Most of you know that during the day, I work in a school for children with special needs. I’ve always felt that being around these kids has given me a good perspective on things. There is something very humbling about working around a group of children who’s lives are filled with struggle. For some of them, even taking a step or enunciating a word is a huge accomplishment.

Given the fact that I see these children struggle every day, I am less inclined to complain when something doesn’t go my way. How can I complain about a parking spot on the far side of the lot when I walk into my office and see a child with no legs? How can I be so insensitive as to complain about the price of gasoline when the children I see every day will never be able to drive on their own? Instead, they will be driven around in the back of a minivan while securely strapped into their wheelchair. How can I be the slightest bit impatient with my own children when they demand more of my time to tell me yet another story when there are children I see every day who will never be able to tell their mother how much they love her. How can I even, for a moment, think of the endless tasks I need to attend to when my child simply wants to talk to me?


We can only truly appreciate what we have when we see others who have less.

This past weekend, I was given, perhaps, the greatest dose of perspective anyone could ever receive: I went to see the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. Visiting this museum has been on my bucket list since I first saw Schindler’s list many years ago. Since that time, I have read pretty much everything I could find regarding the holocaust. I have seen the movies, the documentaries, and I have been to Temple to hear survivors speak about their experiences.

Despite having done all this research and thinking I knew all there was to know about this horrific time in history, I was immobilized when I stood on the top floor of the museum and stared at a uniform worn by one of the prisoners.

It. Blew. Me. Away.

The artifacts were overwhelming, the pictures were horrifying, and the video footage was unbelievable. There is actually one part of the museum where you sit and watch a large television screen. On it, is a continuous feed of survivors telling their stories.

I’m not ashamed to tell you I shed more than a few tears.

One survivor told of being on one of the “death marches.” When Nazi Germany realized they were losing the war, concentration camp prisoners were marched for weeks and months in the snow, with very little rest and scarcely any food. This particular survivor marched for four months in the freezing cold. If you fell behind or couldn’t keep up, you were shot and left for dead on the side of the road. She actually saw women breaking off their toes due to frostbite.

Yet another survivor told of hiding from a Nazi officer with two women and their infants. He was fourteen at the time. One mother, desperate to quiet her child, held him so close to her chest that she suffocated him. Forty years later, this man on the screen in front of me broke down.

I think that’s what gets me the most. When these tapes were recorded, the holocaust had been forty or fifty years prior. Even with that amount of time passing, these people still broke down and wept openly as though the wound had never been allowed to heal.

And perhaps it hadn’t.

I can’t think of a single thing in my life that makes me cry after a year, let alone fifty.


The stuff I saw at that museum? It stayed with me. Even as I drove home, I found myself thinking about all that I had seen and heard. And now? It makes any discomfort, inconvenience, or minor suffering I experience seem trivial compared to the horrors those people had to ensure.

Will I go back to complaining about the price of gasoline? How much weight I’ve gained? Or how mad I am that someone cut me off in traffic? Sure. Will I return to sighing when my daughter tells me the same story she’s told me a hundred times before? You bet. Will I swear under my breath when I don’t make the yellow light on my way to work in the morning, because now I’m going to be all of three minutes late? Absolutely.

But not today. Today I will be thankful for every single thing I have.

Donna Small is the author of Just Between Friends, A Ripple in the Water, and Through Rose Colored Glasses. She lives in Clemmons, North Carolina where she is currently working on her next novel.


Filed under life, writing


Back in May, I fell in love with the city of Portland, Oregon. Forget that it is visually stunning, has miles of biking trails, or that it’s home to VooDoo Donuts. I fell in love with Powell Books; a one square block, 3 story book store that I wandered through for hours. Tucked in the back, I found a small journal style book that asks a different thought provoking question each day. Is that perfect for me or what? It’s set up as a 5- year record of random thoughts, so that on this day next year, I answer the same question and see how I’ve changed. Over the past few weeks, the questions have ranged from: “Write the first sentence of your autobiography” to “If your mood were a weather forecast, you’d be…………”   Some days, my responses have been immediate, and on others, I have had to ponder it throughout the day and write my answer later.

Yet, none of the questions have gotten me reflecting as much as one that came from my sister, Barbie. It was a random text that said:   “Please explain how silverware dividers get so dirty if all you put in them is CLEAN silverware.” I nearly fell out of my office chair laughing, but I quickly thought of my own need to clean the kitchen drawers. Now, understanding that the obvious answer was that crumbs fall on the counter and then get brushed into the drawer, I came to realize the far reaching implications of her observation.

I have a history of being fairly organized and neat. Each year since my divorce, I’ve become a little less OCD. I have found there are far better uses of my Saturday mornings than ALWAYS cleaning the house. There are bike rides and meeting friends for tea, lounging in bed with the paper, and watching my niece play basketball. Singing in the shower beats cleaning the shower every time. I will never let things get so out of control that I am embarrassed to let someone in the front door but there are times I would never let that visitor open a closet or look under the bed!

The bigger question is: how, if we are living a good life and following the rules, do things get so messy? Why is it we never see the crumbs until they have accumulated to the point of needing to be swept? I mean, I don’t see the mess in the silverware drawer on a daily basis, only when it looks gross. How did I miss what was obviously collecting all along? The simple answer, trite as it sounds, is “Because”.

Because life, at its core, is messy. Because our lives are complicated by emotions and relationships and those cannot be divided like the forks and knives. They are not separate and distinct, but a constantly revolving collection of needs that bump into each other. They rarely nest together in a neat pile and none of us gets out of this life without spills and breaks. But we can learn how to clean up the mess before it gets overwhelming. It is a matter of how we choose to frame the problem.

