Alex Pruteanu

4 Degrees on the 4th of January

Hello and welcome to the first post of the new year! Most places in the US are cold right now because of some weather phenomenon I’ve never heard of before, so I won’t add to the griping since it hasn’t snowed yet today, but we do have snow.

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The holidays were fun and each started out right with pancakes and mimosas. I meant to take pictures, but when you’re drinking champagne first thing in the morning, it somehow makes one forgetful. Who knew?

What I do remember is unwrapping this on Christmas morning:

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This gorgeous piece of pottery was made by the multi-talented Mary Akers. Thank you Mary!

Husband and I took Ben down to PA for an amazingly wonderful visit with his Twin, Niece from Boston, and Nephew from near Portland. Bridge was played so everyone was allowed to remain unharmed. And look what Niece got for me!

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Isn’t it perfect? I’ve been thinking about “new book” and someone does have to die in it, so…

So, yeah, I have been thinking about it. I’ve also been thinking about how I didn’t submit as much as usual last year. And dreading the rewrite of the last book, but not as much as the idea of querying agents. Yes, I do have the best first world problems and I love every single one of them – including the abundance of new books to read.

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Congratulations to Alex Pruteanu on this – I’ve waited a long time to read it and I am savoring it.

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And mega-thank you to Susan Tepper! I’m looking forward to this delight!

Lousy weather does have its joy – curling up in front of the fire and reading.

Thanks for stopping by! Stay warm!

*These are my creek side reflections. Your experiences should vary.

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If it’s the 19th, I must be up to 31673 words.

 

{~Photos graciously provided by Joseph Fleckenstein~}

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Participating in National Novel Writing Month is a process that continues to fascinate me. I won’t say it gets easier, or that I am any closer to having a “real” book by the end, but each time I find a rhythm. I completely “pantsed” this year and so far, I’m finding my way – though by now, the beginning needs major reworking. Oh, how I love the problems I have.

 
I forget which “law” it is, but to me, writing is motion and once engaged, I write even more. My co-workers have been nailing comments on pieces sent to Literary Orphans, so I’ve mostly bowed out of commenting there because, “What Len said” and “Brittany summed it up nicely” grows tiresome, even to my own ear. I do read, and I vote. That is the loveliest thing – if you submit to LO, your piece is read by at least three people.

There’s more responsibility and leeway at r.kv.r.y. I made an executive decision Sunday night. A writer sent a piece and said he’d appreciate any feedback. It’s customary to wait a week before responding – I don’t know why that is, it just is. Anyway, the writing was good but the story wasn’t “there.” I offered my reasons and reasoning as to why I wasn’t accepting the piece. It was a bit scary – one never knows how another reacts – especially to rejection.

In the morning, the writer, Joseph Fleckenstein – my guest photographer today – responded with an abundance of gratitude. My time spent reaching out and talking to another writer ended in an offer of four beautiful images to choose from for my very own. The first was of a thistle. I chose that one because of it being a talisman to the family I married into – a thistle was on Gideon Whitson’s gravestone – and if the story I got from Husband is wrong, I’m sure my beautiful niece will correct me. So at the top and bottom are two gorgeous photos of thistles by Joseph Fleckenstein. My many, many thanks to him.

‘Tis the season to be grateful, isn’t it?

Nancy Leone came by yesterday with flowers, fresh rosemary, and her final notes on L&C. She had one major point I know I should consider fixing. It’s at the end and won’t require a lot, but I wish that book was “done” done. I know, it won’t be until it’s published – should I be that lucky, but it’s gotten to minutia and I’m tired. I want to move on. Is that wrong? Besides which, someone wondered if I wasn’t allowing too many critiquers into the pot, but the last major rewrite pleased him so I just don’t know anymore.

What I do know is that I took a break from a private office in Zoetrope. I didn’t think I was being useful and the prompts weren’t working. Late summer and early autumn are full of depression triggering time bombs. Events conspired, I wrote a creative nonfiction piece – something I shy away from writing, but I posted it and then could see the flaws. It felt great though, to dip back into flash. So, to you Kim Chinquee, I want to give my thanks for leaving that office door open. And thanks to Gina who has been such a positive guide. Thanks to Mary for her belief in me. Thanks to my incredible and kind Husband. To Sidney. To Alex. To Chyo. To XOMan. To my niece.

