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1. Great Article: “Horrors! This Child Is Reading Horror!”


Thanks to Google Alerts, I found this terrific & timely article by Paula Willey in The Baltimore Sun. Willey does a great job here, writing calming and directly about the value of “scary books” for (some) young readers.

My lovely daughter, Maggie, some years back. To our surprise, she loves horror. Loves it!

My lovely daughter, Maggie, some years back. To our surprise, Maggie loves horror. Loves it!

Personally, I got into scary books late in life, after many school visits where I met young readers who loved that shivery, edge-of-the-seat feeling. This is not just a Halloween thing, btw. An affection for horror goes year round. After raising two boys who never cared for horror — and openly said so, I should add — my sweet Maggie came along and she loves those creepy, crawly feelings. Go figure.

Another reason why I wrote “Scary Tales” in the way that it’s written — short, fast-paced, easy-to-read, series format — was because of all the reluctant readers I’ve met over the years. I’ve had them in my own kitchen, munching Doritos, blithely telling me how they don’t like books. So I challenged myself to write stories that attempted to be so entertaining & enjoyable that even these boys would read to the last page (they are, alas, almost invariably boys). I wanted them to experience that proud, “I just finished a whole book” feeling. And to then realize, “Hey, I kind of liked it. I’ll try another.”

In the old days of publishing, we’d call books in this category “Hi-Lo.” High-interest, low-reading level. My estimation is that “Scary Tales” is written somewhere on the 3rd-grade level, but with stories that appeal all the way up to 6th grade. The look is cool and edgy, so there’s no stigma to reading “baby” books.

Here’s a snip from the article. Thank you for the kind mention, Paula Willey!


Art by Iacopo Bruno from  SCARY TALES: ONE-EYED DOLL.

Picture, if you will, a smiling, well-adjusted child. She’s tucked into a corner of the couch, reading happily, quiet but for the occasional giggle. Is that an “American Girl” book she’s reading? A silly fractured fairy tale? On the cover, you spy a slime-drenched, bloody snake; the title is spelled out in dripping, neon-bright letters: “The Zombie Chasers: World Zombination!”

Horrors! This child is reading horror!

Many grownups are a little uncomfortable when a kid exhibits a taste for stories of terror and mayhem. They worry that their children will become desensitized to violence or will have nightmares. Some just want their kids reading “better” books. There’s a perception that scary books like the “Goosebumps” series by R. L. Stine are of low literary quality and have no value.

It’s true that “Goosebumps” books, along with series like James Preller’s “Scary Tales,” “Spooksville” by Christopher Pike and P. J. Night’s “Creepover,” are short, formulaic, and written at a fairly low reading level. However, librarians know that these books sometimes play a crucial role in inviting children into reading, or helping a reader bridge the gap between books he is beginning to find “babyish” and longer books with more complexity.

Art by Iacopo Bruno from SCARY TALES: NIGHTMARELAND.

Art by Iacopo Bruno from SCARY TALES: NIGHTMARELAND.

Many people who grew up to be very accomplished readers — and writers — claim to have read nothing but “Goosebumps” for years when they were kids.

In addition, children are very aware of their ability to handle scary stuff. When I help a child pick out a book, I’ll often ask, “How do you do with scary books?” Of all the questions that I ask during the book selection process, this is the one they answer most forthrightly: “No scary books!” or “I can handle medium-scary.” And then there’s the little angel who proclaims, “The scarier the better!”


For the full article, click here.

Paula Willey is a librarian at the Parkville branch of the Baltimore County Public Library. She writes about children’s and teen literature for various national publications and online at unadulterated.us. 



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2. “A Deserving Porcupine.”


Yesterday I reread Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon.

It was published 60 years ago, btw, in two-color.

Weird format, too.

And, of course, it’s perfect.

But what I keep thinking about these past 24 hours is that throwaway phrase, “a deserving porcupine.”

Do you recall it? Possibly not.

Harold thinks about a picnic, and pies, and being Harold, he goes a little overboard.

He hated to see so much delicious pie go to waste.”

Here’s what kills me:

So Harold left a very hungry moose and a deserving porcupine to finish it up.”



That phrase: a deserving porcupine.

How did Crockett Johnson even think of that? Out of all the available adjectives for a porcupine, he deemed this particular one “deserving.”

What did it do to deserve such treatment? I guess we’ll never know, but it feels to me like there’s a story there, somewhere off the page. The deserving porcupine appears on only one page of the book, then off Harold goes, in search of a hill to climb . . .

I should add this postscript:

TheFallIt’s pub day for my new book, The Fall

I really think everybody should buy it. That would be awesome. Thanks!

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3. Outpost Centerfield: Reading & Writing About Baseball

Willie Mays, "the catch," from the 1954 World Series. Arguably the greatest play in the history of center field.

Willie Mays, “the catch,” from the 1954 World Series. Arguably the greatest play in the history of center field.


I was recently reading a book by Philip Roth and came across a similarity to something I had written back in 2008. His words struck me as eerily familiar.

The relevant section in my book, Six Innings, focuses on center fielder Scooter Wells. For this book, my original idea came from watching an elaborate tracking shot by film director John Sayles. I actually forget which movie, and I may have all the details wrong, but the essence stands: I admired how the camera followed a character into a crowded room, came across a new face and then trailed after that new person until someone else came into view, and the camera again swiveled and changed direction to follow that character. I wondered if I could try a similar device by using a ball in a Little League game. Tell the story of each character as they naturally step into the game’s flow. If you catch the ball, it’s time for your story, and so on.

Anyway, in this moment, we’re out in center field with Scooter. An opposing slugger, Nick Clemente, has just struck a ball far and high. The pitcher, Dylan, immediately figures it’s gone . . .

2874077Out in center field, Scooter Wells knows better. He instantly realizes that the ball is going to stay within the yard. Most important, Scooter figures he’s got a chance to catch it. Somehow he does all that figuring — the mathematics of it, the cool calculus of force and trajectory, distance and wind patterns — by pure instinct. It’s a gift; he knows how to read a ball coming off a bat. To Scooter, center field is like a fire tower in the high peaks of the Adirondacks, an all-seeing observation post, the ideal vantage point to watch as the game unfolds.

< snip >

Now the ill-treated ball, so rudely bashed, travels in a soaring arc toward the right-center field gap. Scooter Wells, part physicist, part Labrador retriever, bolts toward the fence. “It’s mine! It’s mine!” he pointlessly yells, for the ball can be no one else’s. At full gallop, Scooter’s hat flies off his head. He extends his arm and snares Clemente’s bomb in the webbing of his glove.

Inning over.



An aside: I don’t think anybody ever noticed it, but that passage includes a small tribute to the great Willie Mays. The “Say Hey Kid” had a signature habit of losing his hat, or his helmet if he happened to be tearing around the basepaths, whenever he took off on a mad sprint. At least that’s the way I remember it.

Here’s the section from Roth’s book, Portnoy’s Complaint, that caused me to to reread what I had written. For the record, I never read Portnoy until this past week, so I don’t see how I could have borrowed those images even subconsciously:

220px-Portnoy_s_ComplaintDo you know baseball at all? Because center field is like some observation post, a kind of control tower, where you are able to see everything and everyone, to understand what’s happening the instant it happens, not only by the sound of the struck bat, but by the spark of movement that goes through the infielders in the first second that the ball comes flying at them; and once it gets beyond them, “It’s mine,” you call, “it’s mine,” and then after it you go. For in center field, if you can get to it, it is yours.


As a baseball-loving southpaw from Long Island, I never played second base, shortstop, third base, or catcher. Those positions were and still remain strictly in the domain of right-handed ballplayers. So I pitched a lot, played first base, and eventually moved out to the hinter lands, center field, a position — and vantage point — I instantly loved.

What a great view to enjoy the game.

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4. PREACHING TO THE CHOIR ABOUT SCHOOL LIBRARIANS: So We Can All Sing Together, One Voice, Loud & Strong


PHOTO: Tom Gralish.

PHOTO: Tom Gralish.


I’m primarily writing to pass on a link about school libraries. Maybe the article states the obvious. Essential stuff we already know, or certainly sense.  I realize that I’m preaching to the choir here. But what I’ve come to believe in life, and politics, is that it’s important to preach to the choir. That’s how we can all open the hymnal to the same page, how we all sing out together, loud and clear. Not a bunch of scattered voices, but a powerful choir.


Here’s the link to a terrific article by Carol Heinsdorf and Debra Kachel, “School Libraries Are Essential to Learning,” along with a copy of the first few paragraphs. Their immediate focus is on Philadelphia public schools, but this represents a national trend:

In 1991, there were 176 certified librarians in Philadelphia public schools. This year there are 11 and only five are known to be actually doing what they were trained to do. Five librarians for the nation’s eighth-largest school district.

Leaving Philadelphia’s public school libraries without professional staffing is a grave mistake. It will have consequences for the students for the rest of their lives. Study after study shows a clear link between school libraries staffed by certified librarians and student achievement.

In 2012, research showed that students who had school library programs and certified librarians were more likely to have advanced reading and writing scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests. And they were less likely to have “below basic” scores.

