Category Archives: Literary World

When Gravity Departs, the World Scoffs

Happy almost Fourth of July! Fireworks, barbecue, family and friends… all in celebration of the birth of a nation!

I thought I’d share a writing piece based on the concept of something strange happening. Something that by all accounts shouldn’t be possible. This piece was a writing assignment I completed in graduate school, and it was challenging for me, because I’m so used to writing fantasy and futuristic science fiction. I couldn’t just jump into automatically suspending my disbelief. It’s a short piece, and I hope you enjoy the characterization.

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Without Gravity

At nine AM, Lena Delani sauntered past my cubicle. Her four-inch fireball red heels clip-clopped against the cream linoleum, while her multi-colored python satchel bag swished against her side. She entered Mr. Durham’s office. The glass door sealed shut silently behind her. He was on the phone, his back to the wall of glass separating him from the multitude of cubicles making up the refurbished warehouse turned office space.

Lena flung her bag onto the high-backed button tufted chair in the corner of the room and pounced on Mr. Durham’s back. Her arms wrapped around his neck and she kissed him. Her lips left a smear of red on his cheek.

Mr. Durham started, but when he saw it was Lena, he dropped the phone, twisted around, and grabbed her fully in his arms. He swung her around in a circle. Her heels cracked against the dark cherry desk. A chip of wood flew through the air, smacked into the wall of glass, and then thwacked onto the floor. Mr. Durham’s striped shirt slipped free of his belt and a thin layer of pudge wobbled.

“You’re staring again,” my coworker Annette said. Her head appeared over the lip of her cubicle. Bits of frizzy hair stuck up in all directions. The bun she’d tied her hair into had failed.

A sliver of blueberry was lodged between her two front teeth.

“No, I’m not.” I jabbed the keys on my keyboard. There was nothing on my computer screen, but the clacking of my fingers against the keys continued.

“He’s not going to leave her. Look at her.”

I didn’t.

Annette continued, “She’s got those legs and that hair and that skirt. And those boobs.”

My arm itched. My fingers slammed into the keys. Mr. Durham cared about more than looks. His first wife had been short and fat. His second wife had freckles, like me.

Lena was a break from his previous marriages. She was twenty-one, a model, if you called posing in a clothing catalog and a tattoo removal commercial modeling, and wore skirts that showed off her butt cheeks. Her butt cheeks didn’t sway as she walked. Nothing but her hips and hair swayed.

“Did you hear about that crazy story on the radio?” Annette asked.

I stopped typing. Lena’s fingernails were manicured. Her toenails were too, except they were painted either red or pink or sparkly. Mine were bare and one of them was breaking. If Lena were rated, she’d be a dime. A perfect ten. Me? I hit the delete button on my keyboard.

At Helly Marketing there was no need to be a dime. Forty some cubicles and a few floor-to-ceiling windows that showcased the employee parking lot, arriving at work in the dark, leaving work in the dark, people dressed more for comfort than looks.

And then Lena Delani strode in and morphed us all into pale, wrinkled wraiths.

“The radio? Mary, are you listening?”

Lena laughed, high-pitched and loud. Any louder and the wall of glass would rattle.

“What about the radio?” I asked.

“Some guy said he saw this homeless man float away.” Annette shoved her arm toward the ceiling. “One minute he was standing and the next he rose off the ground and into the air.”

“Lucky him.”

“Lucky? He floated away, and more his head caved in on one side.”

I tapped the Rosie the Riveter Bobblehead on my desk. Rosie squeaked as her head wobbled. “The story’s a hoax. The radio was trying to drum up ratings for their show. You know how it is.”

Annette worked for Helly Marketing for two years before I was hired. When I came in for the interview, Mr. Durham had been there. He wore a dark blue suit and shiny black dress shoes. No pudge, but that was seven years ago. I was still in the same cubicle as when I was hired.

Annette dropped her arm to her cubicle wall. “Maybe, but another radio show I listened to talked about a woman who witnessed two kids up and float away.”

If Lena floated away, her legs wouldn’t be wrapped around Mr. Durham’s waist. Her fingers wouldn’t be clawing at his hair. Her skirt wouldn’t be riding up. If she flew off into the sky, her hair would knot. She’d lose her four-inch heels. Her legs wouldn’t be so great then.

“I did some surfing and found more stories, all over the world. It’s not just people. Bits of ocean and fish. Trees. No one is paying attention, but something’s going on.”

I flicked Rosie harder. She toppled over. Her head clanked against my desk. “People don’t float away.”