We don’t know fear if we haven’t felt safe. We can’t know anger if we haven’t previously felt peace. How do we know we feel sick if we haven’t had days of good health?   Anxiety does not come without acceptance. And we certainly do not grieve, if we have not loved.

For some reason, when we are struggling, we quickly forget the times when our lives were easier, or at least smoother. All we can see is the problem in front of us. That is the moment when the crumbs sneak into the drawer. Taking advantage of our distraction, they slowly pile up, slightly out of sight, until we pay attention; until we stop focusing on our own misery and look beneath the surface.

I love starting my day with the silly question from my new journal, such as: “Water, ice or steam?” But what I love more is how I am choosing to end my day. In the same journal, there’s enough room to also record something good that happened that day: the movie that made me laugh, happy hour with friends, a walk with Julie or a good workout are all daily opportunities to feel grateful. Those small events add up over time and can balance out the struggles.

I don’t have an answer to Barbie’s question. It is a dilemma well known to us all. I do know that at the end of the day, we do not get crumbs unless we have eaten cake.

Susan Emmerich is the author of A Girl on a Bike: Musings on Life, Loss, and Hot Flashes, now available from Second Wind Publishing and She can be found riding her bike around Cleveland OH making observations on a most interesting life.


Filed under life, musings, Susan Emmerich, writing

Flood Waters

The last time I heard so much hype of rain and hurricanes, I was living in Wilmington, NC. At or below sea level, naturally when it rained we flooded. A lot. In fact the street outside my second floor apartment was a regular river when we got two or more inches of rain. But we were in college, so instead of making wise, adult decisions (because adults always do that…) we looked out the window and saw people street surfing and thought ‘hmm…that looks like a disaster waiting to happen’. So naturally, we went out to watch.

Fortunately, no one was hurt or killed, but as we were standing out on the lawn cheering on the surfers we noticed a little Toyota (I think it’s a Toyota—this was 2006 and I can’t really tell from the pics…if it’s not a Toyota, just go with it) make its way to our street. It paused as it got to the flooded area, got out and studied the surfers. Made some impatient hand gestures—clearly wanting them to get out of the way so the Toyota could pass through. Even as unwise college students, we knew this was an even worse decision than street surfing, so we tried to wave the person off, but…well let’s just say the hand gestures began to escalate so we eventually moved out of the street to let him pass.

Now, I lived in a decent looking apartment complex, with a beautiful pond across the street. Beautiful. On that day, when the Toyota revved his engine and tried to plow it’s way through the flooded street we learned just how deep that pond was, because the Toyota only made it about halfway before it began floating away, down…down…down and into the pond. There was nothing we could do, brah, but help Toyota dude get out. Fortunately, the pond only went up to the door of the Toyota and other than the car itself, no one was hurt. Well, except for Toyota dude’s pride, which I still think is at the bottom of the pond along with his transmission.

When our South Carolina governor issued the warning: Turn around, don’t drown. I kind of smiled a little at the corny tune, but that image of the stupid Toyota in the pond on a road he could have gone around stuck in my mind—because all he had to do to avoid that street was circle the block! Everything else around us was fine and he’d have added maybe 3 minutes to his journey instead he ends up ruining his car. And the sad part is, the sight of the car being towed out of the pond didn’t deter other drivers from trying to pass through. They just kept plowing through this flooded street, unphased by the potential damaging effects of this flood. Some got through (flooding their vehicles), some got stuck, and though only one ended up in the pond, it still all seemed a little ridiculous. 

And it got me thinking about how often my life looks that way. I get so busy moving forward, trying to push through the waters, or street surfers, that I miss all the warnings. I either miss them or I just choose not to listen because I’m impatient, I’m in a hurry, or it feels like the floodwaters are closing in. When all I need to do is turn around—turn right—circle the block and I can get back on track. Many times God places a roadblock in our way for a reason. Not so we can plow through it and injure ourselves, but so we can experience something new and rest in the pockets of grace He has set up along the way.

Ashley M. Carmichael is the author of Valerie’s Vow a novel published by Indigo Sea Press and Second Wind, which can be purchased at Amazon. Please follow Ashley on Facebook or on Twitter @amcarmichael13.


Filed under Ashley Carmichael


It is with a heavy heart that I write this.

Today, I began watching a film that follows the life of one of my heroes, Nelson Mandela.  The film, “Mandela … The Long Walk to Freedom,” lit up the fire that’s been burning in my belly.  The same type of fire I felt back in the year 1970 when I moved to the Washington, D.C. area and became actively involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement; a just movement that encompassed so many other themes including justice and civil rights for ALL.

Today, those civil rights are still being abused for so many humans.  Although my heart feels the weight of the violations against my fellow humans, that isn’t the dominant theme of my thoughts today.

Instead, today my heart and soul feel heavy for those fellow creatures who have no voice to speak of their pain.  …Those who have no voice to express their concerns for their very existence.  …Those whose civil rights are being violated every day of their lives.

I speak today for the animals of our world who bear the label, ‘game animals.’

elephant mother

As I search the Internet for the definition of ‘game animals,’ I find myself directed to many frightful websites.  Yet, these sites are not dreadful for me.  They are abysmal for those animals who fall into the category of ‘game animals.’  Many of them live on the great continent of Africa.  All of them are defenseless!


Watching the film, The Long Walk to Freedom, made me think of some of the slogans we chanted in the 1970’s.  The slogan, THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING, coined in Chicago outside the 1968 Democratic Party’s National Convention is emblazoned in my mind, heart and soul.