I could go on for a VERY long time naming people and things I’m grateful for but this post is already topping 600 words. That’s longer than the flash I wrote…which just proves the law I was talking about…

Thanks for stopping by!

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Thank you again, Joseph Fleckenstein!

(These are my Creekside Reflections. Your experiences may vary.)

All sorts of excitement around here…

Apparently, the top of a Thermos can go airborne. I heard something shatter and came downstairs. Husband was still in shock that it happened at all. After the top came off, the round rubber band part struck the purple and gold art deco figurine that Bob and Merv gave me years ago. I’m still trying to figure out the angles since the rubber part was found on the other side of the room by the refrigerator. Regardless, I’m grateful it was a thing that got hurt and not Husband–or the cat. Excitement like that–first thing in the morning–is not appreciated though.

Alex Pruteanu’s post on Facebook the other day offered me some relief. He made a comment that he needed to set aside a piece he was working on which made me feel better about setting aside my own. The latest “long work” was getting too close to opening every vein I own. Eventually, I know it will be a great story–and at this point it feels like it will end up being a novella–but not yet.

I have been writing though and had four pieces picked up, including “We Were Those Girls” which made it through the first round of The Gover Prize, so it will be published in Hopewell Publication’s The Best New Writing. I have a drabble called “Snowmancing” in Speculative Valentine Drabbles 2015 (Thank you Jorge Salgado-Reyes and Roy C. Booth!) On Saturday, “The Gnomes They’ve Known” will go live on Slink Chunk Issue 3 (Thank you Tegan Elizabeth!) and “If Only” (a retelling of an Indian folktale) will appear in the anthology Condensed to Flash: World Classics (Thank you Mark Budman!)

For those keeping score, of the last eight pieces I’ve written, four have been accepted and three are still under consideration.

Outside, it’s been snowy and cold, but a flock of four turkeys have been out and about, sometimes coming close to the house.

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I cannot wait to get back to the garden, but it’s going to be a while. Stupid groundhog.

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Well, these are my creek side reflections; your experiences may vary.

Thanks for stopping by!

A Thursday in September

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This year was the earliest we’ve had a wood fire. I’m still appalled by my weakness, but it was so damp and cold, I really couldn’t help it; I needed the warmth. Since then, the weather has brightened but tomorrow a frost is likely. I swear I want to smack a school mate on Facebook who says “Thanks for the Global Warming, Al Gore” each time things like this happen. Climate change is something I notice; it’s regrettable that the words got confusing throughout the years. Crichton harped on the predictions made by the scientists in the 70’s about global cooling. The weather is weird though.

So is life.

I try to roll with the punches, but sometimes, I do wonder what the hell is going on. Yesterday, I started tossing clothes into the washing machine preparing to clean the tub then the rest of the bathroom before mopping the floors. There was a clump. I had hopes it was bit of mud. I feared it was a clump of animal feces. I went to pick it up and the damned thing jumped.

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The picture is horrid; it was early, I was stressed, the frog was covered in hair and dust and what have you. I gathered the creature, took it to the pond and checking on it later found it had rinsed itself off and was clinging to the wall like frogs do.

I have no idea what it means or why it happened. I still don’t know how it got in to the house.

My life is interesting that way.

Husband is going to the Island soon. The dates for that excursion changed; I’m still kind of stressed about the change, but I’m not going to be upset about it. I just hope there aren’t any YouTube videos about his Juice Box rants this time.

The houseplants are in and thanks to Betty, we got a piece of roofing for the wood shed and i’ts up now. Otherwise, I’m making my way through the latest draft of L&C. I’m on the last “hard scene” that needed reworking, then I want to eliminate a few more characters and send it off to my editor. I will be so happy to be done with this thing.

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I’m etching out the next book–which I have to have 25 pages written for the critique group soon. Way too soon! Plus, I’m trying to get a few things submitted while keeping up with stories coming into r.kv.r.y. and reading a few for Literary Orphans. Alex Pruteanu had his piece, “Bud’s Warehouse,” accepted at LO. I’m pleased Mike Joyce liked it.

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I’m happy you stopped by! I hope to have book reviews put up in the next few weeks.

 

*These are just my creekside reflections. Your experiences may vary.