Lena’s legs tightened around Mr. Durham’s waist. A stack of papers clattered to the floor. The glass orb Mr. Durham’s daughter made for him, when her sixth grade class went on a field trip to a glassblowing factory last year, teetered on the corner of his desk.

“I’m telling you, there’s something wrong with gravity.”

–The assignment wasn’t to write an entire story, but maybe one day I’ll use this within a larger context…or perhaps it’ll remain as it was originally intended: a writing exercise.

Have a wonderful holiday tomorrow!

(Photo courtesy of Guillaume Delebarre.)

 

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The High Stakes of First Sentences

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You probably already know that a story’s first line is of upmost importance. Not only does it set the tone and expectations for the rest of the novel, but the first line also introduces tension and hints at bigger things to come. Your story’s first line introduces readers to your world, and if readers don’t like what they read, they may not go to the next sentence.

That’s a lot of pressure for one line!

The best way to learn how to write phenomenal first sentences is to read a lot of first lines.

Here are some great examples:

“I tell Mama I waitress in the Village so she don’t have to cut me out of her heart.”

–Kiran Kaur Saini, “A Girl Like Elsie”

“In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.”

–Norman Maclean, “A River Runs Through It”

“In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits.”

–John Updike, “A & P”

“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”

–Hunter Thompson, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”

“There are cavemen in the hedges again.”

–Stacey Richter, “The Cavemen in the Hedges”

The trick with first sentences is to start with the stakes high and then keep moving up. Grab readers from the get go and then don’t let them go!

What are some great first sentences you know of?

(Photo courtesy of Keith Williams.)

“The Serpent King” Book Review

The Serpent KingEvery high school has those kids that don’t fit in. In The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, three teens from Forrestville, a small Tennessee town named after the founder of the Klu Klux Klan, are bound together as misfits and as best friends. Lydia comes from loving and prosperous parents; she’s got a popular fashion blog and is on her way to college in New York City. Travis escapes his father’s drunken beatings in the fantasy world of knights and noble quests. Dillard Early Jr. can’t escape his name: his snake-handling, poison-drinking preacher father was incarcerated for child porn and his grandfather went around wearing snakeskins and killing every snake he could.

Written in third person, this novel alternates among the three characters. The story covers the characters senior year of high school and is filled with poverty in the rural South, enduring friendship, heartbreak, clinging to faith at all costs, fear of the unknown, and learning the courage it takes to survive and to thrive.

While it took me several chapters to get sucked into the story, I ended staying up way too late to finish the novel. The book covers the harsh reality so many outsiders have to live in. And while parts of the novel did showcase that this was a debut, it’s a phenomenal coming-of-age story about hope and courage, of salvation and betterment, of surviving and flourishing when life seems too bleak to continue.

(Photo courtesy of myself.)

“Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight” Book Review

Health at Every Size“Health at Every Size” (HAES) by Linda Bacon, PhD is not a diet book. It’s the philosophy that showcases how well-being and healthy habits are more vital than any number on a scale. HAES’ basic tenets are to:

  • Accept your size. Grow to love and appreciate your body. It’s the only one you’ve got. Self-acceptance empowers you to make positive life changes.
  • Trust yourself. Your body intuitively knows how to keep itself healthy. The problem is that society has taught you to ignore your body’s natural internal regulation systems. Relearn to trust your body’s natural signals of hunger, fullness, and appetite.
  • Adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Find purpose and meaning in your life. Often you’re eating to fulfill some social, emotional, or spiritual needs, instead of for hunger.
  • Embrace size diversity. Humans didn’t evolve to be one size fits all. We come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Recognize your unique attractiveness.

This book is a must read for anyone who’s ever wished to be thinner. One of this novel’s strengths is how it’s split into two parts. The first half of the book deals with research showing why the traditional diet fails and how society has warped body image and ideals, and research on how the HAES method has been more successful than traditional dieting. The second half of the novel deals with the specifics of the HAES method, and gives you resources to change your life.

Many aspects of this novel are empowering. The research provided a solid argument against dieting, especially focusing on calorie restriction, by showing that dieting doesn’t produce lasting results, the false notion that if you’re overweight you lack control, and demonstrated how the food, pharmaceutical, and dieting industry have manipulated peoples’ senses of hunger and satiety for profit.

Despite all that, I had trouble believing Bacon’s argument that “fat does not cause any of our leading chronic diseases, except for some cancers, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis.” While there are overweight and obese people who are healthy, many are not. Bacon doesn’t discuss the ways that obesity can lead to disability. She spends all her time focusing on body acceptance—which is a concept I completely support—and seemingly being a fat activist. I don’t understand why encouraging people to fight obesity, in order to prevent disability, and fighting discrimination about overweight people has to be mutually exclusive.