Cecil the Lion

The killing of the beloved and protected ‘Cecil the Lion,’ has set off a firestorm.  Animal activists from around the globe have gathered on such sites as Facebook’s, ‘Shame Lion Killer Dr. Walter Palmer and River Bluff Dental,’ among so many more.   I have been working with a bright young man from Belgium who is creating a beautiful website called Cecil Army which will be up shortly.  In addition, I have been flattered and honored to have been asked to help write letters, blogs and speeches for several activists and groups.  It’s a joy working with these passionate people who have the capacity to think beyond their own selves and lives.

Today, in response to one of my activist friend’s post, I wrote the following.

WHAT WILL WE DO when these beautiful animals are all gone?

WHAT WILL WE DO when all the animals that are now hunted and poached are all gone?

WHERE WILL THE GOVERNMENTS OF AFRICA be when all their animals, their precious resource is ALL GONE?

The hunters and poachers will look for other creatures to hunt and poach.  The Governments of the great continent of Africa will be forced to realize their shortsightedness that they were willing to sell their wildlife for $$$ to the highest bidder.  They sold their most precious resource to those bidders who kept most of the wealth for themselves, giving these same governments a pittance (less than 1% of the total sale of one animal) for all the animals that were supposed to be held sacred and guarded by each of these governments.

IT WILL BE TOO LATE when these governments finally realize they could have utilized their precious resource for something far more prosperous and far more beneficial to all:  the animals, the country’s economy and the country’s human inhabitants.

Their most precious resource is something the world loves to visit, loves to study, loves to tell their children where the animal in the story lives.  These same animals have the ability to contribute far more significantly to the wealth of these countries and its people while they are still alive and not dead and hanging on someone’s wall or when pieces of ivory are part of a necklace worn around someone’s neck.  Instead, these same animals currently contribute ONLY to other countries like China seeking parts from the animals; or other humans who only visit these countries with intentions of destroying these creatures.

These same, wonderful beings have more to contribute to the African countrymen who are economically forced to hunt them down for their ivory, meat, skin, antlers, etc.  If only the governments of Africa were thoughtful by showing these same countrymen the opportunity to earn a living by participating in an industry that showcases these beautiful animals; one in which these same desperate countrymen are able to earn a living protecting these same precious creatures.

As I write this, in Rwanda there are such countrymen who once hunted gorillas for those who wanted the animals for the purpose of selling the live gorillas or for their meat or severed parts.  Now, however, these same countrymen have been shown that there is far more profit hunting these same gorillas for tourists to see and sit with.  Please look up Edwin Sabuhoro on the Internet or on Facebook to see what this incredible young man, a CNN hero, has been up to. (…/cnnheroes-edwin-sabuhoro.cnn  … and……/edwin-sabuhoro-consevation-hero-gorillas-poaching/)

Edwin Sabuhoro

Edwin demonstrates how a little discussion, then a little money (his own) and a little encouragement have not only changed the lives of the Virunga Mountain Gorillas, but have changed the lives of the men, women and children in the villages where the ex-poachers … emphasis on EX … live.  There is so much more $$$ for all the people and governments to make if only they were mindful enough to choose to protect their  precious wildlife while allowing them to roam free for paying tourists to see and shoot with their cameras rather than with their high-powered rifles.  Yet … all will come to pass if these governments don’t wake up to what could be and condemn what currently is.  Much of African wildlife delicately teeters on the edge of extinction.  Soon, it will be too late!


Total genocide will come to pass as long as the governments of Africa allow those who do not live in their countries to steal every last one of their precious resource until there is nothing left to plunder; no more heads, no more skins, no more ivory, no more antlers!  Then, and only then will all these governments and their countrymen lament that they were too shortsighted to not have been brave enough to embrace a different future.  Yet, there is still hope.

With the martyrdom of Cecil the Adored Lion, the firestorm is growing in intensity.  The result …


We’re watching to see how these countries go forward.

THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING because without our eyes, ears and most of all, our commitment and action … WHO WILL PROTECT THESE ANIMALS from extinction?


Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing

The Technology of Literary Fiction

By Jay Duret

Literary Fiction

When I moved to San Francisco everyone I met told me that I had to get my brand out there. I couldn’t just wait to be discovered. I had to disrupt things. I had to blow things up.

I wasn’t really sure how to go about disrupting things, but I began to search for venues where I might submit my work. I had written stories most of my life but hadn’t tried to publish them. I found an online publication called that had a section where it gathered “Calls for Submissions.” I started to scan that page to see if there were any journals calling for short stories like I wrote. I quickly learned that there were hundreds—maybe thousands—of journals in the literary marketplace, though the concept that it was a “marketplace” was euphemistic, for 90% of the journals did not actually pay for stories. Rather it was a kind of marketplace where the farmers brought their crops to a central location in order to give them away, sometimes paying a fee for the privilege.

I also learned that there were categories of writing that I had never heard of before: slipstream, speculative, bizzaro, flash, micro, etc. I couldn’t even tell whether my stories would qualify.  Worse still were the explications of what the editors were looking to find.

The Kudzu Review asked me to “inspire and give hope.” I wasn’t sure that was what my writing was about, nor actually what most writing is about, but I guess if you had a journal that wanted to inspire and give hope, that was a fair ask. There was a magazine called TOSKA that wanted micro essays that made “their souls ache.” I wondered how many of their souls there were. Did they all have to ache or was it enough that some of their souls ached?

Pithead Review—great name, for sure—wanted stories that would leave abrilliant bruise. The Storm Cellar said that it was looking for writing and art “to be read during a catastrophe.” That surprised me. I assumed that during a catastrophe most people would be reading texts or tweets. I hadn’t known that they would be actually clamoring for writing that was “sublime and profane, stylized and unpretentious, formally innovative and ideally classical, perfect and perfectly flawed, surreal and cathartic, consistent and contradictory, childlike and world-weary, inevitable and surprising.” I could definitely see smooth sailing and catastrophe there.