The same study found that school library programs have their greatest impact on students who are economically disadvantaged, black, Hispanic, or have disabilities. African American students in schools with certified librarians are twice as likely to earn advanced writing scores as those in schools without librarians.

A Mansfield University paper that looked at studies done in 23 states verified that schools with a trained librarian – someone who teaches students and works with teachers to develop information and research skills – have a consistent positive effect on student achievement regardless of demographic and economic differences among students.

In my professional life, I’ve been fortunate to walk into hundred of schools around the country as a guest author.  Increasingly, I see libraries that are understaffed, and I meet librarians who are tasked to provide full-time services on part-time pay (and hours). On many days, these librarians are simply not in the building. In many schools, the library is increasingly marginalized and treated as non-essential — though, of course, no one on a school board ever admits to that out loud. “We may have cut the job in half,” they will tell anyone who’ll listen, “but it will not effect our children.”

Sorry, folks, but I’m calling bull***t.

This trend is true even in my own supposedly “quality” Bethlehem school district, in a relatively affluent suburb of Albany, NY. Former full-time librarians are now commuting between schools, splitting time and services. It’s a huge problem in New York, since the contract does not mandate a full-time librarian position (as opposed to, say, a P.E. instructor). A library should be the heartbeat of an elementary school. And in great schools, it clearly
serves that central, essential function. The librarian, or Media Specialist (if you prefer),
interacts with every child, in every grade, often across six years of learning. Consider that for a moment, the broad impact of that one person. A librarian works with and supports 640classroom teachers. And in response to this reality, the political leaders in our educational system can only think to fire those people, or force them to split schools, while they increasingly focus on standardized tests, purchasing more technology, saving pennies and wasting dollars.

It’s so maddening, and so wrong-minded, I could scream. And that’s why we preach to the choir. Because maybe if we all scream together, somebody will hear our cry.

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5. “You Can’t You Can Never Be Sure” & Other Thoughts This Morning


I’ve been reading more poetry lately, like returning to an old friend, and this morning want to share two things.

John Berryman.

Poet John Berryman, who died without knowing.


First, from this morning, rereading a poem by W.S. Merwin titled “Berryman.” I’ll give you the last seven lines, you can look up the rest:


I asked how can you ever be sure

that what you write is really

any good at all and he said you can’t


you can’t you can never be sure

you die without knowing

whether anything you wrote was any good

if you have to be sure don’t write


As for me, I hear those words and accept them in my heart as true. Self-doubt seems central to the experience, though it’s nearly impossible to write without wild spasms of self-confidence. It’s why some writers drink, I’m sure, to trick yourself into feeling that way.

You die without knowing, that line, transcends the subject of writing. We can’t ever be sure, but we persist, and we can at times, in fact, think so. We may say, quietly, in bed to our loved one, “I think it’s a good book.” And we might even believe it. But in the next moment, in the silence between our last word and her reply, we can also know that our life has a been a delusion, a failure, and that none of it amounts to much of anything at all, when we had hoped for so much more.

Ah, the writing life.

300px-ErasedfromexistanceI’ve had so many books go out of print over the past two years. Just a staggering number, more than 40 books . . . going, going, gone. It’s the business I’m in, there are all sorts of rational reasons, excuses, palliatives I can apply. But still, it cuts deep. It just does. It feels like that photograph in the movie “Back to the Future.” Marty keeps looking at it, panicked, watching the images slowly disappear.

Maybe that’s what alzheimer’s feels like during brief snatches of clarity. You are helplessly aware that it’s all slipping away, and you can’t even be sure that any of it was real.

If you have to be sure don’t write, Berryman tells us, through Merwin. Such is life. You can’t you can never be sure. What can you do? You write some more, and hopefully it will be good.

Two nights ago I stood up at the head of the table — we were hosting friends and family on Christmas Eve, just a lovely evening — and I said a few words in preamble to a poem I wanted to share, Mary Oliver’s “When Death Comes.”

Which is funny, right? The title got a chuckle. Typical Jimmy, to go dark at a time like this. But the truth about darkness is that it gives us an appreciation of light. Poems purportedly “about” death are really about life. At least, that’s certainly the case here. “I want to say all my life/I was a bride married to amazement.”

I hope you like it.


When Death Comes

When death comes 
like the hungry bear in autumn; 
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut; 
when death comes 
like the measle-pox

when death comes 
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: 
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything 
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood, 
and I look upon time as no more than an idea, 
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common 
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth, 
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something 
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life 
I was a bride married to amazement. 
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder 
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, 
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

–Mary Oliver


Mary Oliver: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

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6. Poetry Competition: 2015 Frost Farm Prize Metrical Poetry Contest

The 2015 Frost Farm Prize Metrical Poetry Contest Open for Entries

The Trustees of the Robert Frost Farm in Derry, NH, and the Hyla Brook Poets invite submissions for their 5th Annual The Frost Farm Prize for metrical poetry. The winner receives $1,000, publication in Evansville Review and an invitation, with honorarium, to read as part of The Hyla Brook Reading Series at the Robert Frost Farm in Derry in the summer of 2015.  

This year’s judge is award-winning poet Joshua Mehigan. Mehigan’s first book, The Optimist, was a finalist for the 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His poems have appeared in many periodicals, including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Poetry, which awarded him its 2013 Levinson Prize. His second book is Accepting the Disaster, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in July 2014.

Last year’s winner was Rob Wright of Philadelphia, PA, for his poem, "Meetings With My Father." 

To see other winners, please visit our website.

Frost Farm Prize Guidelines:

Poems must be original, unpublished and metrical (any metrical form). No translations. There is no limit to the number of poems entered by an individual, but an entry fee of $5 U.S. per poem must accompany the submission (entry fees from outside the United States must be paid in cash or by check drawn on a U.S. bank). You are welcome to submit a poem sequence (a crown of sonnets for example) but each poem will be judged individually -- please send in an entry fee for each poem in the sequence. 

Make checks payable to the "Trustees of the Robert Frost Farm." Please type the author's name, address, phone number and e-mail address on the back of each entry. Each entry will be submitted to the judge anonymously. 


Postmarked by April 1, 2015 

Send entries to:

Robert Crawford
The Frost Farm Prize
280 Candia Rd.
Chester, NH 03036

The results will be posted in May 2015. Winner and honorable mentions (if any) will be notified by email or phone. DO NOT send a SASE for contest results.

To learn more about the Frost Farm Prize or for more information on the Hyla Brook Reading Series, please visit our website or Facebook or Twitter.

About the Frost Farm’s Hyla Brook Poets

The Frost Farm was home to the poet and his family from 1900-1911. Robert W. Crawford and Bill Gleed started The Hyla Brook Poets group in 2008 as a monthly poetry workshop. In March 2009, the monthly Hyla Brook Reading Series launched with readings by emerging poets as well as luminaries such as Maxine Kumin, David Ferry, Linda Pastan, and Sharon Olds.

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7. Ten Amazing Tips on Being an Artist, from Sculptor Teresita Fernandez


“Being an artist is not just about what happens

when you are in the studio. 

The way you live, the people you choose to love

and the way you love them, the way you vote,

the words that come out of your mouth…

will also become the raw material

for the art you make.” — Teresita Fernandez.





A friend passed along a terrific interview with a sculptor whose name I didn’t recognize, Teresita Fernandez. It turns out that she currently has a show at nearby Mass Moca (see video at bottom), so I’m hoping to experience it. (Road trip, anyone?) Credit for the interview goes to Maria Popova at Brain Pickings; just follow the link, like Dorothy’s yellow brick road, and you’ll get there to read it in full: a wise and thoughtful piece.

At the conclusion of the article, Teresita offers a brief list of practical tips for a young artists. I think the general wisdom — and moreso, the warm humanity expressed here — makes it worth reading for absolutely anybody. I love that she does not separate her art from her life, or from any life. It is of a piece, a life’s work entire.

Here’s some examples of Teresita’s truly awesome work, sprinkled throughout.



1) Art requires time — there’s a reason it’s called a studiopractice. Contrary to popular belief, moving to Bushwick, Brooklyn, this summer does not make you an artist. If in order to do this you have to share a space with five roommates and wait on tables, you will probably not make much art. What worked for me was spending five years building a body of work in a city where it was cheapest for me to live, and that allowed me the precious time and space I needed after grad school.

2) Learn to write well and get into the habit of systematically applying for every grant you can find. If you don’t get it, keep applying. I lived from grant money for four years when I first graduated.


3) Nobody reads artist’s statements. Learn to tell an interesting story about your work that people can relate to on a personal level.

4) Not every project will survive. Purge regularly, destroying is intimately connected to creating. This will save you time.

5) Edit privately. As much as I believe in stumbling, I also think nobody else needs to watch you do it.


6) When people say your work is good do two things. First, don’t believe them. Second, ask them, “Why”? If they can convince you of why they think your work is good, accept the compliment. If they can’t convince you (and most people can’t) dismiss it as superficial and recognize that most bad consensus is made by people simply repeating that they “like” something.

7) Don’t ever feel like you have to give anything up in order to be an artist. I had babies and made art and traveled and still have a million things I’d like to do.

