The audio isn't great, but the discussion is lively. Thanks to Maggie and the Womens Fiction Writers Association for a great podcast. Did your characters hijack your book?
June 8, 2021 - ONE DAY ONLY!
Flatlanders, short fiction from Vermont, is available without charge. Just click here:
Women’s Fiction Day was established by WFWA in 2019. It is a day to celebrate the authors, stories, readers, bookstores, and fans of the women’s fiction genre.
Women's Fiction Day Schedule -
To participate, go to https://www.womensfictionwriters.org/womens-fiction-day-2021
After a year of quarantine, I receive my second dose of vaccine.
My husband and I watch a Mae West marathon, counting down the days until we’ll reach maximum immunity. The world we see on the screen, as portrayed by the luscious, idiosyncratic sex icon, is riddled with casual sexism, blatant racism, even animal abuse, always dismissed with a languid puff on a cigarette, more dramatic if held in a holder.
The costumes are elaborate, fur and feathers, long and revealing.
Baby doll, I know what you need.
When I’m good I’m good. When I’m bad I’m better.
On the evening news, maskless naysayers crowd Florida’s beaches in a drunken frenzy, defying the evening curfew.
The Governor says: “you can’t tell people what to do. We’re not going to have the government dictate everyday life. If you want to come, come; if you don’t, don’t come.”
Mae West resembles a cat, a calico with a black eye. Full-figured and fluffy, she leads her admirers on, always on her own terms. She struts with a lumbering gait, tickles them with a flirtatious wiggle of her tail. Her deep-throated purr evokes her leonine origins.
The numbers of new cases of virus go up, fueled by the variants. The number of deaths plateau, thanks to the vaccines. By April, by May, maybe by September, we will return to some sense of normalcy. The Nationals prepare to throw out the first pitch, but opening day is cancelled due to Covid protocol.
All those wide-eyed men can’t get enough. Any one of them would lose their senate seat the minute the camera turned on. Mae cracks her whip and puts her head in the lion’s mouth. Governor Cuomo insists he is just a touchy guy.
The black maids giggle at her audacity. Don’t cut my nails too short, Mae says, they’ll think I bite them.
And the mass shootings begin again, to a backdrop of a trial of the policeman with his knee on the throat of a dying black man.
This is my country. ‘Tis of thee.
Mae West wrote, produced, and starred in her films. Was married but never shared her husband’s bedroom, was not married, lied about her marriages while screwing other men. Played a male impersonator. Was infertile after her abortion. Didn’t let the censors stop her for a minute.
A supreme court judge in Minnesota rules a rapist is not guilty because his victim willingly drank alcohol.
The movie always ends with the lovers in an embrace. Cary Grant is such a nice guy; you know he’ll never hurt her.
I lay in bed waiting for the side effects to kick in. They say its hits you like a truck.
In 1995, I bought Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga video. As a working mother who commuted daily from the suburbs of New Jersey to mid-town Manhattan, I had limited time for exercise. But with discipline and resolution, I squeezed the 50-minute workout into my morning routine. The long-haired, southern-California yogi performed his demanding routine shirtless. An added incentive. On my living room carpet, I stretched muscles I hadn’t touched in years of jogging and aerobics as my cat bumped against my shins and squeezed herself under my arched bridge.
Buoyed because I was no longer sore after the yoga routine, I bought the next two tapes in the series. I still hadn’t ventured into a yoga studio. Instead, I joined neighborhood women two nights a week in step class, hoping that combining yoga and aerobics would compensate for long days in the office.
Eventually my son left for college, and CDs replaced video tapes. Luckily, all three of Bryan’s routines were available on CD. I was getting older. But Bryan froze in time, gently nudging his audience to raise their feet above their head and let their nutrient-rich blood flood their hearts and brains.
Even before I retired, I added a weekly visit to a local yoga studio to my routine. One on one instructors helped me identify postures I hadn’t quite mastered, but I continued to supplement my weekly practice with the Power Yoga CDs. Bryan remained the young stud (his words not mine) as my hair slowly turned gray.
In this new century, the internet entered the equation. Bryan now had a subscription website, with streaming classes recorded in his Santa Monica studio. After a decade of promotional emails from Bryan—now teaching in Hawaii, now touring the world!—I ponied up and paid my dues. Now Bryan, live or close to it, joined me in the aging process. His long hair gone, his temples almost as gray as mine. I had a choice of instructors, but regularly chose Bryan who had mellowed with time, regularly reminding me that my practice should adapt with age.
In my sixties, I watched Bryan mature in Santa Monica while maximizing my flexibility and following his call for moderation, a routine that held me in good stead. Then the pandemic hit, and all hell broke loose. My local studio closed but, hey, that was okay. I had Power Yoga. Or did until the day I booted up my computer and the program wouldn’t load. The governor declared a lockdown. I was hiding out in a cabin in Vermont with my husband, and NO YOGA to keep me sane. Unbeknownst to me, Bryan’s studio had already closed, but in my virtual world I depended on it. In desperation, I signed up for one of the corporation yoga sites, where flawless instructors taught robotic routines against idyllic backgrounds. I missed Bryan desperately. He was funky and human and considerate of my aches and pains. You broke my yoga!!! I wrote his website. To my relief, I received a prompt response. After several weeks of fiddling, a new, more personalized website, with LIVE classes, returned to my device.