I was also finding that the world of literary fiction was a lot more hardass than I had thought. Sundog wanted my “earth-scorching lit.” They wanted “stuff that gets under fingernails, stuff that lingers like the aftertaste of a great whiskey.” That was hardcase for sure, but not as intense as the editors at Colony Collapse who begged for writing “that stands yeti-like & backlit on a riverside cliff shotgunning a pabst and/or burns under your skin well after you’ve dug the stinger out and/or ghostrides the whip with the kid still in the car seat…” I would have ignored the implorings of Colony Collapse except for those “and/ors.” I loved those and/ors. My writing didn’t have to ghostride the whip and burn after the stinger was gone. One or the other, not necessarily both. Read right, it was a very inclusive call for submission. I definitely would have to submit there.

Some of the journals were outright sadistic. The Boston Review called for sentences so sharp they “cut the eye.” Sanity Not Guaranteed asked me to submit fiction that “cuts to the heart of the holes we are built out of.” Lest that demand be thought incoherent, the editors explained that they wanted fiction that “kicks us in the nads, grabs us by the throat, and makes us listen.” I thought that might be a tall order, but it paled before the Promethean task they set for poets. I was so glad I wasn’t a poet. If a poem “doesn’t make our emphysemic souls whistle, we won’t have it…” That was a vivid image. I could see a broken down chain-smoking ancient mariner of indeterminate sex shuffling down a never-ending corridor lined with crusty but literary books, his or her labored breathing collapsed into one long whistle of exertion. But really? Why were their souls emphysemic? Did theyache? Maybe they should moonlight at TOSKA.

I was beginning to wonder whether I was of stern enough stuff to make it in the world of Literary Fiction. I can work up a good size sense of indignation and I have been told that my rants are considered biting. I was not sure, however, if my work “rages well beyond when the reader has left the page.” And even if I were angry enough to publish in these big leagues, could I goall the way and disrupt them?

And that wasn’t the only problem. What if my prose was angry enough, but not good enough? I mean, I knew that it would be challenging to break into print; there are talented writers everywhere. Daunting for sure. I had some confidence in my typing skills, but could I really say that my stories met Apex Magazine’s requirement that every story emit “sheer unvarnished awesomeness”? Awesome, for sure, but unvarnished awesomeness. A heavy lift.

I confess that I got a bad case of the blues after reading Apex’s call for awesomeness, but I bounced back after reading their editor’s injunction that I must always “keep in mind that the search for awesome stories is as difficult as writing them.” I didn’t know this editor from a pat of butter, but hearing this I couldn’t help but discount his or her opinions. I am pretty sure that there is no universe where searching for awesome stories is as hard as actually writing them, and then getting all the varnish off.


I was so hard at work looking to market my stories in the world of literary fiction that I was not able to attend my son Ajax’s baseball game. His team—the Red Sox—had a Little League face-off against the Pirates. I felt guilty for not going—awesomeness, it appears, does not come quickly for me—and I was anxious to find out how the game had gone. I was delighted to get an email—it arrived even before he returned home—from an outfit called GameChangers that reported that Ajax’s team had won the game 11-10. I opened the email and found that I could actually get a box score from the game. I had to click and download, but next thing I knew I actually had the Red Sox roster laid out on my iPad like the table of baseball statistics you see in the paper.

I wondered how Ajax did. I found his name and looked across the fields—this was really cool—and saw that he got to the plate 4 times. I looked to see how he did in his at bats, but there were question marks under the hits and runs columns. Aw too bad, they don’t really have the detail. Wouldn’t it be amazing if they actually kept track of hits and runs and batting averages? But it is Little League after all, pretty cool at least that they can give you an email with the results virtually minutes after the game is over.

I would have left it there and gone back to searching for markets that might deign to read my stories but I noticed a button that said “Go Premium!” Something in the way it was positioned suggested that the question marks in the scorer’s table might go away if I got the Premium version. I clicked around a bit more and was given the opportunity to buy the Premium version for $7.33 a month or $34.99 for the year. I signed up and oh my god I was bedazzled by what came next. There were over 50 statistical categories maintained for each kid. Of course the standards: Games Played, Plate Appearances, At Bats, RBI, Average, On Base Percentage, Slugging Percentage. But that just was the surface. You could go deeper, much deeper. There was a group of statistics arrayed under the Category of “Patience, Speed and Power.” Here I could see how my 12-year had fared with respect to BB/K, PA/BB, GITP, and BA/RSP, among many others.

I played baseball; I love baseball; I know baseball, but I admit I had to look at the key to determine that these acronyms were Walks per Strikeout, Plate Appearances per Walk, Hit into Triple Play (really? They maintained a statistic for hitting into triple plays?), and Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position.

Under the caption of “Quality at Bats and Team Impact,” I found I could determine Ajax’s “Pitches Seen Per Plate Appearance” and his “Two Out RBIs.” I could determine the number of times he had 2 strikes against him but nevertheless saw three or more additional pitches. There was a computation that showed the percentage of plate appearances where Ajax had seen 6 or more pitches. The stats went on and on, and this was just for batting. There was a whole separate area for pitching.

Ajax hadn’t pitched much but he had pitched some. I thought he had done pretty well. But now I knew the numbers. He had hurled 2.1 innings with 3 strikeouts and 1 base-on-balls. He had thrown a total of 25 pitches: 17 strikes and 8 balls. He had two Lead Off Outs, and two 1-2-3 Innings. He threw three or less pitches to 75% of the batters he faced.