8) You don’t need a lot of friends or curators or patrons or a huge following, just a few that really believe in you.


9) Remind yourself to be gracious to everyone, whether they can help you or not. It will draw people to you over and over again and help build trust in professional relationships.

10) And lastly, when other things in life get tough, when you’re going through family troubles, when you’re heartbroken, when you’re frustrated with money problems, focus on your work. It has saved me through every single difficult thing I have ever had to do, like a scaffolding that goes far beyond any traditional notions of a career.


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8. TRANSCRIPTION: “Going Home” by A. Bartlett Giamatti (On Baseball, The Odyssey, and Returning Home)


Many years ago, in 1989 in fact, I enjoyed the memorable experience of attending a public reading at Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York. The program was a special evening in Selected Shorts history, created by Roger Angell and A Bartlett Giamatti, who was soon to assume his duties as Commissioner of Baseball. I still remember the evening vividly, the great selections and talented readers. Years later I tracked down the CD compilation and highly recommend it. Some of my favorite stories from that night include John Updike’s, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” W.P. Kinsella’s “The Thrill of the Grass,” T.C. Boyle’s hilarious “The Hector Quesadilla Story,” and Giamatti’s classic, “The Green Fields of the Mind.”

51gxcjdkowl_sl500_aa300_piaudiblebottomright1373_aa300_I was recently reminded of some musings by Giamatti about the nature of baseball, and specifically how the game relates to the idea — the concept, the notion, the pull — of home. His ideas suddenly seemed vitally important to me, helpful to something I was (and still am) writing. So I found the track in my iTunes Library, listened and listened again while transcribing word for word. Here I offer you that one three-minute preamble — words that struck me, and have stuck with me, for more than 20 years. Now, hopefully, a lasting internet artifact.

Please note that I endeavored to transcribe his words faithfully and accurately. The punctuation is my own, faithful to my own ear and to what I imagine to be, perhaps, Mr. Giamatti’s own predelictions, though I’m sure he would have managed the lineup differently. Any sloppiness to these sentences is entirely, I think, due to context. He was speaking from notes, as I recall, but the expression was primarily oral, not written. Thoughts are not always “complete,” as if were.

A. Bartlett Giamatti, scholar and former Commissioner of Baseball.

A. Bartlett Giamatti, scholar and former Commissioner of Baseball.


“There is no great long poem about baseball. It may be that baseball is itself its own great long poem. This had occurred to me in the course of my wondering why home plate wasn’t called fourth base. And then it came to me: Why not? Meditate on the name for a moment. Home.

Home is an English word virtually impossible to translate into other tongues. No translation catches the associations, the mixture of memory and longing, the sense of security and autonomy, the accessibility, the aroma of inclusiveness, the freedom from wariness, that cling to the word home, that are absent from ‘house’ or even ‘my house.’ Home is a concept, not a place, a state of mind where self-definition starts; it is origins. A mix of time and place and smell and weather wherein one first realizes that one is an original — perhaps like others, especially those one loves, but discreet, distinct, not to be copied. Home is where one first learned to be separate, and it remains in the mind as the place where reunion, if it were ever to occur, would happen.

So of course home drew Odysseus , who then set off again because it isn’t necessary to be in a specific place, in a house or a town, to be one who has gone home. So home is the goal rarely glimpsed, and almost never attained, of all the heroes descended from Odysseus . All literary romance, all Romance Epic, derives from The Odyssey and it is about going home. It is about rejoining, the rejoining of beloved, rejoining of parent to child, the rejoining of land to its rightful owner or rule. Romance is about putting things right after some tragedy has put them asunder. It is about restoration of the right relations among things. And going home is where that restoration occurs because that’s where it matters most.

Baseball is of course entirely about going home. And to that extent, because it is the only game you ever heard of where you want to get back to where you started (all the other games are territorial; you want to get his or her territory), not baseball. Baseball simply wants to get you from here back around to here, and that I think is why baseball is its own long poem, its own endless epic. We’ll come back again to this later. What we’re going to engage in now however is the way in which baseball, while it has never given itself to the literary expression that is as epic as its own unfolding, is clearly, in a game that recommences with every pitch, superbly fitted to the short poem. To the quick burst, for the shot. And we have three distinguished readers and three distinguished poets who have written quite remarkable, both descriptive and analytic, poems about baseball.”

The poems that were read following Giamatti’s introduction were: “Polo Grounds” by Rolfe Humphries, “Pitcher” and “Base Stealer” by Robert Francis, and “Cobb Would Have Caught It” by Robert Fitzgerald.


Robert Fitzgerald, “Cobb Would Have Caught It”

In sunburnt parks where Sundays lie,
Or the wide wastes beyond the cities,
Teams in grey deploy through sunlight.

Talk it up, boys, a little practice.

Coming in stubby and fast, the baseman
Gathers a grounder in fat green grass,
Picks it stinging and clipped as wit
Into the leather: a swinging step
Wings it deadeye down to first.
Smack. Oh, attaboy, attyoldboy.

Catcher reverses his cap, pulls down
Sweaty casque, and squats in the dust:
Pitcher rubs new ball on his pants,
Chewing, puts a jet behind him;
Nods past batter, taking his time.
Batter settles, tugs at his cap:
A spinning ball: step and swing to it,
Caught like a cheek before it ducks
By shivery hickory: socko, baby:
Cleats dig into dust. Outfielder,
On his way, looking over shoulder,
Makes it a triple. A long peg home.

Innings and afternoons. Fly lost in sunset.
Throwing arm gone bad. There’s your old ball game.
Cool reek of the field. Reek of companions.


Also of note: The Poetry Foundation, where I signed up for spectacular email updates,  recently provided a link to a sweet collection of baseball poems. Click here and start running around the bases . . . Lots of good poems there, even some home runs.

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9. Stories Can Conquer Fear




“Stories can conquer fear, you know.

They can make the heart bigger.”

— Ben Okri, Nigerian poet and novelist

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10. Call for Poets: Woman Made Gallery Literary Series

Woman Made Gallery Literary Series

Theme: Boxes
Date: Sunday, August 3, 2014/ 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Place: 685 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago IL

We are seeking work that addresses the theme from any or all ways you can imagine, i.e. Container and contained, categories, black box, Cornell boxes, boxed in, outside the box, gifts and deliveries, Inclusion & Exclusion.

Selections will be made with an eye to assembling a program that represents a diversity of poets, styles, and approaches to the theme.

Selected poets MUST be available to read in person. Please send 4 – 6 poems on the theme ALONG WITH a 50 to 75 word bio, IN THE BODY OF AN E-MAIL to:

 galleryATwomanmadeDOTorg (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

by June 9, 12:01 a.m.. We will make every effort to inform those chosen of our decision by June 30. Although we can't afford to pay readers, this is a great opportunity to sell books and read with other talented people in a very special environment.

Read more about poetry events at Woman Made Gallery here.

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11. Call for Poetry Submissions: Women Made Gallery Literary Series

Theme: Boxes
Date: Sunday, August 3, 2014/ 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Place: 685 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago IL

We are seeking work that addresses the theme from any or all ways you can imagine, i.e. Container and contained, categories, black box, Cornell boxes, boxed in, outside the box, gifts and deliveries, Inclusion & Exclusion.

Selections will be made with an eye to assembling a program that represents a diversity of poets, styles, and approaches to the theme.

Selected poets MUST be available to read in person. Please send 4 – 6 poems on the theme ALONG WITH a 50 to 75 word bio, IN THE BODY OF AN E-MAIL to:

galleryATwomanmadeDOTorg (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

by June 15, 11:59 p.m.. We will make every effort to inform those chosen of our decision by June 30. Although we can't afford to pay readers, this is a great opportunity to sell books and read with other talented people in a very special environment.

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12. Common questions about shared reading time

By Jamie Zibulsky, Anne Cunningham, and Chelsea Schubart

Throughout the process of reading development, it is important to read with your child frequently and to make the experience fun, whether your child is a newborn or thirteen. This may not sound like news to many parents, but the American Academy of Pediatrics is just announcing their new recommendation that parents read with their children daily from infancy on, and it is expected that this announcement will serve as a reminder to many parents and a call for educators and policymakers to help parents who lack the time, resources, and skills to read with their children encourage reading development. We are so excited about this new development because the benefits of shared reading accrue over time and we believe that this announcement will create the energy needed to help many young children become successful, motivated readers.

Although reading together is important at all ages, the specific strategies parents use will change dramatically as their children get older. The strategies parents use will also be dependent upon their children’s interests, temperament, and abilities. There is no one “right” way to read together.

parent reading to children

Figuring out the best way to engage in shared reading with a child while he or she is young gives parents an opportunity to use cuddle time together as a way to also help a child understand a book more deeply, and to simultaneously teach specific reading skills. Perhaps as important, children who have an enthusiastic reader as a role model may stay determined to learn to read, even when facing challenges, rather than becoming easily discouraged. The magic of shared reading comes from this combination of warm, interpersonal experiences, playful and captivating storytelling, and opportunities for learning. This winning combination helps children not only learn to read, but learn to love and value reading.