I’ve never met Bryan and don’t expect to do so, but I am approaching 70 and have just completed week 2 of his most recent yoga challenge. I’m half vaccinated, and the Vermont winter ice is cracking. Bryan reminds me regularly to meditate on those things I am grateful for. So, here’s my meditation: I am grateful for growing old with Bryan Kest.
Dialog, one year into the pandemic
Why would anyone move away from California?
The overhead light flickers. The electric wires outside the bedroom window glisten in a transparent coat of ice.
Earthquakes? Fires? In my case, a crazy mother. Besides, I love the seasons.
I’d be happy if it were seventy degrees every single day of my life. Winter sucks.
You’ll never be happy.
She nudges him with her toe.
Who is? Still, after this is over, if you want to move…
I won’t. Though I have to admit, earthquakes are kinda cool. The earth moving beneath your feet and all that.
If the building you’re in doesn’t collapse.
In the City, there’s always cranes to worry about.
True, but planes crash everywhere. Trees falls. And those are only the unintended disasters. You’re never really safe.
Just saying. I’ve shoveled enough snow for a lifetime.
Think how those first spring buds nose their way through the vestiges of snow. Survivors, unlike those effusive California blooms.
Mud season? That’s the worse.
And then there’s the issue of water. Never enough, except when there’s too much.
The lights go out.
Where did you put the candles?
How cold is it supposed to get tonight?
Do you know why they call it a three-dog night? We should adopt a dog.
I don’t want to walk a dog. You never know where a rescue comes from.
I forgot to unplug my computer. I hope a power surge didn’t wipe out my hard drive.
The candles are in the hall closet.
I stubbed my toe.
If we lived in California, we’d be warm.
If we lived in Sweden, the sun would never rise.
Come on, admit it. Wouldn’t you rather be sunbathing on a beach right now? Drinking a margarita?
I’d rather be sitting in front of a fire, sipping brandy.
Did you remember to charge your phone battery?
You have somebody you need to call?
What if there’s an emergency?
What if there’s not?
I’m so tired of winter. Not to mention the pandemic. We’ll never be high enough on the list for the vaccine.
This isn’t about the weather. You always want to be somewhere we’re not.
That’s why people travel.
Even when it puts their lives in danger.
We can always wear masks.
Caribbean cruises are the worst.
Remember snorkeling in Cozumel, those translucent fish?
I found the flashlight.
What do we do now?
Wait for the lights to come on.
Wait to be immunized.
Don’t open the refrigerator. The food will go bad.
If we were in New York City, we could order take out.
If we were in Costa Rica, we could pick the fruit right off the trees.
Last night there was almost a full moon. A waning gibbous, on the way out. The last Cold Moon of a not too cold winter. 2020 is over at last, though of course nothing has changed. The ball dropped in Times Square (or so I’m told) without a crowd to witness the arrival of the new year. I was asleep. By morning, the updated tally of new cases and deaths from the virus reached new highs and the public health officials on the morning’s new shows predicted that January and February 2021 would be brutal.
Next year, they said. Next year, we will celebrate. But first… and they list all the things that need to change before life returns to normal.
And all anyone keeps saying is “Good Riddance to 2020.” Via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, of course, because no one was supposed to gather, and if they did, it was in secret, and will inevitably have consequences.
In Florida, seniors lined the streets overnight hoping to get vaccinated, and this is only because the state government refused to listen to CDC guidelines which would have them giving the available doses to front-line workers and healthcare professionals. Health professionals all over the country are in despair, unvaccinated as they hold the hand of patients, too many of whom will die on their watch.
Once again, the US has bungled its response to the virus. Despite the impressive speed with which scientists developed, tested, and shipped vaccines, the lack of federal coordination and support to states and localities left millions of doses expiring in refrigerators, not yet reaching an arm. There is no use in assigning blame. So far, we learned this accomplished nothing. We are still waiting for the transition, clinging to hope that then things will change.
Melania (you knew I would get there) spent December redecorating Mar-a-Lago, preparing for a life after the White House despite her husband’s refusal to accept his defeat. When the first couple arrived at their southern abode for the holidays, Trump threw a hissy fit. He HATED the renovations, disparaged the dark wood and subtle color palette Melania had chosen, and demanded they rip out the renovations at once. Instead of hosting the annual black-tie New Year’s Eve party at his resort, he returned to the White House on Air Force 1, his hand resting on Melania’s back as he guided her past the cluster of journalists on the White House lawn. No one knows what he is up to. Her hair was less than perfect, and her face (well, you know the drill) revealed nothing.
