Monday, April 21, 2014

Blog Tour Monday

I've been invited to take part in "Blog Tour Monday" by author and host of The Liz McMullen Show, Liz McMullen. I'm tagging two amazingly talented authors: You Might Curse Before You Bless author and recent Psychopomp contest winner Allie Marini Batts and poet Kristin Berkey-Abbott (Whistling Past the Graveyard; I Stand Here Shredding Documents). Next Monday, they will answer these questions on THEIR websites or blogs, and each nominate two other authors.

Here's my "Blog Tour."

What am I working on?

At the moment, I'm working on a poem for an upcoming anthology and a novel about Louisa May Alcott.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

My work varies from dark fairy tales ("The Sea Stone," Wilde Magazine, Spring 2013) to creative nonfiction such as 2013's "Cancerland"which was nominated by the amazing Lunch Ticket Magazine for the Best of the Net Award and the Pushcart Prize. I really enjoy writing time travel stories or essays on spirituality or health. I have a lot of variety in my work, and I'm proud of my ability to step outside the box.

Why do I write what I do?

Because I love it. I write the stories that I wanted to read when I was kid: women who are at the center of unique, historical situations, women who have to suddenly find their voice in strange, sometimes magical, places. Different times fascinate me as did the women who lived in them. Right now, I'm all over the American Civil War and early American homesteaders.

How does my writing process work?
I am the kind of writer who is always working on something, but I work best when I have the freedom to switch back and forth between projects. I use a journal to clear my head at the end of the day and if I don't write at least every few days, I get "clogged up." I'm a sucker for period journals or research books with a lot of emphasis on people's everyday lives. I like being reminded that every feeling has been felt before, and someone somewhere has (hopefully) kept a journal about it. Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing is one of my all-time favorite books on writing, as is anything by Anne Lamott. In some way, I'm always working.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pushcart Prize Nomination for "Cancerland"!

Last month, I got some very exciting news that "Cancerland" was nominated by the amazing staff at Lunch Ticket Magazine for the Pushcart Prize for Nonfiction! When I found out, I began to cry instantly. "Cancerland" is one of the most personal pieces I have ever written, and to have it nominated for such a prestigious award truly knocked me to my knees. Literally. I sat on the floor of my living room, reading the letter over and over again.

The Pushcart Prize is one of America's most prestigious literary awards. Winners include some of America's most popular and talented writers, including Joyce Carol Oates, Raymond Carver, Junot Diaz, and Tim O' Brian. The Pushcart Prize series has been called "a distinguished annual literary event" by The New York Times.

To read work by the talented authors with whom I share the nomination, please visit Lunch Ticket's main page or google "Pushcart Prize nominations" to learn more.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Second Edition Book Shop: A Clean Well-Lighted a New Space

Award-Winning Second Edition Book Shop in a New Space!

I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of bookstores. From the heaven that is Portland's Powell's City of Books to San Francisco's sprawling Green Apple Books, one of the biggest delights of travel is exploring new bookstores. The dreams of readers are expansive - never limited to time and space. 

But in order to visit my favorite bookstore, I never have to travel far. Second Edition Book Shop in my home of South Florida has had my heart for the last decade. During my stint writing travel articles for the green bed and breakfast, I wrote about Second Edition Book Shop so frequently that my editors politely asked me if I couldn't find something else to write about.

Ok, ok, so I'm a fangirl of Second Edition Book Shop. But I'm not the only one who loves SEBS. The little green bookstore that could won the 2013 Local 10 Best of South Florida Award for Best Bookstore and it also won Best Bookstore for the South Florida New Times. 

"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"...

One of the things I've always loved about SEBS is how clean and well-maintained it is. It used to be that the term "secondhand" bookstore conjured up images of dusty, moth eaten, heat-bleached books in an overcrowded space. Second Edition is the antithesis of that image: a clean, cozy, well-maintained "dream of a bookstore" with gleaming wooden floors, cozy nooks to read in, and well-stocked and organized shelves of thousands of books - approximately 70,000 at last count. 