There are many questions that parents often ask about reading together with their children, and some of those questions are answered below. We hope that thinking through these issues inspires parents to start reading with their children regularly (even if they are already a bit older), and create family reading rituals that last a lifetime!

How can I get my child more engaged in reading time?

If you are having difficulty engaging your child in reading time, try searching for books on topics that she finds interesting (even if those topics are not ones that you find engaging). If your child enjoys looking at comic books, embrace this type of reading, rather than discouraging it. Although it might be surprising to hear, they include much richer language than we encounter in a typical day. Reading any printed material also helps children get comfortable turning pages, and give you the chance to talk with your child about new ideas and vocabulary words.

Many children also respond well to having some freedom and getting to make choices during reading time. You may want to let your child to choose the book you will be reading, whether you are picking books out in the library or off your own bookshelf. You can also let your child select where and when you will read…within reason, of course.

Most importantly, try to make the reading experience enjoyable by focusing on what goes well. Praise your child just for sitting down with you to read, even if she only wants to sit briefly. The next day, try to get her to sit through a few pages of the story and sit a bit longer. Reading time should be a time to relax and bond with your child. If she acts up, simply end reading time, but do so calmly and try again later.

How do I know if my child is actually listening while I am reading to him/her?

Asking questions throughout the story that actively engage your child in the reading process should encourage him to listen more closely while you are reading. If you think your child is not listening as you read, try asking a question or two on each page in order to get your child to interact with the story and actively express himself. If he seems particularly distracted, simply end reading time, but do so calmly and try again later.

How long should I spend trying to explain something to my child if they get frustrated?

Reading time should be a relaxing, bonding experience for both you and your child. Rather than trying to teach many new skills during any one reading session, pick just one idea to focus on each day, whether it is a new vocabulary word or letter to identify. Setting manageable reading goals will help make this time feel fun, rather than stressful, for you both.

If you ask a question about a book that your child is having trouble understanding, respond calmly and either restate your question in a simpler way or give a clue regarding the correct answer. If she seems to be frustrated, move on and return to the concept at another time. Story concepts might become clearer to children with repeated readings of the same story.

What if my child wants to read the same book every night?

Repeated readings of a story actually help children to more deeply understand the plot. In addition, your child will grow more familiar with the story and the words that make it up. You can even try having your child read to you. If he is familiar with the book, he might be able to decode words he would not be able to decode in an unfamiliar context. If your child is not ready to actually read the words on the pages, have him retell the story to you using the pictures and what he recalls from other readings of the story. By asking questions and making comments, you can continue to build his vocabulary and background knowledge, even while reading a familiar story.

Anne E. Cunningham, Ph.D. and Jamie Zibulsky, Ph.D. are the authors of Book Smart: How to Develop and Support Successful, Motivated Readers. Anne Cunningham is Professor of Cognition and Development at University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Education and Jamie Zibulsky is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Learn more at Book Smart Family. Suggestions are adapted Book Smart: How to Develop and Support Successful, Motivated Readers by Anne E. Cunningham and Jamie Zibulsky. Read their previous blog posts.

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13. Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom

I am proud of my friend, Lewis Buzbee, who has written this much-acclaimed book — and it just came out this week. He is a great writer and friend and I can’t wait to read this new one. A book for anyone who has gone to school, or cares about education.

A classic back-to-school book.



“Buzbee’s affectionate account [is] a subtle, sharply etched critique of contemporary public education. . . . Deeply affectionate toward teachers, harshly critical of budget cuts, the book offers an eloquent, important reminder (which in a perfect world would inform policy) about the nature of school.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“A bracing rejoinder to the didactic, data-driven books from policy gurus and social scientists. . . . From the layout of schools to the distinction between ‘middle school’ and ‘junior high school,’ Buzbee spreads engaging prose across the pages, providing both a reminiscence of better days and a considered examination of the assumptions we all make about what does—and does not—constitute a quality education. . . . A welcome book on the importance of education for all.”—Kirkus Book Vault Reviews

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14. Call for Writers and Poets from Connecticut: Praying Mantis Salon


Wonderful opportunity for writers to read their work (10 minutes total each writer) at the second annual Praying Mantis Salon. (The Praying Mantis is the State Insect of Connecticut)  
We are looking for original narrative poetry and short-shorts on any subject in a variety of styles.   
When: November 2, 2014, 5:00 pm. Unitarian Society, mid-state 
Possible small honoraria. 
Contact with samples of work.  Email: 
PrayingmantissalonATgmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

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15. Poetry Competition: The Paumanok Poetry Award

The Paumanok Poetry Award Guidelines

The Visiting Writers Program at Farmingdale State College is pleased to announce the annual competition for The Paumanok Poetry Award.

One First Prize $1500 and expenses for a reading in our 2015 - 2016 series

Two Second Prizes $750 and expenses for a reading in our series

Interested writers should send

a cover letter
a one-paragraph bio
3-5 of their best poems (no more than 10 pages, total)
the required $25 entry fee to:

Margery L. Brown
English Department, Knapp Hall
Farmingdale State College
2350 Broadhollow Road
Farmingdale, New York 11735

Poems may be published or unpublished, and there are no restrictions on style, subject matter, or length of poems submitted: quality is the single criterion. Please note that the writer's name, address, and phone number should be clearly indicated on the cover page. Multiple entries will not be accepted. Entries from previous winners will not be considered.

Make checks payable to: Farmingdale State College, VWP.

Poems will not be returned, but writers who want to know the results of the competition by US mail should enclose a business-size SASE for results (notification by late December). Results are also published on this website.

Deadline: Postmark no later than September 15, 2014.

Please direct any questions or requests for clarification via email to Margery Brown.

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16. One Novel with a Perfect Ending

UnknownI finally got around to reading Sherman Alexie’s bestseller, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. There’s just times in your life when you’ve got to rectify old wrongs, and this was one of them. I had to read that book.

I’d heard that it was a great book from many sources, including some trusted friends. (A curious phrase, by the way, “trusted friends.” As opposed to all those other friends we have, with crappy taste, the friends we can’t possibly trust.)

So I took Alexie’s book out of the library and read it. Now I am a member of the club and say without hesitation: Stop wasting your life and read it already! Today I’m not looking to review a book that’s already been reviewed hundreds of times. My focus is on the book’s final two paragraphs. To me, those six sentences felt exactly right, forming a poignant, understated conclusion.

I don’t think that reproducing it here involves any spoilers, or anything that could diminish your enjoyment of the book, so here goes:

Rowdy and I played one-on-one for hours. We played until dark. We played until the streetlights lit up the court. We played until the bats swooped down at our heads. We played until the moon was huge and golden and perfect in the dark sky.

We didn’t keep score.

I love the repetition of “we played,” repeated four times, the rhythmic, accumulative power of that device, the simplicity of the word choice, the interplay between light and dark, and that great, four-word conclusion. We didn’t keep score. Perfection.

Back four years ago, I wrote a decent post titled “Best Last Lines from Books,” and I think you might enjoy it. So click away, folks. It’s absolutely free.

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17. Reading “Danny the Champion of the World”: And Wonderful It Was

I guess it’s true of most readers. We have these embarrassing gaps in our reading lives, all those books we didn’t get to, the awful holes we hope to one day fill. It’s an impossible task, a job (and a joy) that can never be completed.

To that end, I’m currently reading Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World.

I haven’t finished it yet, and I’m disinclined to offer up a review. But I wanted to share a few thoughts, beginning with this incredible illustration by Quentin Blake.











I keep returning to that page, staring at that picture. Just a few simple lines that capture such depth of feeling. There it all is, being a kid, looking up at a parent with love and wonder while snuggled up warm in bed. Two dots for eyes — two dots! — and yet they seem to express the essence of that relationship. The father registers only as a looming presence without detail, like a great tree in a forest. He is, simply, there. A force of nature and comfort. It’s amazing, I’m stunned by it, in awe of it. So that sums up an important part of today’s blog.

Wow: Quentin Blake.

Then there’s the storytelling of Mr. Dahl, which is a gift I’ll never have. The man tells stories. Whoppers. But here, today, I want to focus on Dahl’s writing style. I admire the clarity and directness. I’m also charmed by the Englishness — the strangeness to my American ears, the weird things they happily eat, the peculiar names of things — where every detail seems just a little other-worldly, even in a fairly straight-ahead, naturalistic novel such as this one. This is the distance of time and place. A different world, yet still familiar.

Here’s the paragraph that went before the illustration above. I keep reading it over and over again. Now I get to type it, feeling like a weekend musician at home with a guitar banging out a Beatles tune, channeling that great artistic beauty through my fingertips (I love typing out great passages from books):

I really loved living in that gypsy caravan. I loved it especially in the evenings when I was tucked up in my bunk and my father was telling stories. The kerosene lamp was turned low, and I could see lumps of wood glowing red-hot in the old stove, and wonderful it was to be lying there snug and warm in my bunk in that little room. Most wonderful of all was the feeling that when I went to sleep, my father would still be there, very close to me, sitting in his chair by the fire, or lying in the bunk above my own.