I Love Summer for the Meet Ups.

In the summer, my social life gets tangled and wonderful. There’s a million places to go and people to see. On Tuesday, I got to see my best friend and her husband for a few hours. Soon, I’ll be at a graduation party. This year, I’ll try to better balance that with the household chores, maintenance and my “real work.”

I’ve signed up for Camp NaNo (again) and I’m not sure what I’m going to work on. Originally, I was thinking short stories, but I don’t know. I have a few days to decide. I may go back to a novel I started years ago.

I’m excited that an agent asked for my first three chapters on my latest novel. The beginning garnered a “show” in a contest. I’ll be ecstatic if she asks to see more, but I’m not holding my breath–I can’t–I have 4-6 weeks of waiting! I had a piece I originally wrote in 2009 FINALLY find a loving home in an Sci-Fi anthology coming out soon from Divertir Publishing and a cheeky NF piece will soon be appearing in The Other Herald, a gorgeous publication based out of Perry, New York.

Yeah, things are looking good and I’m grateful.

It just seems that there are so many things to do and pieces I want to write and submissions to read and comment on that I worry I’ll become too distracted by a bush and end up tripping over an exposed root–don’t get me started on the lawn care I should be doing and the weeding I should have tended to before now.

No matter what, there’s never enough time or money or oomph, is there–too get everything done.

*Sigh*

Still, I’m giddy at the amazing success of my friends, colleagues and acquaintances as of late. I know I’m pushing my boundaries, but I met Roxane Gay in Boston at the AWP book fair and she recognized my name and she was kind and such a beautiful woman…I’m thrilled that “An Untamed State” is getting so many good reviews. She deserves even more. Alex Pruteanu has a manuscript out for a book that I’m hoping to read soon. The short story, “The Sun-Eaters” was phenomenal–I can only imagine the book being better. Dawn Corrigan, woman extraordinaire has “Mitigating Circumstances” out which I’m badgering my library to pick up though so far they haven’t. (Boo John Saccco!) I shouldn’t be too mean; I love my library and when I got my copy of the summer newsletter, I felt like a rock star–they featured the reading I did with Gary Earl Ross and the other contributors to “Queen City Flash

Plus, the lovely and talented Mary Akers got the July Issue of r.kv.r.y out early and Mike Joyce—my other awesome boss got a lovely write up in Poets & Writers about the Rookery.

Except for the horrid slugs in my garden, things are good. Thanks for stopping by!

(*These are my Creekside reflections. Your experiences may vary.)

Suddenly: My least favorite word

I’m starting this post the day after I found out some sad news. John Vega–Juan to some–my Johnny is dead.

When I was younger, I went through some really hard times. A man who I still love and respect made me promise that I wouldn’t kill myself. I don’t make promises lightly. Scott Greene wouldn’t let me off the phone until I promised. And so far, I haven’t.

Some of the words in that conversation involved his not respecting that choice and how horrid it would be since I’d be leaving a child behind, and that when I was older I’d see what a stupid mistake it was since things do get better, and since he was recently off his psych rotation which involved him saving someone’s life, I decided to believe him.That’s what I remember.

Things did get better, and I’m grateful. 

This is so hard to talk about. I fear Bible Thumpers–many of whom are my relatives and from reading their Facebook updates and likes, are very judgmental–will start throwing stones at me for broaching this subject. I want to throw stones, too–and rocks and ashtrays. This hurts.

Wednesday started with my thinking there were an awful lot of cell phones going off on the NPR shows I was listening to. I’m not a cell phone person. I have a contract with the terrorist network so I buy my minutes at the grocery store and complain about my land line. Living in a valley is not easy, nor pretty. There is no cable and we can’t get a dish to lock on to a satellite, thus many of my texts end up stuck in some sort of a time gnome that spits them out to their intended recipient days, or even weeks, later. 

The chirping I heard was my phone alerting me to a message. Jim had texted me before eight a.m. wanting to know if I was free in the afternoon. I replied that I could be, but I didn’t have a vehicle and I asked what was up. There was no reply. I went on with my day, did Pilates, took a shower, and drank my coffee. Knowing my phone’s idiosyncrasies, I sent an email to him, basically saying the same thing. Within minutes, he replied that he was on his way over. I had hopes that Johnny was over there visiting and had time for a chat. I put on makeup.