I didn’t think there was anything left to amaze me on this webpage, but then I noticed a little button called “Spray Chart” where an astounding graphic plotted every ball Ajax hit this season in lines of different colors laid out visually on a brilliant green diamond. The colors showed which hits had been liners and grounders and flies. Notations showed whether the ball was caught for an out or fell in for a hit. There is no other way to say this: the Spray Chart was gorgeous.

The functionality went on and on. I could not only see the stats on Ajax but also on every other player in his league. I could set an alert to follow the bat-by-bat exploits of any of them. I could invite friends and family to become fans and follow Ajax’s adventures through real time tweets, email messages or Facebook postings.

But as good as everything so far—as amazing as what I had already seen—the piece de resistance was that there was actually a news story about the game that had just been played. Turns out Ajax had had captured the attention of the pundits:

Duret leads the SF Red Sox Majors to 11-10 victory
Ajax Duret carried the SF Red Sox Majors to an 11-10 victory over the Giants on Monday at TI3 with a strong game at the plate and on the mound. Duret was hot from the plate for the SF Red Sox Majors. Duret went 3-4 and scored two runs. He doubled in the third inning and singled in the fourth and sixth innings.
Duret put together a nice outing. Duret held the Giants hitless over 1 1/3 innings, allowed no earned runs, walked one and struck out three.
Each team blasted the other’s pitching, and there were 21 total runs and 21 hits during the game. Managers of the two teams seemingly emptied their bullpens in search of the win, as there were seven pitchers used in the game.

At the bottom of the story there was some fine print. I pulled up. It said:

“Powered by Narrative Science and GameChanger. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.” Any reuse or republication of this story must include the preceding attribution.

I tried to figure out who wrote the feed. It must have been posted minutes after the game. Ajax was still en route home. Who would write it? This was 11 and 12 year little league baseball; there weren’t scribes at the games. Was this some new weirdness like the weirdness with the Yelp people? A real head-scratcher.

The mystery was cleared up that night. We got an email from Ajax’s coach telling us about the GameChanger app and explaining:

What is really great is for stats freaks you can see how your son/daughter is performing statistically …. A great tool for analysis (for example, I can show Nick that when he gets strike one on the first pitch that he’ll get the batter out 68% of the time or I can show him that he is only seeing 2.7 pitches per at bat and needs to maybe be more patient at the plate).

At the close of his email he noted:

PS— You might see narratives of each game. I do NOT write them. They are auto-generated so all those great comments about a particular kid are by a non-partisan computer.

Wow. The computer looks at a bunch of numbers and has somehow figured out how to put it into the prose of passable news feed. Auto-generated. I thought of the passage from East Coker, the second of the Four Quartets, where Eliot laments the time he has spent

Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it.

Little did Eliot know, one day it would all be done by an app…


Even though I was intimidated by the Calls for Submission, I continued my quest to get my writing to a broader audience. I found a website with the awkward name Duotrope that collected information about thousands of online and print journals. Duotrope categorized the venues and collated key information about preferences and predilections. It was easy to browse Duotrope to find magazines that published different types of fiction. You could easily find which journals were reading electronic submissions in search a novelette of erotica or an 880-word bit of bizzaro.

Duotrope also collected key statistics for each of the journals it covered, including how long on average the journal took to respond to a submission, what percent of its rejection letters were “personal.” There I learned thatApex, the journal that demanded unvarnished awesomeness, accepted only .27% of stories submitted. Not 27%, not 2.7%, .27%. It was 40 times easier to get into Harvard than Apex.

Those statistics were interesting, if discouraging, but I was struck by how much Duotrope could learn from GameChanger, the software that had collected the statistics about Ajax’s prowess as a 12 year old baseball player. If Duotrope had its act together, it wouldn’t just be publishing averages and generalized reports on the magazines, it would be publishing key metrics from each of its writer members. If GameChanger ran things in the world of Literary Fiction, it would be reporting that Jay Duret, an aspiring writer from San Francisco, ordinarily had a .210 PA (Publishing Average) but, when writing in the category of Humor, his PA climbed to nearly .300. I couldn’t understand why the information wasn’t being put out there. There was important analytic work to be done and how could it be done if the stats weren’t collected and shared?

The more I thought about it, the more obvious it seemed to me that Literary Fiction wasn’t going to get where it needed to be without this critical information. Without data, how could a publisher decide what to publish? Without data, there couldn’t be a data-driven process for acceptances. My God, without the statistics, the process couldn’t even be automated. Some actual person would have to read each and every submission. And make a decision based on soft and squishy criteria like whether—just on the basis of reading it—the story seemed “well-written” or “thought-provoking.” They would be stuck with the burden of forming judgments on such wiggly matters as whether the writer was “taking risks” and “digging deep.” How much better to have the statistics at hand. Things like FPPS: Followers Per Posted Story; TL—Total Likes; PMPP—Private Messages Per Post. A publisher needed to know these important facts about the writer.

But that was just the beginning. With time and big computers, the data could be mined to find IPPP—Insights Per Published Paragraph; SPA—Submissions Per Acceptance; and the vital AIR—Acceptance after Initial Rejection. A literary magazine wouldn’t be worth its salt if it didn’t know the stats concerning a writer’s acceptances after being initially rejected—you had to know that—AIR was a key measure of persistence—and, without it, well, how would one know whether the writer had the stuff to survive a hard life on the literary stump? It would all be random and arbitrary without the stats. It would all just come down to what one individual person thought about a story. I mean, literally, just one person’s thinking. Unfathomable.