That paragraph, to me, is absolutely perfect. The writing is direct, specific, concrete (not abstract), interesting (lumps of wood) and for the most part, quite plain. I really loved living in that gypsy caravan. Few would claim that as an example of great writing — except for the obvious fact that, wow, that’s great writing. The absence of flash. An arrow doing its swift work, slicing to the next sentence.

danncover3The only tricky moment in this paragraph, where the language uplifts and surprises us, giving the reader temporary pause, occurs in that more elaborate third sentence, which was perfectly set-up by the direct predicate-verb structure of the previous two sentences. I really loved, and, I loved. Which leads to this: The kerosene lamp was turned low, and I could see lumps of wood glowing red-hot in the old stove, and wonderful it was to by lying there snug and warm in my bunk in that little room.

You heard that, right?

And wonderful it was.

Again, all I’ve got is wow. There’s so much there, the essence of being loved, of feeling secure, of being a child safe from harm, snug and warm. Can writing really do that? It feels like a small miracle. Is this why I love books?

And it all happens on page 7.

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18. Brilliant: B.J. Novak Reads “The Book With No Pictures”

In this bunny eat bunny world, we’ve seen celebrity authors come and go. Mostly come, in droves, especially after Harry Potter put a spotlight on the profit potential of the children’s book biz. Ca-ching.

Everybody’s making millions!

For many of us non-celebrity authors and illustrators, dressed in our dreary clothes, clutching our cold coffee cups, it’s hard not to be a little, urm, disgusted at times. The crappy book by the “star” that gets a ridiculous amount of undeserved attention.

IMG_0369But that’s life, so we deal with it, and try to keep our petty thoughts to ourselves.

However, I hasten to add: not all celebrity books suck. Jamie Lee Curtis wrote some good ones, as I recall. Fred Gwynne — Herman Munster! — made a sincere  effort to create singular children’s books. By that I mean, my sense is that they actually worked on the books, actually respected the idea of a children’s book, and got into it for the “right reasons,” however we might differ in defining what those reasons are. It wasn’t just a way to cash in on something.

Anyway, this fresh, new effort by B.J. Novak is brilliant. Yes, absolutely, he came up with a clever idea. A great idea. But then he pulled it off over the course of an entire book. That’s not at all easy. And it’s beautifully published, too. Great job, all around.

Kids today, they sure do love the meta.

Enjoy this book with no pictures, folks. Go ahead, stomp on that link, surrender to the video. It makes me wish that I had a room full of kids to read this one too.

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19. Post-book Publication Awards: 2015 Devil's Kitchen Reading Awards

The Department of English at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and GRASSROOTS,SIUC's undergraduate literary magazine, are pleased to announce the 2015 Devil's Kitchen Reading Awards.  

One book of poetry (book-length work or single-author collection of poems), one book of fiction (novel, novella, or single-author short fiction collection) and one book of prose nonfiction (literary nonfiction, memoir, or single-author essay collection) will be selected from submissions of single-author titles published in 2014, and the winning authors will receive an honorarium of $1000.00 and will present a public reading and participate in panels at the Devil's Kitchen Fall Literary Festival at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois.   

The dates for the 2015 festival will be October 21-23, 2015. Travel and accommodations will be provided for the three winners. 

Entries may be submitted by either author or publisher, and must include a copy of the book, a cover letter, a brief biography of the author including previous publications, and a $20.00 entry fee made out to "SIUC - Dept. of English." Entrants wishing to submit entry fees electronically should e-mail a request to:

grassrootsmagATgmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

and they will be sent a link to pay by PayPal or credit card.

Entries must be postmarked December 1, 2014 - February 2, 2015. Materials postmarked after February 1 will be returned unopened. Because we cannot guarantee their return, all entries will become the property of the SIUC Department of English. Entrants wishing acknowledgment of receipt of materials must include a self-addressed stamped postcard.

Judges will come from the faculty of SIUC's MFA Program in Creative Writing and the award winners will be selected by the staff of GRASSROOTS. The winners will be notified in May 2015. All entrants will be notified of the results by e-mail in June 2015.

The three awards are open to single-author titles published in 2014 by independent, university, or commercial publishers. The winners must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and must agree to attend and participate in the 2015 Devil's Kitchen Fall Literary Festival (October 21-23, 2015) to receive the award. Entries from vanity presses and self-published books are not eligible. Current students and employees at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and authors published by Southern Illinois University Press are not eligible.

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20. On-line Floricanto for DDLM

Memorial Poetry Reading for James Foley

Among LA's hardest-working poets, Luivette Resto, Iris de Anda, Gloria Enedina Alvarez

La Bloga friend and fútbol poetry contributor, Yago S. Cura, sends news that will have gente circling their calendars to remind of a spectacular reading of Los Angeles poets. Here's Yago's email:


On Sunday, November 23, from 2-4 PM the La Palabra reading series will host a reading for American Journalist, James Foley, at Avenue 50 Studios (131 N Avenue 50, Los Angeles, CA 90042 / (323) 258-1435) in Highland Park.

The reading hopes to celebrate Foley's work as a combat journalist, fiction writer, and English teacher. The event will also serve as an opportunity for people to donate to the James Foley Legacy fund and the James Foley Scholarship  at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

Please come celebrate his legacy with some of L.A.'s hardest-working poets: Dennis Cruz, S.A. Griffin, Billy Burgos, Annette Cruz, Millicent Accardi, Matt Sedillo, Luivette Resto, Angel Garcia, Ashake M. Jackson, oConney Williams, Ryan Nance, Rebecca Gonzalez, Gloria E Alvarez, Daniel Sosa, Iris De Anda, Karineh Mahdessian, and William Gonzalez

On-line Floricanto for Día de los Muertos

"If I Could Weigh My Memory" by John Martinez
"Baile" By Jose Faus
"Two Dia De Los Muertos Tales" By Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"Ancestor Dreaming" by Christine Costello
"A beautiful day in the neighborhood" by Sharon Elliott
"Holyhand" By Jolaoso Pretty Thunder
“My Own Louie” By Paul Aponte
"Tinta roja"/"Red Ink" Por Sonia Gutiérrez
"Altar en el desierto / Altar in the Desert" by Francisco X. Alarcón

If I Could Weigh My Memory
by John Martinez

If I could weigh my memory
Like a sack of something,
It would have the weight
Of my loving dead

My Uncle in an empty church,
Red carpet beneath
Pressed soles

My mother holding her arm
Like a wounded baby

My brother, opening
Another door to a lesson,
Still seated in the center
Of his room
Where loss and imagination
Are riddled about
And the exhale of the dying,
Is distant and furling
Through trees

If I could weigh my memory,
On the scale,
Like a gunny sacks of chili's
And beer hands reaching,
And burning sun
Scorching our skin
Browner than brown,
I would weigh it with a smile

Because the weight
Of my  memory,
Summons a sum paid

And so I walk away
With the grin of a child,
Walk into a perfect landscape,
With my reward secure
In my dusty pockets

(c) John Martinez 2014
All Rights Reserved

john Martinez has published poetry in several journals, including, LA WEEKLY, EL TECOLOTE, Red Trapeze and this will be his 17th poem published in LA BLOGA. Martinez studied creative writing in the early 80's at Fresno State University under, the now, U.S., Poet Laureate, Phillip Levine and has attended seminars with several established American poets. For the last 30 years he has worked as an Administrator for a Los Angeles Law Firm and has recently complete his long awaited Manuscript of 60 poems entitled PLACES, which will be published by IZOTE Press.

by Jose Faus

She came to my door last night
like so many times before
At first I do not see her
hiding in the bushes
Turning back into the living room
her bony legs trip me
and I land on the floor

I love it when that happens
She laughs and heads for the altar
helping herself
to the ofrendas on the shelf
Hey what gives señorita
You know these are for the souls
that will come tomorrow night
Do you really think I am a señorita
She smiles coyly
the blush coloring her bleached bones
Of course my lovely

And for the umpteenth time
since we first met
I lead her to the table
and serve her tamals
baked in banana leaves
a tall glass of avena
with a hint of cinnamon
On the stove
arroz con pollo
spiced with cloves and
littered with green olives

I pour her a cup of vino de casa
and in the dim light we reminisce
Tio Jaime and tu primo Sancho
send their regrets
Emerita tu abuelita
cries over her Cuco
Give me a picture to take to her
Then she takes her finger
and slowly strokes my beard
and with the hollow of her eyes
looks deep into my heart

You know someday
I will come for you

Don’t think of work tonight my dear
I reach behind her on the table
and grab the long stem rose
She puts it in her mouth
and stands apace
I push the player to shuffle
and in a tight embrace we sway
to boleros and tangos
the rattle of her bones
an eerie metronome
I ply her with vino
until she is tipsy in my arms
Any moment she will fall asleep
and then suddenly she glides
awkwardly across the floor
stops and holds the rose
on the tips of her weary bones

These advances are so nice
to feel and be what I was once
but it is futile to resist
someday I will come for you
and what will have been
the point of this

Nada chica nada
But you can’t blame me for trying
Besides how many can claim
to have danced
with such a lovely death
cheek to cheek
in a tight embrace
Alma de mi vida
you can really shake and bake

José Faus is a founding member of the Latino Writers Collective and Writers Place board president. He is a 2012 Rocket Grant recipient for the community project VOX NARRO. His writing appears in the anthologies; Primera Pagina: Poetry From the Latino Heartland, Cuentos del Centro: Stories From the Latino Heartland, Raritan, Whirlybird Anthology, Luces y Sombras and I-70 Review. He is the 2011 winner of Poets & Writers Maureen Egen Writers Exchange award.