What was it? A year ago? Two? Jim and Julie had a drum circle led by Steve Bell at their home. Christ! The night before that I’d been up late drinking with my brother-in-law and I was wobbly hung over, but since I’d already Facebook accepted the invite to the drum circle, I was going to be there, so I was. Aren’t Facebook acceptances to events just like promises? 

Oh, how drumming and throbbing heads do not go together! I did think about making an appearance and disappearing…then Jim took a phone call and I overheard that John was on his way over.

I can think what I want, can’t I? I ended up in a grouping with him and Betty and Jim and oh, I forget who came and went, but I drank a lot of water. The way John would pull out his phone–the way he held it–it looked awkward and wrong. Maybe there was an injury I don’t know about, but regardless of where I was sitting, the phone was pointed at me when he answered it–though I don’t recall hearing it ring or vibrate. In my head, I came to believe he was taking pictures of me. I’m allowed these thoughts, aren’t I? Until I’m proven wrong, at least. NSA? Want to weigh in on this? Slice my experience of electronic reality with a fishing line and divide it as sharply as a piece of cake… 

I ended up staying very late at that party, as did John and Betty.

Let it be known that I think Betty is an awesome, talented, smart woman. I really do, but once it came out in conversation that John was an old boyfriend of mine, it seemed to me that she meant to keep us apart. I could be completely wrong; these are just my reflections and memories–fallible at best. If she reads this, I hope she realizes that too. 

Around the table on the deck, oil lamps were lit and wine was drunk. I had one glass of red. Sans Betty, I think–wishfully–that Jim and Julie would have faded into their yurt and John and I could have patched the tell-tale threads that we needed to have snipped, fixed, fixed up, to fix us and make us more complete. Again, I can’t say this is true at all. Maybe John wouldn’t have stayed so long if Betty wasn’t there as a buffer. I don’t know. It just felt like there was more to say.

Nothing happened except John left, then Betty, then me. 

Arriving home, I found out that my brother-in-law’s flight had been canceled. He couldn’t reach Husband on either the land line or his cell phone. He’d called my cell, but as I’d left my phone in the truck, I’d never gotten his three voice mails. My step-son had picked him up and brought him back to our house. I–high on the experience I’d just had–talked to him and he agreed that yeah, the way John held his phone; he probably did snap a picture of me.

Flattery on top of flattery.  

Within the next few days, I told Husband what happened. I told him I wanted to talk to John again. When I said to Jim that I wanted to talk to John, he hesitated, but it came to be a possibility. John was willing to meet me at Jim and Julie’s house–safe, mutual ground–to chat.

For the longest time, the meeting hung in the air as vague and wispy as spider silk. I nudged a few times. A few weeks ago, at the end of August, Husband and I were driving down Sharp Street when a turkey flew out in front of us. It was scary. I reminded Jim again that night that I might not live forever and I really wanted to talk to John before I was gone.

You’ll think I’m making this up, but it’s true. I’d bought a ticket to Mary Aker’s book launch party the minute I found out about it. Johnny committed suicide on Friday, 20 September 2013. Saturday, I half-assed ironed my shirt and went to the library. After, I came home. I decided to iron my shirt properly. I saw something big in the bathroom window. The biggest turkey with the reddest and bluest wattle I’ve ever seen was circling the windows of the lower greenhouse.  Husband came down and looked at the turkey. The huge bird stuck around long enough for me to slip out of the front door and retrieve the camera that was in the truck. We got two pictures, then he wandered off, like his message had been received. I saw him cross the street.

At Mary’s book launch party, I met up with Jeff Schober. I’d been to his book reading at the West Falls-Colden Library a year and a half ago. After that awesome experience, I found out I could volunteer as a librarian on Saturdays. He and I talked about that, and his new book. The sky was clear when I left the book launch, it grew darker as I drove home. The rain was harsh and I was on unfamiliar roads.

As I’m writing this, the Season Premiere of “Parenthood” is on. It’s not lost on me that Christina’s friend Gwen just consoled her with these words when Christina was hesitating about running a campaign, “If you want to do something, you just do it. You don’t wait.”

