'd had a rotten two years. Then, I felt guilty because my life was pretty damn good. But I couldn't see the goodness, and that bothered me.

I read once in some self-help book or another that if you want to feel better, laugh. Happy people laugh a lot (though I'm not sure what comes first -- the laughter or the happiness). I figured -- maybe if I one thing to be grateful for every day, maybe my glass would feel less empty.

What a hard exercise! But, in the end, practicing gratitude on a daily basis has made me thankful for the richness of my life. I hope all of you who played along found benefit as well -- I profited from your honest, generous expressions of thanks.

But enough mushiness already -- on to the important stuff -- the WINNERS!

We're all winners, and my two charities -- hospice and the local crisis center -- raked up good. Between new followers and expressed gratitudes, we raised $133, which I'll round to make an even $150. THANK YOU everyone for taking time to drop a comment.

And what great gratitudes you left for me to ponder -- flip-out footrests in new love seats, tea in the morning, breathing, kids who let you write, colleagues, friends, and family, decent shower pressure, the wonderful cyber community of writers, and woodpeckers with attitude. It was difficult to choose only three winners, but here they are...

The Most Heartfelt Gratitude: Written by a writer with a romantic and compassionate soul ==> LAURITA MILLER

Day 1: I am grateful for those people who take just one quick moment to point out the good in someone else. That one moment can make a world of difference.
--A random act of kindness can make a broken day better.

Day 9:

This morning I'm grateful for coffee
It's all that keeps me awake
I drink cup after cup
as soon as I'm up
It's all for my sanity's sake
---Without coffee, I'm an unhinged woman with a throbbing head.

The Quirkiest Gratitude: Should come to no surprise to those who know her ==> CATHY OLLIFFE

Day 9: I am grateful that it's Sunday morning and I don't even have to have a bath today if I don't want to.
---Yes ma'am, love those mornings when PJs rule. This made me grin.

Lady Luck winner: Also no surprise, as this woman left more gratitudes than any other individual ==> UMBRELLALADY

Day 17: I am grateful for technology as well, except when it rings in the middle of the store.
---Or when it chirps in the middle of my husband's sermon!

On Day 23: I am grateful for all the wonderful crabapples that make such great juice.
---I asked for the 'how-to' and you delivered on your blog -- thank you!

CONGRATULATIONS to all three winners!!!! Please, shoot me an email with your snail mail addie and your favorite color, number, and word, I'll gather up your goodies and ship them to you.

And it occurs to me now as I consider shipping those goodie baskets -- every single one of you lives in Canada! How cool is that?

Peace, Linda