The literary world would be a better place if GameChanger was in charge, for sure. Not only would there be better decisions, but word of them would get out there. I longed for the day when GameChanger’s algorithm would be auto-cranking out press releases for me and my Brand:

Duret Scores Again; Bags Three Journals in One Month

Jay Duret, San Francisco based writer and blogger, continued a blazing hot June on the literary circuit, lighting up three online journals. Duret scored again last night with a two-day acceptance by The Squamish Review of his story “SlideCar.”

Duret has been having a brilliant season with league leading statistics in Total Asterisks, and Words Published by a Californian. James Blingy of The Squamish Review released a statement saying: “Jay Duret is one of our most exciting new writers, we at TSR are devoted to bringing fresh voices like his to our readers.”

With that type of information coursing through the world of Literary Fiction, pretty soon the money would follow. Ad revenues. Endorsements. There would be product placements. The buyer’s world would tilt slightly toward the seller. There might even come a day—hard to imagine—when literary journals would pay actual money for good stories. Maybe not every one, but at least for those where the writing was so sharp it cut the eye and/or the story so awesome it made the soul ache. Maybe, maybe, maybe, but it could happen. If GameChanger were in charge, there might actually be a marketplace for Literary Fiction.

Now that would be a disruption.


The Technology of Literary Fiction first appeared in The Lowestoft Chronicle


Filed under fiction, Jay Duret, writing

When Blogs Sleep by L.V. Gaudet

I have been in something of a dry spell for the past months when it comes to writing, blog posts especially.drought

Lack of inspiration is only a part of the problem.

Most advice on how to have a successful blog boils down to one frequently repeated piece of advice.  Post interesting content regularly.

Easy, right?

The problem with that is not only do you have to come up with ideas of blog posts to write about all the time, but they also have to be interesting to other people.  Okay, so that is only half the problem.  The other half is having the time.

If you do not keep up on regular blogging, you can find your blog has gone to sleep and so have you as a blogger.  Your blog followers’ interest will wane when there is nothing to follow.  You become as forgotten as yesterday’s news.

People are fickle that way.  Once you lose them, you can find yourself starting over to create a following all over again.

It can also be harder to dig yourself out of that slump once you are fully entrenched in it than it is to keep writing regular posts.

inspirationboxGetting inspired takes time.  It takes a lot of things, but all of that means little if you do not have the time to let yourself get inspired.

Everyone finds their inspiration in their own way.  A quiet walk in nature, sitting alone enjoying a coffee on a Sunday morning, reading, letting your mind roam on your commute, people watching, these are just a few.

If you do not have the time for that in your busy life, you can find yourself feeling irreparably caught in a dry spell with no end in sight.

When the inspiration does come, it means not losing it, maybe having the chance to write it down before your busy day melts the thought away into a blank mind void.  And then you still have to have the time to sit down and write the article, edit it to perfection, and polish it.

Evasive-Manuvers-penguins-of-madagascar-13157021-607-478Time is both valuable and, at times, insolently evasive.  Time is not on my side.  Not lately.

If you are like me, and like many other writers, your writing by necessity comes a distant last after everything else in your life.

Bills have to be paid and family and home taken care of.  Commitments for work, school, and both immediate and extended family will always push writing time back.  By the time you have finished your work day and commute, feeding and chauffeuring your kids to their activities and back, and getting them into bed, you might find yourself lucky enough to have an hour left to make lunches, throw a load of laundry in, and pick up; and maybe even a moment to or two to write.

This can make you feel a tremendous self-imposed stress to do that writing you are missing out having the time for.  It is too easy in the rush of life and trying to fit in writing to forget what is important.  Never let yourself miss those family moments because you are pushing yourself too hard to do too much.

lessons-in-lifeThe most important lesson I ever learned in life I learned from my own toddler.  Back then, I was doing the stay at home parent thing.  Daycare for two would have cost most than I was making, so we opted for me to stay home.  Every time we went to Wal-Mart to shop for groceries, we passed a display of plastic and fabric fake flowers.  They were depressingly fake, but every time she would make me stop to smell them.  It was not just a memorable moment to be cherished; it was a life lesson.  No matter how hurried I felt, there always had to be time to stop and smell the flowers, whether they smell like anything or not.

Take each moment as it comes.  As the saying goes, take life one moment at a time.  That is the only way to do it when life gets busy.  I spend my lunch breaks editing, and with the distractions that is about all I can manage.  I try my best to note it down when inspiration hits and gives me an idea.  I write in stolen moments.   I do what I can to keep up on the major things while, unfortunately, the little things are often left to slide along with the housekeeping.

When I do have a moment (or thought I did) for writing, it may be interrupted and quickly evaporate.  My advice: no matter how frustrating you find it to have to try to seize those too often lost moments; do not let it become either a chore or a barrier to your life and family around you.

dullWhen your writing is just bland and dry, and inspiration has failed you, you might have to just accept that and cede defeat.  This time.  One of the lovely things about social media and networking is the very nature of it.  It is, for the most part, shareable.

People blog because they want to be noticed.  They want followers.  They want more visits to their blog.  What better way to have that happen than to have followers share their posts?

When the inspiration flows strong, get as much out of that as you can.  If you can snap out six or eight witty blog posts and another half a dozen ideas for later, you are on one killer roll!  Do not post all those great posts at once, but save them.  Spread them out and have some back up posts for those dry spells.

Make your blog more interesting with guest blogs and outside articles.  Invite guests to guest blog, have reviews on their books posted, reviews they wrote on other books posted.  Even just sharing other bloggers posts on your blog that you enjoyed and found interesting.  It is all about driving traffic to both your blog and theirs, and everybody wins.