....In a New Space

Second Edition Book Shop owner (and my buddy), Danielle Joy Whatley has just moved the store from the well-loved space in Lincoln Park Plaza on Stirling Road to The Shops at Stirling Place. The new Second Edition has been given a cozier, more spacious face lift while still retaining all of its small-town, intimate charm.  The hard wooden floor gleams, and the owl (the icon of SEBS) is tucked around the store - on throw pillows, in shelves, and on signs. The store is larger, with a touch of elegance thanks to carefully selected antiques and new furnishings. (Check out the awesome floral chandelier that dominates the entryway.) 

Where Everybody Knows Your Name (and What You Read!)

I got lost among the readers. The store was bustling this morning: kids and their moms, small business owners, and entire families came out to browse the books and take home their favorites. Every now and again I'd hear a woman laugh to herself as she found a book she'd been searching for. Kids stood on chairs to reach their favorites, shouting "Mom! Look what I found!" A clown painted the kids' faces and Danielle greeted old and new friends, hugged readers, and rang up customers. 

Debby's Chair 

Debby's Chair (Bottom Left) Has a New Home at SEBS

But this morning, I wasn't just looking for books; I was looking for my chair. 

When my mother Debby passed away from cancer in 2007, I couldn't bring myself to part with her quirky, animal print, oversized armchair right away. I held onto it for six years, remembering how mom used to curl up in it and read, or sit in it to have a mother-daughter conversation with me. But, I knew in my heart that the time had come to find it a new home. And so over the summer, I provided Danielle with mom's animal print chair. It's a little weird, but comfortable, just like my mom was. 

And when I found the chair this morning in the supernatural/romance section, I got a little misty-eyed even as I grinned to myself. Mom was a fan of all things unexplained and romantic and I know wherever she is, that she approves of the section.

Like "Cheers" For the Bibliophile

Second Edition is like "Cheers" for the bibliophile: where owner Danielle remembers your name and what you read. It's a connection point, not only for readers, but also for small businesses and new people waiting to become old friends. 

When I was a kid, I remember watching old movies where the people of a small town would gather for a smoke or a chat on the front steps of the General Store. They'd sit there for hours, chatting about their families. The men might argue over politics and the women might trade recipes (or vice versa). SEBS offers South Florida that same sense of community. In the old store, it wasn't  unusual to see a few  SEBS "regulars" sitting in the leather bound armchairs by the cash register, chatting about books, what they just read, what I should avoid, and how proud they were of their kids or grand kids. I imagine the same thing will happen at the new store. 

Store Info

Second Edition Book Shop 
is located at 6831 Stirling Road, Davie, FL, 33314. Please visit them on Facebook or call 954-961-5063 for more info.

Monday, August 5, 2013


"Cancerland" is being nominated for Sundress Publications' "Best of the Net Award"!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm beyond excited and honored. Today, I got the official notice from Lunch Ticket Magazine that my nonfiction piece "Cancerland" is being nominated for the prestigious "Best of the Net" Award. 

A special, special thanks to fellow writer Allie Marini Batts (You Might Curse Before You Bless) and the talented, generous, and clever staff of Lunch Ticket Magazine.

Thank you for the nomination, LT Magazine!

Thanks for reading and supporting! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Writing, Alternative Fairy Tales, and Gender Roles on The Liz McMullen Show

On Sunday June 9, I was on The Liz McMullen Show. Liz  interviewed me about my short stories and work. We  chatted about my work with Stonewall National Museum, my latest short stories, my radio stories for Facets of the Heart, and much more.

