writing

Brontosaurus

In honor of my short story Brontosaurus getting selected for a print anthology, here is a photo of my dog dressed as a dinosaur. Happy Halloween!

bronto buddy

Read Brontosaurus in Jersey Devil Press.

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Intrinsick Mag

Launching November 1, 2015 – Intrinsick Magflowchart

INTRINSICK MAG’s goal is to publish one memorable story per week beginning sometime in November 2015, or whenever we can collect enough quality submissions to ensure our unpredictable standards of quality can be upheld.  Our style is humorous, quirky, unusual, unbecoming, uncomfortable, or, best case scenario, a misguided hybrid of all these. Genre is not important, so long as the story is amusing and unforgettable.  Fiction or creative nonfiction, 2000 words or less. Check www.intrinsick.com for guidelines and more info.

More Info – Intrinsick Mag dot Com

Lost in Translation

For Valentine’s Day this year my wife gave me a book titled Lost In Translation, by Ella Frances Sanders. It is an illustrated book of untranslatable words from around the world. It really is a thought provoking and beautiful book. You can find out more about this book by clicking HERE.

My wife told me that she thought each word could probably be its own story. So I decided to try to write a story for each word. I am going to try to publish one story per week, based on one untranslatable word taken from this book.

Finally, something worth writing about. Lost in Translation.

The Impermanence of Memory

“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”

― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore (via goodreads)

 

Back before the Fall

Back before the Fall

On a recent trip to the doctor my mom and sister were driving home and were stopped at a red light. Plastered on the bumper of the car in front of them was a bumper sticker declaring, Joy Comes From Within.

What do you think about that, Mom? Joy comes from within.”

I can almost hear the annoyed sigh my mom must have made. “Joy come from within, huh? Well, let me know when it comes out.”

This has become an inside joke amongst us as we battle for meaning in the face of my mom’s Alzheimer’s. We will remind ourselves that joy comes from within as we laugh in the face of the depression we feel. These are the memories I will hold on to. I don’t want to remember the tears, the confusion, the sad pleas for help. I want to remember the joy that comes from within.

I have accepted the fact that my mother is dying slowly, not unlike my father. Her path will be different, but the destination will be the same. In my father’s case his body went before the brain, while my mother’s descent will proceed in the opposite order, her mental state deteriorating until the body fails. I often wonder as I watch the Deer Hill Dinner Theatre which is preferable, to lose control of one’s mind or one’s body. When I struggled through those years watching my father battle his own body after his accident, many of his favorite things in life taken from him as a C-4 quadriplegic, I could imagine no greater tragedy than being confined to a wheelchair. But having seen my mother’s sad dive into dementia, I realize that there are so many important parts of life that stay unappreciated. How many people give thanks for the ability to walk, the ability to feed themselves, the ability to remember yesterday? How many people truly understand the significance such simple actions?

Seeing the people you love suffer is not easy, but the shock is somehow eased through the process of acceptance. In the case of Alzheimer’s, what is perhaps saddest is that my mother herself will never be able to reach this final plateau of the grief hierarchy, that she will never be able to embrace her condition and comprehend the trajectory. Not only is she unaware that she has a disease which will eventually destroy the part of her brain that controls the autonomic function of her internal organs, but she has no idea that she is even sick. Another cruel trick of fate. She still calls the disease old-timers, and considers her memory only slightly hindered. Sometimes she has a moment of lucidity and realizes that something is wrong with her, but cannot understand the implication of the reasons before the moment fades away. My father was well aware of the fate that eventually awaited him, and I’d like to think he was able to accept it and move on. I often wonder if that gave him closure.

Closure is another ambiguous term that gets thrown about when people discuss grief and loss. Is it coincidence that the fifth and final step of the standard lesson format most teachers learn in their training programs is called closure? Closure provides summary and context. Closure deepens understanding through scaffolding and connections with preexisting knowledge. Closure creates a bridge between what happened today and what will happen tomorrow. Closure is supposed to be the part where the other portions of the lesson introduced earlier come into focus, leading to deeper meaning and understanding. Closure is when everything gets wrapped up in a neat little package that students can take with them. It is considered the most important part of the lesson, and is also the hardest part to get right. Unfortunately not all lessons can be so easily wrapped up with a bow. Some lessons are open ended and ambiguous. Some lessons remain ongoing and aren’t ready to be closed. I felt that if I transcribed all these memories and saw them on paper, that meaningful closure would come to me. I am still searching for it. I know it must be here somewhere.

From all this I am reminded above all that I have lots to be thankful for, but in the tumult of daily life it is easy lose sight of this fact. It usually takes tragedy to remind us of these things we should be thankful for, which ironically is a tragedy in itself. Must we really have something taken away from us before we can appreciate it? Is it that absence makes the heart grow fonder, or can we never truly see that which is right in front of us? Are we destined to lament and covet what is missing rather than exalt and celebrate the amazing abilities and relationships we still possess?

These memories of my father and mother are the memories that have shaped me, and I hold on to these memories tight, afraid to let them go. Some even argue that our memories make us, that without our memories we would not be the same person. I’m not ready to tackle this debate, in truth. But in order to prevent forgetting I will continue to write them all down, everything that makes sense and especially everything that doesn’t. I will read it over and over and try to reach an understanding of what it means. Hopefully the act of writing it all down will prevent me from forgetting. Somewhere in this act I will find closure.