So far. the only difference between 2020 and 2021 is that all of this seems normal. Who expected to be hugged at midnight, anyway? Resolutions won’t change anything. And who ever sticks to them anyhow? We are still holding our breath.
Instead of celebrating the New Year, I made a list of more significant dates.
January 5. The Georgia election.
January 6. The validation of the electoral college vote by the joint houses of congress.
January 20. The inauguration.
February (or maybe March) Our turn to be vaccinated.
April. My husband’s 75th birthday and my grandson’s 10th. Will we celebrate with family? Will I hug my grandson before he shakes off my approach with a precocious adolescent snarl?
Spring. Summer. Longer Days. Open windows. I calculate how long before they will come.
It's News Years Day, I can’t exhale.
Favorite gifts missing from under your tree? No worries! Propertius Press has some great suggestions in their bookstore at www.visitourbookstore.com with free shipping to US addresses!
Despite the pandemic and lockdown, my co-authors of Microbursts been productive this year, with two newly released publications. Check them out!
Eileen P. Kennedy: Touch my Head Softly
“Touch My Head Softly, a collection of poems, by Eileen P. Kennedy
Finishing Line Press announces Eileen P. Kennedy’s new book of poems, Touch My Head Softly. The collection brings to life the sensitive relationship of a college professor living with Alzheimer’s and his partner.
“There is a blaze of meaning in every line of these poems,” writes Prageeta Sharma, author of Grief Sequence. In Touch My Head Softly, Kennedy’s poems “captivate us with their sheer will and force because they build and form lines of eloquent determinacies saying everything that is hard to say with such deep, affective tonal conviction and craft.
Order the book at:
Jane McPhetres Johnson: Maven Reaches Mars
MAVEN REACHES MARS: Home Poems and Space Probes in Four Fascicles looks around at a world in crisis and asks, “Where am I?” and “How did I get here?” and by the way, “Who am I?”
McPhetres Johnson’s first published book is a life’s work—more than 90 poems all in one place, painstakingly edited and carefully curated over a 50-year pursuit that has largely been a solo flight. Now, with intricate drawings by Portuguese artist Maria Greene, in the pandemic year of 2020, in the narrow window between Halloween and a momentous election day, Johnson’s compelling personal and political opus Maven Reaches Mars finally arrives.
Amherst Arts Night Virtual Reading: September 3, 2020 at 6:30PM – REMOTE PROGRAM
Facebook Live Link: Watch Now
During the pandemic, the Emily Dickinson Museum is celebrating monthly Amherst Arts Night Plus with remote poetry readings every first Thursday.
Join us for our September reading by three Pioneer Valley authors with new books this year. Crater & Tower (Duck Lake Books) by Cheryl J. Fish is a collection of poetry of inspired research and engaged imagination that centers on the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens and 9/11. Kathryn Holzman’s historical novel, Real Estate (Propertius Press) is a fascinating account of the rise of Silicon Valley. Eileen P. Kennedy’s poetry collection, Touch My Head Softly (Finishing Line Press) sensitively explores the anguish of dying of Alzheimer’s disease for both the victim and the partner.
This program is free to attend. Registration is required. To sign-up and receive the link, click here.
Our September featured writers are:
Kathryn Holzman: After attending Stanford University and NYU, Kathryn Holzman chose Health Care Administration as a career, working with public inebriates, dentists, urologists, and cardiologists. When the right side of her brain rebelled against endless databases and balance sheets, she returned to her first passion—fiction. Her short fiction has appeared in over twenty online literary magazines and print anthologies. She is the author of a collection of short fiction, Flatlanders (Shire Press, 2019) Her first novel Real Estate is being published by Propertius Press in Fall, 2020. She was awarded the Grand Prize in the 2020 Eyelands International Short Story Contest. Links to her work can be found at kathrynholzman.com.
Cheryl J. Fish: Cheryl J. Fish’s new poetry book Crater & Tower (Duck Lake Books), examines trauma, natural and man-made disaster at Mount St. Helens Volcano and The World Trade Center after the 9-11 attack. Fish is also the author of Make It Funny, Make it Last (#171, Belladonna Chaplets) and her poetry has appeared in the recent ecopoetics anthology: Poetics for the more-than-human-world. Her fiction was featured in Liars League NYC, Iron Horse Literary Review, and her first novel, Off the Yoga Mat, about three characters turning age 40 during Y2K, will be published by Livingston Press in 2022. She was a visiting professor at Mt. Holyoke College, and is a professor of English at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York.
Eileen P. Kennedy: Eileen P. Kennedy is a poet and academic who has focused on the writing process. Her former partner died of Alzheimer’s Disease in his 60’s and this new collection, Touch My Head Softly (Finishing Line Press), is based on those experiences. Her first book, Banshees (Flutter Press, 2015) was nominated for a Pushcart and awarded Second Prize from the Wordwrite Books Award in Poetry. She holds a doctorate in language and literacy and has published a textbook, fiction and nonfiction. She lives in Western Massachusetts where she canoes, hikes, and writes. She winters in Costa Rica. More at www.EileenPKennedy.com.
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