It’s important to love yourself and your body, to listen to your signals of hunger, to eat fulfilling and healthy foods—limiting processed foods, to have meaning in your life, to realize that much of society’s war on obesity is sponsored by companies that profit from peoples’ fear of fat, to take measurements like the BMI scale with a grain of salt, and to not discriminate against overweight people. I’m just struggling to convince myself that there should be utter fat acceptance. (If you’re not familiar with the FA movement, check out the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance’s website.)

This book’s notion that your weight shouldn’t keep you from enjoying your life is why I recommend you give it a try.

(Photo courtesy of myself.)

Easy and Simple Aren’t the Same for Motivation

Recently someone asked me how she could motivate herself more. That’s not a rare question. Many people ask themselves how they can be more motivated to lose weight, run faster, eat better, get that job promotion, finish a novel… I’ve asked myself countless times how I can be better motivated.8078194256_db53b66f8d_k

Lately, something I’ve struggled with is going through beta reader feedback and editing. I keep finding other things to do. I realize that I’m making excuses, but even though I acknowledge this, I can’t bring myself to focus on editing.

That’s unusual for me, so when someone asked me how to improve motivation, I thought about what I’d want to hear. Better yet, what words would work to motivate me?

I’ve never been the type to seek out motivational quotes. More often than not, I roll my eyes at inspirational sayings. They seem cheesy and hollow. They don’t resonate, and when something doesn’t resonate, how can it inspire?

I started searching for the right way to answer the question of motivation. How could I inspire this person?

There wasn’t a correct answer. Each solution was personal. I couldn’t give that individual what she wanted. Because I could talk and talk and talk to her about inspiration and do anything and everything I could to motivate her, but the bottom was that she had to find what worked for her.

All I could tell her was the words that inspired me:

“When you get into a tight space and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

— Harriet Beecher Stowe

Life isn’t usually easy, but think of the things you’re proudest of. Were they easy accomplishments? Or did you struggle and persevere?

Was the effort worth it?

(Photo courtesy of Luke Kondor.)

Frozen in Silk: A Trip Down Poetry Lane

I’m trying something different today. Something that I haven’t dabbled much in. Something that, when I’ve attempted it, has thoroughly kicked my butt. I’m posting a poem I wrote.

Yikes!

While I’ve studied poetry, I never had too much interest in writing it. Those times I’ve had to for class, I struggled to put words together to create a dense, but flowing story, a story that was supposed to sound like music, but always seemed to clatter loudly.

This poem came together by piecemeal. After many edits, my fingers are crossed that the image and message I want to convey is received. Let me know what you think!

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Frozen in Silk

My love,

 

Do you dare shout?

Do you dare sing?

Do you dare breathe?

 

Or are you forever holding your breath,

staring straight ahead,

a living statue.

 

Do you ever dance?

Do you ever laugh?

Do you ever see me?

 

Or do you stare through me,

never seeing what I hold in my hands,

a heart that beats less and less,

a breath that is turning cold;

I am freezing with you.

 

Soon we will be together,

two statues, a Romeo and a Juliet,

frozen just before their time-shattering deaths.

 

Living, breathing,

encased in ice made of satin and silk.

One day the ice may break, and

we may be free to walk hand-in-hand.

 

But for now we wait,

sleeping an endless sleep.

 

(Photo courtesy of Shutter Runner.)

A Badass Hidden Gem: “Wool” Book Review

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A breathtakingly creative and horrifyingly disturbing post-apocalyptic novel! Hugh Howey’s “Wool” is one hell of a ride. Starting as a short story, this tale grew into a novel due to popular demand, and then, once it became an online sensation, was picked up by Simon & Schuster and became a New York Times bestseller.

In a twisted futuristic world, where everyone lives underground in a silo because the surface was horribly poisoned hundreds of years ago, and where the levels of the silo are split into different social classes, mistrust breeds rampantly and the worst thing a person can do is ask to go outside. Because, while there’s a sheriff and a mayor, the true power lies with the highly secretive and malicious IT department, and they are more than willing to grant your request.

Howey created a phenomenal aura of dread and desperation. Claustrophobia claws at you, begging you to ask the same forbidden questions those who take a one-way trip outside do. Told from multiple characters, this story is rife with suspense and contains so many plot twists that I couldn’t guess the end!

I can’t say it better than Kathy Reichs, bestselling author of the Temperance Brennan series, “Wool is frightening, fascinating, and addictive.” “Wool” is flooded with a highly detailed and authentic world, realistic and relatable characters, and a terrifyingly believable story. A compulsive read.

(Photo courtesy of Sam Cox.)