Two Dia De Los Muertos Tales
by Odilia Galván Rodríguez

La Calaca's
bones rattle
make sounds
como when los músicos
play la marimba
Calaca dances
down the hall
looking for people
to mesmerize
with its fancy jiggly steps
it dances street and wise
La Calaca wants to steal
anyone’s last sweet breath
and twirl them dazed
into its bony arms
of death

ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ

La Llorona they say
drowned her children
because their father left her and
she lost the love of her life
but others say it was because
she could no longer provide
on a single mother campesina’s wages

didn’t know how to care for them on so little
that was not the life she had envisioned
she despaired for her children’s future and
went crazy from so much worry
about how to pay for care for them
while she was at work   or sometimes even
where their next meal would come from

one night after crying and crying and
ravaged with so much guilt and fear
she decided it was better
to return them to the water
so they’d swim happily back
to that calm calm place
where all life begins

Odilia Galván Rodríguez, eco-poet, writer, editor, and activist, is the author of four volumes of poetry, her latest, Red Earth Calling: ~cantos for the 21st Century~. She’s worked as an editor for Matrix Women's News Magazine, Community Mural's Magazine, and most recently at Tricontinental Magazine in Havana, Cuba. She facilitates creative writing workshops nationally and is a moderator of Poets Responding to SB 1070, and Love and Prayers for Fukushima, both Facebook pages dedicated to bringing attention to social justice issues that affect the lives and wellbeing of many people. Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies, and literary journals on and offline.

Ancestor Dreaming
by Christine Costello

(Idle meandering thoughts of an insomniac)

Eyelids flutter as my curtains blow to the same beat
Flutter whoosh whoosh
Window open like a restless mind
The wind seeks sleep
perhaps a dream
Flutter snap wind
A dream awaits
A shadow passes by in the hall
A spirit conjured by the wind paces back and forth
Waiting for the sound of tires on a wet street
dripping with a hope of rain.

Insomnia holds me captive
under the weight of a dream
waiting to be released to a sleeping mind
Ancestor I hear your whispers
Ancestor I feel your strength
sleep doesn't live here anymore
Only a deep flutter of a restless night

Sweet slumber
I beg you to quick grab the key
The key
It opens to the dream
Please open
Wrong key
Missing is the slumber
the evasive sleep I crave
Is there a key
I can't remember

Born and raised in San Francisco Christine Costello is a 6th generation San Franciscan who grew up in the Mission District. She was the recipient of the Benny Bufano Art Scholarship and attended the San Francisco Art Academy majoring in Fine Art. She has been keeping illustrated journals for 40 years. Christine still resides in the City's Duboce Triangle neighborhood. Christine was a union labor activist for many years, working for various unions after being inspired by the farm workers movement, For the last 14 years she served as Business Agent for Theatrical Stage Employees Union Local B18, Christine volunteered her services for many years as the event planner for Instituto Laboral de la Raza’s annual fund raiser.  An early retirement  due to a disability has once again spurred her writing, journaling and illustration. She is a priest of Yemaya practicing the Lucumi traditions as well as an espiritista.

A beautiful day in the neighborhood
by Sharon Elliott

copper calavera
above blue seas
grey sand

a white flower
coffee cup
at the inlet

drives a car
strewn with branches

leaves are
woven into noise
grate against
too full of sound

of unknown origin
calls to children
playing in the street
they shout at each other
without answering her

wings gifted to
the calavera
stop her tortuous flight
allow her
to settle on a skylight
blocks away
knock three times
dissolve through it
fluff her bony
over a purple pillow
drink a lighted candle
blow wax through her ears
smile toothily
at humans
choosing to ignore her

she decides to stay

Copyright © 2014 Sharon Elliott. All Rights Reserved.

Sharon Elliott was born and raised in Seattle and lives in Oakland. Four years in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua and Ecuador laid the foundation for her activism in multicultural women’s issues. Her book, Jaguar Unfinished was published in 2012. She was an awardee of the Best Poem of 2012, The Day of Little Comfort, by La Bloga On-Line Floricanto; and has been featured in poetry readings in the Bay Area. She is an initiated Lukumi priest of Scot/Sámi/African Carribbean ancestry; ally to people of color and to the earth.

By Jolaoso Pretty Thunder

I am saying datura grows in colonies
on abandoned roads on the hips of the interstate
I do don't remember what she says
lost several hours, days even
ghost rattle
I am saying the dumb sky above looked down
on my galvanized roof, my castle
and two bucks locked antlers
In front of the house
03:00 am
dragging each other 150 feet
I call the dream helper by name
It's that time again
mist captured
The women of my clan tossed the family name into the pit
I too burn the bridges
My vision can change with the invisible borders that
I see, then cross
Yet further
I push it, reach the edges, some kind of darkness that brightens
Don’t look in the skeleton closet
you will find me there
The town dump, ocean, ravine, last stand of redwoods
I am the rubbish of the compound
Being eaten by the village chickens
I shapeshift into the sailor, a crossroads
Then the common wife, the storm flower, perfect whore, your queen
I am on the porch tethered to a cinderblock that lays in the crabgrass
This is exile self chosen
I nap in the sun
Drawing it out with a stick in the dirt
I am the green hoop around the sun
on far away days
I see you in your manner
I speak in your Way
Dressing the house in tea and cakes
Spirit plates left for the dead
I know the songs for war, love, invisibility and undoing the sorcery
I tie knots in the rhythm
I say outright you have abandoned your own self
I say to you, those matching dishes and pillows are your spirit, malnourished
That formal garden, the same
I speak that I fear my own black magic and what I can do
what I have already done
I say I know these trees and which way to glance to accomplish it all
Blood in the hollow
This is what I am saying
This is the language I speak

Jolaoso Pretty Thunder is an initiated Apetebi and Orisa priestess of Oya in the Lukumi tradition. She lives in the woods of Northern California with her two dogs Rosie Farstar and Ilumina Holydog. She is a certified practitioner and student of herbal medicine (Western, Vedic, TMC and Lukumi) and  is an ordained minister of First Nations Church. She is a well traveled poet and  loves southern rock, porch swings, pickup trucks, cooking, camp fires, lightning, steak, long drives, hot cups of coffee, gathering and making medicine and singing with her  friends and family.

My Own Louie
by Paul Aponte

Andábamos en su ranfla
down Capitol Avenue.
You know, Capitol Avenue en SanJo.

Way Before some güey
decided to express it
by demolishing cantones
and turning it all
into a cesspool
of boiling concrete & cars.

Andábamos en su ranfla
down Capitol Avenue.
El Louie was driving Dad's
46 Plymouth Coupe
From Story Rd
down Capitol Avenue
approaching el Payless.
with the huge drive-in type parking lot
where jainas and vatos hung out at night,
listened to "Angel Baby" and "Hanky Panky".
but right now it was daytime,
and two of his buddies
con su ranfla chingona
came up right next to his window.
With lip-bobbing cigarette he said:
"Ey, Louie you got a match!"
"Órale.  Hold on.
Poly, drive the car.
Just grab the steering wheel!
El Louie sat on the window sil
paper matches in hand
lit up three together to make sure,
lit the vatos trola,
and sat down
before the carrucha
about the 8 year old steering it.
He gave me a couple of looks
and on the 2nd gave me his signature laugh:
He drove me to Mark's Hot Dogs,
the place with the juiciest,
crispiest and most delicious dogs,
making me feel welcome again.
My summer vacation from el Defe,
starting off pretty well.
He'd been there, himself.
Got a tough guy reputation
in a place filled with the toughest.
Constantly came back to our Tlatelolco apartment
beat up for taking on too many at once.
I imagine they called him el Tlate-loco.
So the uncles had to send him back to SanJo.

I never saw any meanness.
I only saw crazy funny,
or quiet, wistful, pensive Louie.
Though, most times he was out and about.
Even so, I do have some memories.
Like that hot summer night
when he was stuck at home for some reason.
He gave me a note, and instructions:
"All you have to do is knock on the window.
When Sylvia opens it, tell her Louie sends this.
Now, go!"
I knock, and Sylvia opens the window
immediately grabs the note without asking
and tells me to wait.
She comes back out with her thick eye-liner,
and puffy hair with the flipped out ends
and straight cut bangs barely above her brows.
she gives me another note to give to Louie.
Then I become a ping-pong ball on the
table of grounded teenagers.
I know at some point it stopped,
but I actually don't remember that moment.
I think the ghost of me or parallel universe me
is still out there doing it.

