“Smoke and Lemonade” Finds a Home

Super excited to find out that Tulsa Review published my memoir piece “Smoke and Lemonade” in their Spring 2015 issue. The issue is filled with wonderful writing and fantastic photography. I’m honored to be included with such amazing artists.

It’s pretty sweet that I get to post this on Father’s Day! When I told my dad I wanted to go off to school in New York and become a writer he said, “It’s a tough life to be a writer but if that’s what you want to do I believe you can do it.” And even today when I get a publication here or there his response is always, “Keep after it, babe. You’re about to turn the corner.” Love you, Dad!

http://www.tulsaccreview.com/smoke-and-lemonade/

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“Stuck Like This Forever” finds a home…

A year ago, on Memorial Day actually, I got a “vision” for a new memoir piece. My butt didn’t move  from the chair for the next five hours while I tried furiously to keep up with the deluge of memories. The first draft was 16 pages. Through many, many, many revisions, today the final version appears on The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature site. I almost gave up on this piece, but after having my confidence boosted at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival this year, (thank you, Ken Hada) I doubled down and started with a fresh round of submissions. Everything turned out as it should. Happy Reading! 🙂

http://www.deadmule.com/essays/

You’re a Maid in a Hotel…

This writing prompt is courtesy of my fabulous writing buddy, Steff. It was so much fun to write some fiction and just be silly for a bit. 🙂

Prompt: You’re a maid in a hotel. You find something in the room that isn’t normally there, do you return it or not? Write for 20 minutes or 2 pages, writer’s choice.

My shift ended in 15 minutes and I had all my rooms cleaned and cart ready to check-in. My co-worker Sheila begged me to take her last room; she was running behind and couldn’t afford to miss her quota again. I pushed my cart back to the service elevator and pressed 3. Room 3115 would be the last room I would ever clean.

When I pushed open the door to the room, it appeared that no one had stayed in the room. The bed linens weren’t creased. The soaps and shampoos that most guests squirrel away in the luggage sat untouched along the spotless bathroom counter. Nothing appeared to be altered in any way.

I stood in the middle of the room searching for any sign of a visitor. Then I spotted the edge of a book at the end of the bed. It was covered in a worn leather. I sat in one of the chairs next to the window not wanting to mess up the bedding. I untied the leather strip and placed it on the table. The book cracked as I opened to find the pages filled with handwritten notes covering the front and back of every page. The precise script began, “The book you hold in your hands is no ordinary book. It has sought you out to impart secrets only a few will ever possess.”

I closed the book and peered around thinking this had to be a joke or my bosses were testing me to see if I would sit down on the job or take the book for myself. Well, I decided I didn’t need any secrets. Secrets get people in trouble. I tied the leather strip back around the book and placed it on my cart. In the basement, I checked my cart in, signed the “Lost and Found” log describing the book and left it with Jerry the night manager.

“What’s this? Someone’s diary?” He flipped it over in his hands.
“I don’t know. I didn’t look at it.”
“Well, let’s take a looksy, shall we?”
“I don’t think we should look at someone’s diary.”
“Oh don’t be such a Pollyanna.”
Jerry opened the book, same cracking sound as before.

“It’s blank.” We said in unison.

His more a statement, mine more of a confused question.

“Well, that’s no fun. I was hoping for some juicy stories.”
“My shifts over, so I’m going to head out. You think someone’s really going to come back for that diary?”
“Nah. Probably won’t make the effort.”
“Mind if I have it?”
He tossed the book at me. “It’ll be our little secret.” He gave me a wink.

With the book tucked securely under my arm, I clocked out and hurried to the park across from the hotel and sat down on the bench where I often sat after work gathering my thoughts. I untied the leather strip, curled it around my fingers, and opened the book to the first page.

“As I wrote before, the book you hold in your hands is no ordinary book…”

10 Years, 2 Pages, 3-Word Sentences

Here’s another fun writing exercise that forced me to look at my experiences/memories in a more focused way. In addition, it helped me be as concise as possible.

The exercise is to select a 10-year period in your life. I happened to choose ages 10-20, but you could select 12-22, 47-57. Just make sure you limit yourself to 10 years. Then instead of a timed writing this exercise forced me to stay with it for about two hours since I had to fill up two pages. A side note: I write pretty much write all rough drafts and writing exercises by hand, so your “pages” may be different than mine. Lastly, and this is the fun part. You can only use THREE, yes THREE words in each sentence! 🙂 Here’s an excerpt from my attempt. I don’t necessarily have “sentences” but I have attempted to string three words together. In any case, there are enough details for me to remember moments that I can expand later.

**Bonus: Once you have completed the two pages, read back through it and when you come to an area that jumps off the page at you, spend another two pages writing solely on that topic.

Excerpt: 1985-1995

Fall of 1985. 10 years old. My parents divorce. We must move. Mirror slices hand. We destroy house. Color on walls. Rip up carpet. Pull up tacks. Wagon packed up. Drive at night. Spooky new house. Wood covered walls. Chinese paper lantern. Dolls behind glass. Scary new school. Pretty blonde girl. Free lunch sevens. Many nose bleeds. Never see dad. Grandma moves in. She smokes Kools. Scoots house shoes. She eats SnoBalls. We watch Cheers. She curls my hair. She loves me. Grandma gets sick. She breathes loudly. Three purple X’s. Along her chest. Not long now.

I won’t post the rest, but even at this point, I have been able to grab the most vivid memories and distill them to a point I get at the essence of what was going on. The three purple X’s were drawn on her chest to mark where the radiation would be beamed into her (I don’t even know the right words for it all). I remember vividly seeing these purple X’s on her and the doctors so proud that they had burned away all her cancer only to find out they had burned her esophagus to the point she would never be able to eat again. I was 13 when she died and I have never forgotten those X’s. This exercise proved to be so helpful to me in mining my life experiences that I ended up doing it again for ages 21-31!

Happy writing! 🙂

On being a dancer…

Each week my writing buddy and I get together and choose a writing exercise from one of the many writing books that we have amassed between the two of us. Some weeks we will search for just the perfect exercise only to end up describing her dining room or backyard and maybe incorporate some dialogue. But about a month ago, we had a really great exercise. We were to think about a pleasure that is our very own then write for 20 minutes. I actually wrote about two things but have decided to just include my very own pleasure of dancing.

My very own pleasure is the heart-racing, sweat-inducing dancing that I used to do. I remember the feeling of being in my body, commanding it to pirouette and leap, plie and releve, shuff-le step, shuff-le step. Then, strike the last pose, my lines perfect. I was in control. Able to turn off my mind and escape from the world. This is my very own pleasure to feel my heart thud against my sternum and reverberate through my rib cage. My mind singularly focused on a spot in front of me to mark each revolution of my body, round and round.

My face reddened and sweaty a marked difference from my lily white chest and arms. I smile in the mirror, feel sweat roll down my temples and along my ears, softly panting, waiting for the music to begin again.

Once a dancer, always a dancer. 🙂