Distraction is the writer’s curse.  Nothing can kill a writer’s mojo like distraction.  As a parent, I cannot turn my kids away when they need attention just because I am trying to write or edit.  The same goes for your life partner.  These are the most important people in your world, and hopefully your biggest fans and supporters.

When I do have time to write, it is often in the chaos of distraction that comes with a small house and no escape.  You feel like you are central to everything going on in your house because you are, literally, if you have no other room to escape to.  And even if you do have somewhere to go (unfortunately I don’t), if you are like me, they will just follow you there.

It is not easy to write with all the distraction.  And you certainly cannot do your best writing.  But, at least you are finding that bit of time.  If nothing else, you can edit and jot down notes for things to add later.  I certainly do not recommend writing under the cacophony of distraction, but busy people sometimes just have to do what they must.

At the moment, I am being distracted by one child (Okay, a “tween”.  She hates to be called a child.), who is not yet in bed and has a never-ending need to talk to me, a dog requiring my undivided attention, and a very persistent housefly that apparently does too.

recyleIf all else fails, you can always recycle.  Reuse, reduce, recycle.  Isn’t that the saying?  Oh, wait, that’s for reducing trash waste.

In all seriousness, when you are really stuck for something, you can always take an old blog post and re-write it.  You might be amazed at what you learn doing that.

Not only does your writing change, but so does your opinions, feelings, and knowledge.  Writing is a flowing creation that is never stagnant.  The industry itself is ever-evolving.

Over time and practice, your writing continuously improves.  Re-writing an old blog post is a good lesson in that.  Re-writing old stories, whether fiction, blog, or other, is like taking a walk down that memory lane to those old photos of your youth.  Yeah, you remember those old sick clothes and ridiculous hairstyles you laugh at now.

So dust off that old post or story like an old record and play it again, only better this time.

No matter what gets in your way, lack of inspiration, time, distraction, or anything else, you keep on writing.  It’s not what you are, it’s who you are.

You press on because you are a writer.  I am writer; hear me roar.




L. V. where the bodies areGaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

Watch for book 2 of the McAllister series coming soon at Second Wind Publishing, LLC:  The McAllister Farm.  The secret behind the bodies is revealed.

Links to purchase this and other upcoming L.V. Gaudet’s books

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

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Filed under blogging, L.V. Gaudet, writing

Back to Business? by Sherrie Hansen

It’s been a little over a month since we came back from our dream vacation to Romania, with a delightful stopover in Devon and Cornwall, England. While I cherish the memories of the exceptional things we experienced and the beautiful places we saw, it’s been so busy since we’ve been home that there’s been little time to bask in the glow of vacation bliss.

Pictures from phone 9Sept2015 184  Pictures from phone 9Sept2015 177 Romania - Bran Castle

The price you pay for being gone three weeks… bills and responsibilities at work pile up, an intimidating stack of mail needs your immediate attention, and the suitcase full of dirty laundry you brought back from the trip is daunting. You step off the merry go round for a few days, but the world keeps spinning, and sooner or later, you have to run fast and leap on to the carousel to catch up.

Parsonage Photo34

But despite the busyness that’s plagued me since our return, I’ve been writing. With inspiring images newly etched in my mind and fresh voices echoing in my head, I can’t help myself. It’s amazing what clearing the cobwebs out of your mind and giving your brain a good spring cleaning will do.

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Being back from vacation has also reminded me that I love living near my extended family. I missed them while I was gone and am happy to be in a place where I can regularly visit them once more.

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I really do like my life, the way I earn a living, and the things that occupy my days. I feel a renewed sense of gratefulness for the things that I have and the life that I lead.

BBI - side view

I also feel challenged to take more mini-vacations – to go to a concert or take the time to attend a festival or community activity, to make time to read a book or go for a walk or take some photographs of the beauty that surrounds me right here, in my own back yard.

Pictures from phone 9Sept2015 039 Pictures from phone 9Sept2015 115

I feel inspired to take better care of myself, to get more sleep, and to do simple things like eating breakfast, to pamper myself in little ways every day, not just when I’m on vacation.

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Sweet William, the Wildflowers of Scotland novel I’m currently working on, will be a better book because I took time out from my busy life and renewed my perspective. Seeing a different corner of the world infused my life with color and light and music – an unfolding drama that is vastly different from the daily grind that so often consumes me.

Pictures from phone 9Sept2015 116

Take a long vacation if you can – leave the country, do something drastically different than the norm, rediscover yourself in the faces of a foreign country. If you can’t, go for a walk, escape the house, even if only for an evening of music or fun, sign up for an online class, invite someone you don’t know very well to dinner… Shake it up. I promise you, you’ll only be better for the experience. And keep on writing, or moving, or dancing. You have to put your own oxygen mask on before you can help others. Rejuvenate!

Pictures from phone 9Sept2015 121 Zion - Sunflower 2013 Sun


Filed under life, photographs, Sherrie Hansen, Travel

The Education of Pain by Calvin Davis

frigidaire_fkch17f7hw_3Several days ago, while working in the garage, I fell.  On the way down, I grabbed the handle of our upright freezer, causing an avalanche of frozen meats and vegetables to cover  me.  An odd combination, my back and head hitting the hard, hot cement floor while turkey breasts, steaks, various vegetables and ice cream covered  my chest, abdomen and legs.


Even if I could have been able to push off the food, my back hurt too much to stand. This is a terrible position for a man and his infamous male pride to find himself in. Men are action figures, you see. A fact engineered into their DNA. They are constantly asking themselves how to solve this problem or that one. “How do I do it?” But being unable to help, I couldn’t do a thing. The pain was excruciating.