I wish now that I had insisted and met up with John but I didn’t. Onward… 

When I found out John killed himself, I announced on Twitter that I knew I wasn’t the only person who had two old flames commit suicide, but it felt that way. “Da Missus”–and by extension, Lx– let me know that they were there for me. I talked to my sister. I talked to my best friend. I talked to my cousin. I’m grateful to them all for their love and support. Thank you Tracy, Sheila, Teresa, Alex, and Yvonne.

The next day, today I found out John used a gun and that there was a note. I don’t know the caliber. I don’t know what his last words were. I don’t think I’ll be privy to that, either. What I did find was an awesome complimentary note from Ken Robidoux on Facebook. He wrote about meeting me at AWP in such sweet terms. Mia, Meg, Greg, and Yvonne congratulated me on the story. I don’t know if any of them know how awesome it was to find that on my Facebook page on Thursday.

Even though John wasn’t actively in my life, I hate that he’s gone. Other people in my life have died, but until him, I didn’t get the outrage and pain that suicide brings to the living. I hate myself for feeling I could have easily have been that selfish when I was younger. I hate that he chose that end. I’m pissed at him, and I feel sorry for him and his children and even his future grandchildren who won’t know what a funny, great guy he was. I don’t know why I miss him more now than if I’d heard that he had a heart attack or got hit by a bus, perhaps it’s survivor’s guilt–that I should have been able to do or say something–anything to avoid that end.  With Mark, I heard he did that and I thought “good choice.” I’d worked past his abuse, I didn’t care anymore. I don’t know, we all make choices…If I hadn’t met Mark, things with Johnny might have gone a different way. But they didn’t and magical thinking isn’t something I want to do. I just want to thank people and be grateful.

Writing, crafting, editing, rewriting, it’s so lonely, BUT it’s not like when I started sending things out in the nineties. I feel so much more connected to the community of artists and my friends because of the internet. In the nineties, I wanted to write a column for a tiny newsletter a used record shop put out. They didn’t go for my pitch, but unless I asked for the opportunity, I never would have thought about writing columns, or trying to connect with readers on a regular basis, and so I thank Burnett for saying no. Had he said yes, I might have burned out with columns. Instead. I’m years into this blog and grateful to every single view, comment and follower. Thank you all. In case I die, I want you to know you’re held in high esteem in my eyes and I appreciate the hell out of you, even if we don’t agreed on politics, religion, or some other silly thing that we won’t even remember should one of us not be around tomorrow.

 

The Obituary

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*These are just my creekside reflections. Your experiences may vary.

A bittersweet goodbye to August and summer

To everyone near, far, online, and otherwise, THANK YOU! I can’t imagine a better time than I’ve had recently. Before I get to the pictures, I want to give these props : Mike Joyce thank you for not only accepting my story “Things Left Unspoken“ and publishing it in the Tallchief Issue of Literary Orphans but also for the shout out on your editor’s note. To Michael A. Chaney, TED presenter, wicked brilliant person, I ❤ you for citing  “Things Left Unspoken” in your 30 August 2013 blog post, Top 10 Literary Magazines to Send Your Best Flash (and maybe get accepted too).  That was incredible. I also want to thank Alex Pruteanu just because he’s an awesome writer and friend and I think everyone should buy his book.

That said, what a fabulous traveling party. Family and friends arrived on Saturday the 24th. RISK was played, beer was sampled, bridge hands dealt, guitars played, and mallets were swung. (And when the pictures show up in my account, I’ll post them.) From here to Pennsylvania and back again with people from Portland Oregon, Boston Mass, Washington D. C. and Marilla and Depew. The following Sunday, we met up with our friends from Chicago and had a proper Sunday Chivetta’s chicken dinner in Arcade.

Husband went back to work on Tuesday so he could rest up from his vacation. I’ve been a ‘football mom’ lately and that has come to an end. Now, I press on with my writing. Yesterday, I received a personal, encouraging rejection from The Missouri Review. Today, I’ll be sending off an application for an Advanced Fiction Seminar. I have no idea how good my chances are–I just know it will be a no if I don’t try.

No matter, I have these incredible sunflowers in my garden attracting the bees.

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The sweetgum tree has already started to turn,pic1so it’s so long to summer and hello autumn.

Thanks for stopping by!

(These are just my creekside reflections. Your experiences may vary.)