Understanding now that the persistence of memory is never guaranteed, I don’t want to lose these memories, no matter how painful, because if we don’t have our memories, what is left?


 

Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Memoir Madness

I had been working on this piece to publish this Wednesday, but decided to publish a little early for the Weekly Writing Challenge.

What do you think? Any feedback, advice, or constructive criticism is always welcome.

Floraphilia

flora (ˈflôrə) noun; the plants of a particular region, habitat, or geological period

phile: (combining form) denoting fondness, esp. an abnormal love for a specified thing.

I live in California. I grow plants and take photos. I run a school garden and teach Science. I am a floraphile.


 

Screen shot 2014-07-13 at 10.08.18 AMThis is the tagline for my Tumblr, which is where I post about my adventures as a plant fanatic. It started from a New Year’s resolution in 2012, and this Tumblr essentially jumpstarted my floundering creative potential. It started out with me just sharing other people’s photos of plants, and then I soon began taking my own photos. Then I got a better camera and started taking better photos. I tried to capture the photographic evidence of the beauty I witnessed in my own garden. I wanted that sense of calm and serenity I feel in the garden to be delivered through my photographs. Not sure if I can succeed in this, but I keep trying.

Just the act of creating my own content soon led to other things. Soon the writing began. Then a workshop, an online course, a novel in progress, a slew of potentially mediocre short stories. Then this wordpress blog happened because I needed somewhere to put all these extra words. Frankly, the wordy posts I had been composing about my plants hadn’t exactly proved popular on Tumblr, and every time I posted a short story at least ten people immediately unfollowed me. I have a sneaking suspicion that many Tumblr users refuse to read anything longer than fifty words, but I’ll be damned if they don’t like a pretty picture of a succulent. So now, I’ll just have to subject the blogoshpere of wordpress to all my rants, raves, and unfortunate literary transgressions. I apologize in advance.

This is a collection of some of the photos from my garden that I posted this week.

Originally posted on flora-file.tumblr.com

The Book Hoarder

I’ll admit it–I am a borderline hoarder. I keep things I know I probably won’t need, thinking that in some convoluted wrinkle of fate it will come in handy during a future crisis. In truth, I’m afraid the ironic tendency of the universe will cause me to need any item I  dispose of, most likely moments after the recycling truck takes it away forever. Some items have travelled with me through numerous moves, and though I don’t need it currently, I just might someday, and then who will be laughing?

But books are different. Back during my impressionable twenty somethings I used to love to go to used book stores and peruse the shelves for esoteric and thought provoking books that I didn’t necessarily want to read, but I wanted people to think I read. Sometimes I actually attempted to sit down and read the books, but for some reason or another never finished. I usually read just the introductions or maybe the first chapter so I could sound like I knew what the book was about, in case anyone asked. I wanted to seem all philosophical and well read without actually putting the time in to read. My problem is I am a pretty slow reader and I have ADD. Sometimes I read so slow that I get distracted in the middle of the sentence and have to start over. I can’t read fast enough to keep my own attention.

I bought the books because I was always told that writers must read a metric ton to find inspiration and to learn the craft. I was also told that if you want to be a writer then you should buy books written by other people to support the business. I liked to imagine what my own book would look like on the shelves. At one point I had milk crates full of these used literature and philosophy books that I schlepped around with me so I could put them on my bookshelves and look at them. I have sold and donated boxes of my books in recent years, but not all of them. Some I have held onto. Some I still hold the illusion that I will sit down and read someday, which is why I haven’t gotten rid of them yet. I was curious what books I hadn’t sold, so I went into the garage and looked.

So without further adieu, here are twelve plus one of the outrageous, audacious, and courageous books I found hoarded away in my garage. I will include a jacket blurb, and just what in the hell I was thinking when I bought it in the first place. (more…)

The Power of the Deadline

As a writer, one thing I need to stay productive is a deadline. The common meaning of deadline is a measure of the latest time a given project can be completed. Another less known meaning of deadline is an imaginary line drawn around a prison beyond which prisoners are likely to be shot. As a writer I find both types of deadline the most inspirational cattle prods available to force my words out into the world. I like to set my timer and draw a line around my computer. I ask my wife to shoot me if I venture past the line but apparently we don’t own a gun. Instead she shoots me with her evil eye, and I sit my ass back down and get back to work.

At first I was very good about posting things without a deadline, but now that summer vacation has begun I have lost all motivation to keep up with life. Not just writing, but all aspects of daily living. I can barely get out of bed in the morning to make coffee and use the bathroom, let alone sit at a keyboard and coordinate letters into the sequences necessary to impart meaning. I usually have to do some serious research just to figure out what day of the week it is. I have been quite busy writing, but I’m currently working on much longer pieces (a never-ending 90 page essay, a novel, my manifesto) that don’t really fit into this short form blog format. But I want to change this.

So in order to keep a consistent flow of words emanating from my keyboard I will be following this self imposed schedule of postings to keep myself moving forward. There may be additional posts if the muse slaps me with her lugubrious smooches of inspiration, but no guarantees. Please keep a look out for my posts, and feel free to shoot me should I wander past any of these deadlines.

  • Monday =====> some manner of fictional story
  • Wednesday ===>  rants and existential crises
  • Friday =======> DP weekly writing challenge  (or other writing exercise)
  • Sunday =======> DP weekly photo challenge (or other visual proof of the universe)

I love deadlines (by vapour trail on Flickr)