If you click through to my page on The Liz McMullen Show, you'll get two FREE stories

The Liz McMullen Show is an original talk show where Liz interviews authors on anything from their body of work to current events. The atmosphere is relaxed and inviting, very much like a conversation in a cozy living room. Click here to learn more about The Liz McMullen Show 

The stories we talked about include:

***  "The Sea Stone" - AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE AT WILDE MAGAZINE - One of my all time favorites,  "The Sea Stone" is another of my alternative fairy tales. We'd like to believe that love can make everything better, can paste over problems in a relationship, can transform all of us, and sometimes it can. But sometimes we want what may not be possible. Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid ventured into the unknown for love, and in the original fairy tale, we learn that "each step was like a knife cutting into her flesh," but so great is her determination to find her prince, that she keeps going, even at the sake of her own new and tender feet. The mermaid creature in "The Sea Stone" is made of similar stuff: she's willing to get on an airplane and wipe ocean water from her legs if it means seeing her farmer, but she knows in her heart that the journey may be too great for her. Love challenges us and shows ourselves to ourselves. It's the best and most perfect mirror we have. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT "THE SEA  STONE," PLEASE GO HERE.

*** "Awake" - SOON TO BE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE AT SUBTEXT QUEER ARTS MAGAZINE - Another of my alternative fairy tales, "Awake" is Sleeping Beauty...with a very modern twist. TO READ MORE ABOUT "AWAKE," PLEASE GO HERE.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cancerland, published in Lunch Ticket Magazine

In June, the superb online magazine of Antioch University's MFA program, LunchTicket, published a very special and honestly, gut wrenching piece. It's taken seven years to even get the concept down and once again, I returned to the subject of cancer, caregiving, and how it forms a world all of its own.

Thank you to all the people who wrote me to tell me how this piece touched them and a special thanks to the awesome and kind team of LT who helped with the editing process. And thank you Allie Marini Batts (You Might Curse Before You Bless) writer extraordinaire, who never stopped encouraging me and once knitted me a blanket to keep me warm through cancerland.

Please go read, and click "like" at the bottom of LunchTicket's page.


Fact: My hands are too short to reach mom’s cancer.
How Cancer Changed Me: My logic is the safest thing I have. I write lists about logic. I make everything neat and ordered. There is a careful, measured safety in lists. I can see how far they stretch. Nothing sneaks up on me. I love a good list. To read the rest of Cancerland, please click here.

Til next time and thanks for reading!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Reasons Why the Little House Books Are Still a Must Read for Kids (and Adults!)

"Are We There Yet?" They Seemed To Say....

When I was nine, mom got me the entire collection of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House Books. Most of you who came of age in the 1970s and 1980s probably had the same collection: all nine books were housed in a thick yellow box. The spines were yellow too. That shade of yellow hardwired me to think of Little House. Although the collection later got a colorful update some years later, I was never able to see that specific color of canary yellow without thinking of Laura, Mary, Pa and Ma, and the rest of the Little House gang.

Lesson 323 of Childhood: YELLOW MEANS LITTLE HOUSE. (Ignore Bambi.)

One of the things I did to celebrate my poem "Caregiver Burnout" being published in The Cancer Poetry Project 2 that was reviewed favorably in The New York Times was to buy some goodies for myself. Among the purchased goodies was a leather bound Barnes and Noble copy of the first five Little House books: Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy (did anyone ever read Farmer Boy?), On the Banks of Plum Creek, and On the Shores of Silver Lake.

The First Five Books. (Did anyone read Farmer Boy?)

But why on God's creation should kids still read Wilder's Little House books? Isn't it enough that they are reading Twilight and The Hunger Games and love stories about what teens do when they fall in love with werewolves? Well, I'm always a fan of anything that gets kids reading - and books about post apocalyptic games and star crossed human/vamp/were romances have their place in the world. But here are a few reasons why the Little House books are still a must read.

1) A Time Without Facebook

Yep, Mary and Laura lived without Facebook and Twitter (although someone made her a hilarious Twitter feed). In fact, they lived without electricity and a big Ingalls evening consisted of Pa's fiddle tunes, maybe some popcorn balls, and the knowledge that they'd survived Scarlet Fever/hunger/blight for another 24 hour period. Seriously, these books are like paperback Valium - although as the books continue, things get darker.  (See #3.)

2) Details, Details or "Demonic Grasshoppers!"