He was definitely the ladies man,
and even though he was tall & studly,
with light skin & light blue eyes,
he liked them gorditas, prietitas y bien Chicanas.
Le gustaba la guitarra just like Dad,
and he impressed the ladies just like Dad.
The summer was over.
Back en el Defe things began boiling.
Just like everywhere around the world and the U.S.
1968 came around - a horrific year.
The beginning of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.
Labor strikes and riots in Poland, France & Italy.
Race riots throughout the U.S.
President Johnson refused to run for re-election.
Martin Luther King - assassinated.
Bobby Kennedy - assassinated.
Student riots in Mexico City.
Estudiantes contra granaderos.
In Tlatelolco where I lived -- many students were murdered.
and in 1968 ...
Mi carnal Louie died.  He was 18.
He died March 30th, 1968.
The newspaper said he drowned in Coyote lake.
Maybe he drowned in sorrow
after his good friend
committed suicide.
Maybe he abused his body
and just couldn't come back out.
Maybe, as they say, he was involved with gangs
and was killed when he chose to lead a different gang,
beaten up and thrown in the water
at a supposed "going away" party.
Don't want to know.
Years after:
My sister's daughter was born ... on March 30th.
My son was born ... on March 30th.
There is a supernatural feeling about that.
I think it was 1970
cuando me retaché a mi dulce hogar
for the summer.
I remember getting a high fever, almost delirious.
In the depths of my illness
I actually felt myself feeling like I might die.
Casi estiraba el teni.
Then I had a dream.
I was in the middle of the main road
in a typical western town of the old wild west
a strange town, unknown to me
deserted dirt streets
rolling tumbleweeds.
I realized I was going to be in a gun fight.
The other guy showed up at a long distance
on this main town road
in a hero's style cowboy outfit
with a red scarf blowing in the wind
I knew it wasn't my town
I knew this man meant business
and I had no business being there.
His arms slightly out, hands wide open by the holsters.
Then I saw it was Louie.
His message was “this town, his town, ain't big enough for the both of us”.
After I recuperated from my fever,
and was playing outside on a windy day,
I thought I heard in the wind, his signature laugh.

Paul Aponte is a Chicano poet born in San Jose, California USA, and now a proud citizen of Sacramento.   Paul, was a member of the performance poetry group "Poetas Of The Obsidian Tongue" in the 90's, and now is a member of "Escritores del Nuevo Sol". He is the author of the book of poetry "Expression Obsession" published in 1999, and has been published in "La Bloga" and in the book "Un Canto De Amor A Gabriel Garcia Márquez" which was put together by Alfred Asis from the country of Chile to honor Gabriel Garcia Márquez with poems from around the world with 31 countries represented. Through his many poems in English, Spanish, and Spanglish he conveys a connection to his culture that transcends the material.  He does this while retaining a voice that is very clearly his own, one which he commands with sincerity and a truthful, even wise sense of humor, and of self. Facebook website.

por Betty Sánchez

Se ha esparcido la noticia
Usted no lo va a creer
Graciela Brauer Ramírez
Ya ha dejado de ser

Con el Creador hizo un trato
De llegar a los sesenta
Pero al llegar a esa edad
Se fue a comprar indulgencias
Y rebasó los ochenta

Se murió placidamente
Esbozando una sonrisa
Logró lo que tenia en mente
Cruzó esta vida sin prisa

En vida fue muy activa
Practicaba el Tai Chi
Tenia otras perspectivas
Eso apenas descubrí

Tres maestrías completó
Se la pasaba leyendo
Sus memorias registró
Como le hizo no lo entiendo

La muerte llegó en carreta
A recoger sus huesitos
Vio dormida a la poeta
Y se robó sus escritos

El sol de los escritores
Se ha eclipsado de momento
Muy tristes le llevan flores
Perderla es el peor tormento

Los ángeles y el chamuco
Por su alma se pelean
Han armado un emboruco
Uno y otro forcejean

Ni pa’ ti ni para mi
Dijo el demonio enfadado
Esto ya lo decidí
Echémonos un volado

La parca que no es paciente
Les arrebató a su cliente
Se fue directo a los cielos
Para evitar mas recelos

En la puerta la esperaban
Con maracas y tambores
José Montoya y Phil Goldvarg
Para hacerle los honores

Tremenda pachanga armaron
Que les costó el paraíso
Al infierno los mandaron
Para volverlos sumisos

En la tierra los mortales
Añoran a su poetisa
De vez en cuando hay señales
Que nos visita la occisa

En México se aparece
Por la calle Bucareli
Ahí transcurrió su infancia
Sus recuerdos no perecen

Alguien asegura verla
En las aulas de Sac State
Acaso eso nos sorprende
Si por veinticinco años
Su enseñanza aun trasciende

El averno esta de gala
Se organiza un floricanto
La calaca se acicala
Luciendo su mejor manto
Graciela es la invitada
Que a todos deleitará
Con su épica chicana

Si una grulla ven volando
No es una pájaro cualquiera
Es ella que esta extrañando
Sus hijos nietos y amigos
Los árboles y los ríos
de ésta su amada ciudad
Que aun sigue visitando

Adiós viejecita linda
En mi corazón te llevo
Con respeto se te brinda
Ésta plegaria que elevo.

Con todo mi cariño y admiración para mi querida Graciela B. Ramírez
28 de Septiembre de 2014

foto:Andres Alvarez
Betty Sánchez, miembro activo del grupo literario, Escritores del Nuevo Sol desde  Marzo del 2003.

He colaborado en eventos poéticos tales como el Festival Flor y Canto, Colectivo Verso Activo, Noche de Voces Xicanas, Honrando a Facundo Cabral, y Poesía Revuelta.

Ha sido un privilegio contribuir en la página Poetas Respondiendo al SB 1070, Zine 10 Mujeres de Maíz y en La Bloga.

Tinta roja
por Sonia Gutiérrez

“Si tú mueres primero, yo te prometo . . .”
—Julio Jaramillo, “Nuestro juramento”

Hace unos minutos
vino mi Lola.
Estuvo aquí.
Sentí su presencia
como un zarape
cálido sobre mi cuerpo,
y sus colores
como rayos de luz
llenaron mi corazón.

En el cuarto junto
a mi alcoba,
donde nuestros cuerpos
florecían y perfumaban
las noches, ella misma
encendió la música
con su llanto.

Me visitó mi Lola
para que juntos
la guitarra,
las palabras,
y los gemidos
de nuestra canción.
Y entonces las paredes
y los santos recordaron
nuestros besos, nuestras caricias.

Estoy contento.
Estuvo aquí mi Lola;
cumplimos nuestra promesa,
y Ay como le agradezco
su visita para que ella vea
que tomé la pluma roja
y recordé
nuestro juramento.

Red Ink
by Sonia Gutiérrez

“Si tú mueres primero, yo te prometo . . .”
—Julio Jaramillo, “Nuestro juramento”

A few minutes ago,
my Lola came.
She was here.
I felt her presence
like a warm
zarape over my body,
and its colors
likes rays of light
filled my heart.

In the room next
to my bedroom,
where our bodies
flowered and perfumed
the nights, she herself
turned on the music
with her cry.

My Lola visited me,
so together
we could listen
to the guitar,
the words,
and the moaning
of our song.
And then the walls
and the saints remembered
our kisses, our caresses.

I am happy.
My Lola was here;
we kept our promise,
and Oh how much I appreciate
her visit, so she could see
that I took the red pen,
and remembered
our oath.

Translation by Sonia Gutiérrez

Sonia Gutiérrez is a poet professor, who promotes social justice and human dignity. She teaches English Composition and Critical Thinking and Writing at Palomar College. La Bloga is home to her Poets Responding SB 1070 poems, including “Best Poems 2011” and “Best Poems 2012.” Sonia recently joined the moderators of Poets Responding to SB 1070.

Her vignettes have appeared in AlternaCtive PublicaCtions, Storyacious, and Huizache. Her bilingual poetry collection, Spider Woman/La Mujer Araña, is her debut publication. Kissing Dreams from a Distance, a manuscript written in the Tomás Rivera and Sandra Cisneros literary tradition, is under editorial review. “Tinta roja” first appeared in Tijuana poética #7 / octubre 2014.

Altar en el desierto / Altar In the Desert
by Francisco X. Alarcón

foto:Javier Pinzón

foto:Javier Pinzón

Francisco X. Alarcón, award-winning Chicano poet and educator, was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, and now lives in Davis, where he teaches at the University of California. He is the author of thirteen volumes of poetry, including Borderless Butterflies / Mariposas sin fronteras (Poetic Matrix Press 2014), Ce • Uno • One: Poems for the New Sun (Swan Scythe Press, 2010), From the Other Side of Night / Del otro lado de la noche: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press, 2002), Sonnets to Madness and Other Misfortunes (Creative Arts Book Company, 2001), Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books, 1992), Of Dark Love (Moving Parts Press, 2001). He is the author of six acclaimed books of bilingual poems for children on the seasons of the year originally published by Children’s Book Press, now an imprint of Lee & Low Books. He has received numerous literary awards and prizes for his works, like including the American Book Award, the Pen Oakland Josephine Miles Award, the PEN Oakland – Josephine Miles Award, the Chicano Literary Prize, the Fred Cody Lifetime Achievement Award, the Jane Adams Honor Book Award, and several Pura Belpré Honor Book Awards by the American Library Association. He is the creator of the Facebook page “Poets Responding to SB 1070.”