My wife came running, full of concern and trying her best to help me stand. She quickly tossed food back into the freezer and wrapped her arms under mine. No luck. I couldn’t stand. She dragged me from the garage into the house onto the hardwood floors.

She was finally able to help me get to my feet. Upright, I was a much wiser man than before I fell. Having experienced the lowest pits of pain, I became closer to those who’d felt real pain on the battlefields of war. Extreme levels of agony one can only begin to imagine as these young soldiers cry for their mothers with their last breaths.

I had known nothing of this level until my fall the other day and the subsequent days when I couldn’t walk. Maybe we all need an incident like mine from time-to-time to awaken us to our microscopic world of complacency and detachment from those who surround us, that we see, but do not see–or feel.

Understand, I hope you don’t you don’t fall, as I did; on the other hand, maybe I should.

Calvin Davis is also the author of The Phantom Lady of Paris.



Filed under writing

Little Boys Dream 1


Waiola moored at her slip in La Mariana Yacht Club

I can’t believe it; 50 years ago this month we launched the sailboat my wife, our son and I built. It was a red banner month because not only did we launch our boat after 2 years of building, but I also signed a contract for my first novel sitting in the cabin of our newly launched boat, the Waiola, moored in Dana Point, Calif.

It all started with a dream; a little boy’s dream.

Africa-2I don’t know how or where that wanting came from. I do know that there in Central Africa, without a stream or pond more than ankle-deep, a little kid dreamed of owning his own sailboat.

When I was a kid, back in the 30s and 40s, General electric used to give away free calendars. They were big things; 36” by 18” with a full color picture on the top and the days of the month on the bottom.

One year they came out with all twelve months with sailing vessels. There were sloops, yawls, schooners, dinghies and full-rigged ships. I traded my little bit of candy with my 2 brothers for their pictures at the end of the month when it was their turn to get the torn off GE picture.

We came to the United States in 1944, just before the end of WW II crossing the South Atlantic aboard a British freighter. It was my first exposure to the sea and I loved it. My novel Desperate Voyage is based on that crossing.

When I got out of high school the draft was still in effect and when my number came up I joined the Navy because I didn’t relish the idea of sitting in a foxhole in Korea in the middle of winter eating K-rations and being shot at.

dd510001At least in the Navy I would have a dry bunk and warm food. And lucky, lucky me, after boot camp I was assigned to a little destroyer escort; USS Eaton DDE 510, which pitched and rolled like a small ship should rather than on some great big floating barn like an aircraft carrier.

After 4 years of sailing all around Europe doing the things 18 to 22 year olds do in France, Scandinavia, Italy, Holland, England and the Mediterranean etc., I took my discharge and did what society expected me to do; attended college, got my degrees, even became head of a department and then marvels of marvel, I was sent to a conference in Honolulu.

I attended the opening session and decided I no longer gave a damn about innovative education, so spent the rest of the week driving all over the island; climbing mountain trails and sampling the water and sand of various beeches. I had a contract for the following year with the university, but in the spring I resigned, cashed in my annuities, sold everything I owned and moved to Hawaii.

That was the beginning of a little boys dream coming true, but not right away; that little boy, now in his mid-thirties had to go to a whole new kind of school. Next time, learning about storms, smooth sailing and other fun.

May every day be smooth sailing for you and if you get bored you might try one of my books. – Thank you and Aloha – pjs/


S&FL FrntIn the paper department I have signed a contract for another novel with Second Wind Publishing. The title is, A Short and Futile Life. Have no idea when it will be released, but you can bet your sweet boots I’ll let you know when I know.

It is a near future novel about life in the United States when most, if not all, the personal rights stated and the Bill of Rights have been revoked for the good of the whole.


Final MSS Cover frontMurder Sets Sail is available from Second Wind Publishing and on Amazon. Kindle editions is only $4.99.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing is available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99.

To watch The Telephone Killer video click here.

The Telephone Killer is now also available as an audiobook.


Filed under books, Paul J. Stam, writing

New Lives, by Carole Howard

We’re a country of immigrants. And every immigrant has a story.

When my husband’s great-grandfather came to America, like many immigrants at the time, he planned to send money for his wife and family to join him. (Little did he know that at the time he left, his wife was pregnant. He thought he was leaving a wife and five children but there would soon be six.)

Before he had a chance to send anything, though, his wife and eldest daughter were killed in a pogrom (an IMG_2367 organized massacre by Cossacks, usually of Jews in Russia or eastern Europe). The village collected money to send the now-five children to America, with the eldest – my husband’s grandmother Ida, aged 13 at the time – as the head of the family, carrying the newborn. They walked to the train, took the train to the ship, and eventually walked down the gangplank into a new life.

Quite a story.

My grandmother’s immigration story was also dramatic. She was 16 at the time and yearned to go to America; she spoke of nothing else. Her parents asked the rabbi for advice. He thought the girl only wanted to go because her parents were against it. He advised them to give permission, even give the money, to call her bluff. Uh oh, rabbi, not exactly. Off she went.

Her father later journeyed to fetch her, but was turned back at Ellis Island because of ill health. The second time he tried, he was admitted. While in America trying to get his daughter to come home to Poland, though, he died of a heart attack. She stayed in her new life.

Fast forward to today and the stories and images of Syrian migrants. Their troubles at home are unimaginable and their journey treacherous. They walk for weeks only to encounter a non-crossable national boundary, or they get in dangerous overcrowded little boats though they can’t swim.  They’re yearning for a place to live in peace, to work, and to be able to promise their children a future, a new life.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Never was it so true.

Any interesting/horrific/funny/unusual immigrant stories to share?

*     *     *

Carole Howard is he author of Deadly Adagio, published by Second Wind Publishing.



Filed under writing