We all remember the wonderful descriptions in Little House, don't we? That was half the fun of Little House - Little House in the Big Woods' "sugar snow" that Ma made for Christmas by dipping a pan into snow and then making designs with maple sugar? The fantastic scene when Laura gets back at Prairie Bad Girl Nellie Olson by tricking her into playing in a leech filled pond? Or what about the are-you-fricking-kidding me creepy-as-hell grasshopper destruction scenes from On the Banks of Plum Creek? (Raise your hand if you remember the scene when a grasshopper plague - really Rocky Mountain Locusts, according to Wiki - wipes out the entire Minnesota prairie and then thousands of them walk over Laura's house on the way out. Yeah. Not ok.)

Here There Be Creepy Locusts

3) Wait...Did You Say "Demonic Grasshoppers"?

Yes, yes, I did. That would be book four - aka On the Banks of Plum Creek (seen above). The Ingalls family has finally settled in Plum Creek, Minnesota. They lived in a cozy, little dugout for a while and then they moved to a freshly built house. The little "sweet shepherdess" of Ma's is finally back on the mantelpiece, which, as avid Little House readers know, always indicates that everyone is happy and cozy and settled.

And no sooner has Pa planted a crop that would have made them hundreds of 19th century dollars richer.......... enter these guys. Thousands, if not millions of them.

"Laura and Mary, find your Bibles! Let's exorcise the prairie!"

I won't lie to you. When I reread this scene last week, for the first time since I was a kid, I was seriously ready to stockpile Raid cans. I mean, picture this for a moment, ok?

You're cozied down with your sister Mary and listening to Pa's gentle fiddle music. Baby Carrie is snoozing in Ma's arms. All is right in the prairie. And then you here a rushing of ...wings? Ma says something like "Land's sake, Charles! What is that?" Then everyone runs around shutting precious glass windows and sh*ting bricks because you look out the window and, rather than see and hear the roar and thunder of Plum Creek, you hear the buzzing of thousands of wings and you see THIS.

Ignore the building in the distance. Focus on the thousands of locusts.
(And Katness Everdeen thought she had problems.)

I mean, forget Voldemort and the Cullen Family and District 12. That is creepy.

Alison Arngrim (Nellie Olson) is a comedian, child advocate, and author of this fantastic book.

4) Nellie Olson: Little B*tch on the Prairie

Nellie Olson is synonymous with Prairie evil. She's not as bad as the locust swam, but she's close. And thanks to Alison Arngrim's infamous portrayal of the tween/teen blonde Mean Girl, it's impossible to read the Little House books without picturing Arngrim's sneering face. The books and the first few episodes of the classic Little House/Michael Landon show dovetail, so when you watch Arngrim snarl "Country girls!" at Mary (Melissa Anderson) and Laura (Melissa Gilbert) in Season One's "Country Girls" episode, you will never be able to picture the pint-sized villain as anyone but Arngrim.

However, credit where credit is due. Our beloved "half-pint" Melissa Gibert grew up to star in tv movies with titles Shattered Trust and Against Her Will (although she did resurface to star as "Ma" in the musical version of Little House) Alison Arngrim grew into a cancer-fighting badass who is now a stand up comedian, children's advocate, AIDS activist, and author of the hilarious and heartbreaking Confessions of a Prairie Bitch. Confessions tells of Arngrim's life on Little House and also of the shocking abuse suffered at the hands of her brother. It is not often that I read a celeb bio that's anything above fair to middling.  But this was amazing and her tongue in cheek humor mixed with her life's sorrows read like Augusten Burroughs On the Prairie. A must read.

Wilder Life author Wendy McClure Understands Why Yellow Means Little House!

5) The Wilder Life

I'm not the only person who was obsessed with Little House as a kid. Neither are you. Go ahead and pick up a copy of The Wilder Life, a woman's exploration of her Little House obsession. (She understands the YELLOW MEANS LITTLE HOUSE thing too.) Fantastic and funny - another must read. Pick it up when you pick up copies of Little House for your kids. I won't tell they're really for you.