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21. Call for Poets: Woman Made Gallery Literary Series

Call for Poetry: Woman Made Gallery Literary Series
Theme: DOCUMENTATION: For The Record
Date: Sunday, February 1, 2015, 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.

Place: 685 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago IL

We are seeking work that addresses all aspects of the theme:

A document provides evidence, or serves as an official record that something happened or simply exists. We are looking for Poems as Documentation or Documentary. Poems in the form of documents: How-to manuals, FAQs. transcripts of imagined interviews, policy documents, inventories, legal or constitutional documents, etc. Poems about the transciber or documentarist are also of interest. Let’s see what you can come up with.

Please send 4 – 6 poems on the theme ALONG WITH a 50 to 75 word bio, IN THE BODY OF AN E-MAIL to: 

galleryATwomanmadeDOTorg (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

by December 22, 12:01 a.m.. We will make every effort to inform those chosen of our decision by January 20. Although we can't afford to pay readers, this is a great opportunity to sell books and read with other talented people in a very special environment.

Selections will be made with an eye to assembling a program that represents a diversity of poets, styles, and approaches to the theme.

Selected poets MUST be available to read in person. 

Read more about poetry events at Woman Made Gallery here.

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22. Writing Competition: Love on the Road Toophilia Writing Contest

Enter the LOTR Topophilia writing contest by Dec. 24 to win €60, €25, or €15 and have your story performed at #touristwalkDublin.

There's no entry fee. Just send us 400-500 words (fiction or nonfiction) focused on love for a place -- any place in the world -- to:
topohilia13ATgmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to .)

The winners will be chosen by our panel of judges: Irish writer Ruth Gilligan, Liberties Press publisher Seán O'Keeffe, the Tourist Walk team, and the Love on the Road 2013 team.

The winning stories will be published online and performed at the MART gallery in Dublin's Rathmines neighborhood on the evening of 3 January, 2014 as part of #touristwalkDublin, an event organized by Tourist Walk, a cross-discipline art project that seeks to explore and celebrate the unique character of location through live music.

The three winners can attend #touristwalkDublin and do live readings of their winning submissions, email audio recordings of their submissions to be played at #touristwalkDublin, or ask one of us to read their submissions for them at the big event.

The authors of the winning stories will get: First Prize: €60 and a signed Tourist Walk poster; Second Prize: €25 and a copy of the just-released anthology of stories about love and travel, Love on the Road 2013; Third Prize: €15.

For details, visit our website. For more information on #touristwalkDublin, go here. For more information on Love on the Road 2013, visit this site. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at:

topohilia13ATgmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to .)

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23. What NOT to do at a Book Festival or Writers Conference

The spring book festival season is underway. As a public service, here is a list of bad behavior I've observed and/or had to contend with.

Panel Moderator: 

  1. Wait to contact panelists till two days before the event—or not at all. 
  2. Be unfamiliar with panelists’ work: Not read author’s book (at least the first few chapters and website); not know who the literary agent represents; not know titles the editor has worked on. 
  3. Have no agenda for the panel, or a vague one, e.g., “I will read brief introductions, and each of you should speak for 12-15 minutes. Then we will take a few questions.” 
  4. Let panelists talk for so long that there’s no time for audience Q&A. (This happened with the panel in #3.) 
  5. Talk a lot about yourself or read from your own book. Your job is to help the panelists shine. If they look brilliant, so will you. 

  1. Cancel at the last minute because you just realized that the finances won’t work for you. Or cancel due to “family reasons”—but keep the plane ticket the organizers paid for. 
  2. Author: Leave book at home, or not have a reading figured out—and practiced!—beforehand. Agent/editor: Leave business cards at home. 
  3. Read for 15 minutes when you’re asked to read for five. 
  4. Monopolize the conversation and/or interrupt other panelists. 
  5. Belittle the moderator (“If you’d read my book…"), other panelists (“I can’t believe you’d say such a stupid thing!”) or audience members (“If you’d been listening, you wouldn’t need to ask that question.”) 
  1. Leave your cellphone ringer on. 
  2. Give copies of your manuscript or self-published book to panelists. 
  3. Pitch your book during Q&A session. 
  4. Ask self-serving questions instead of general ones. (“Why didn’t you answer the query I sent you six months ago?” vs. “What should a writer do if an agent hasn’t responded to their query after six months?”) 
  5. Engage a panelist in lengthy conversation afterwards, when there’s a line of people waiting behind you. 
  I'll be at VaBook Festival next week. Now go forth and be good!

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24. A Perfect Passage from THE ROUND HOUSE by Louise Erdrich

No offense to any librarians out there, but I prefer to own books, not borrow them. I realize there’s a financial downside to my predilection, but what can I say? It feels good to support the industry, the book stores, the publishers, the authors themselves. If I can manage it, I don’t mind spending the money on books.

For starters, I like having them around, living in my rooms. Books make great furniture and, in a way, furnaces: they warm homes.

Secondly, I usually read with a pen in my hand. I underline passages, write comments, exclamation points, stars, notes and complaints. It is the dying art of marginalia, a direct reader-response. I can’t do that with library books, and Post-It Notes simply do not satisfy.

I’ve been on nice reading streak lately — have picked out some good ones. I just finished THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir. Fabulously entertaining, and a celebration of science and the intelligence of man. A geek-hero who survives through his attitude, his determination, and his brilliant mind.

Before that, I read THE ROUND HOUSE by Louise Erdrich. I loved it, every word. What a great writer. Seamless sentences, never a crack showing, and such human insight. A writer with soul. But I’ve got a problem and you can probably guess it: I borrowed the book from my local library and it’s past due.

I’ve been reluctant to return it, to drop it into the slot and hear the dull thunk as it hits the bin. Gone, gone, gone. My book no more.

One first-world problem is that I’ve been rereading, almost daily, the book’s perfect last paragraph. Over and over I return to it, stunned and speechless. That penultimate sentence, especially. What a beautiful evocation of lost innocence, the crossing over into something harder, more brutal and cold, adulthood and loss, “when we all realized we were old.”

I really didn’t want to let the book go, and maybe I’ll buy a copy for myself one day. In the meantime, I’ll type out that last paragraph here, so I’ll have it safely tucked away in the white, high-ceilinged halls of cyberspace. I don’t think there’s any spoilers revealed, it’s not that kind of book. A 13-year-old boy and his parents return home after a long drive.

Quick aside: I don’t play a musical instrument, but I love music. One of the things I’ve always envied about musicians is that they can play all these great songs, have those enduring melodies and fat riffs run through the fingers as they channel greatness.

That’s how I feel typing this passage from Louise Erdrich. Like I’m playing the guitar part from “And Your Bird Can Sing.”

How I wish that I could write as simply, as beautifully.

- - - - -

IN ALL THOSE miles, in all those hours, in all that air rushing by and sky coming at us, blending into the next horizon, then the one after that, in all that time there was nothing to be said. I cannot remember speaking and I cannot remember my mother or my father speaking. I knew that they knew everything. The sentence was to endure. Nobody shed tears and there was no anger. My mother or my father drove, gripping the wheel with neutral concentration. I don’t remember that they even looked at me or I at them after the shock of that first moment when we all realized we were old. I do remember, though, the familiar side of the roadside cafe just before we would cross the reservation line. On every one of my childhood trips that place was always a stop for ice cream, coffee and a newspaper, pie. It was always what my father called the last leg of the journey. But we did not stop this time. We passed over in a sweep of sorrow that would persist into our small forever. We just kept going.

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25. A Children’s Book That Left a Lasting Impression

I was recently contacted by a journalist for a national newspaper who wanted me to name a book I read as a child that left a lasting impression.

That’s a tough question for me, because I sense that my answer is never exactly what the questioner is seeking. I don’t have a poignant story about Charlotte’s Web or Harriet the Spy, that glorious day when I suddenly knew that reading was for me, and forever. I can’t describe in loving detail the book I encountered as a fresh-faced welp. (Though I do recall loving Splish, Splash, and Splush.)

Nonetheless I did somehow grow up to become an author, and therefore my answer is, I guess, legitimate. It’s the only story I’ve got.

Here’s how I replied, limited to 150 words:

Born in 1961, I have no memory of my parents reading to me. That’s not a complaint, by the way. I grew up surrounded by six older siblings and they were (mostly) all readers. I guess I got the message by sheer proximity. As a baseball-mad boy in a world without ESPN, I devoured the sports pages in the daily newspaper. Those were the first writers I desperately needed. By age 13, I encountered Kurt Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions.” It was funny and easy to read. There was no YA back then, my generation naturally graduated to Steinbeck, Bradbury, Brautigan, Vonnegut, Plath, whomever. “Breakfast” blew me away. Here was something as devilish as the kid in the back row, irreverent, rebellious, hilarious, wild. In a word, subversive. In those pages I first recognized the possibility that a book could be supremely cool. Thanks, Kurt.

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