Getting to Know You

In the wake of the nation’s spate of terrible shootings, there’s been a lot in the news about mental health, suicidal impulses and the like.

My fictive mind began toying with an idea: Suppose a disturbed youngster came to spend a week with a grandmother at a retirement community like the one where I make my home. If Gram was a very wise old lady, she might do some good. I would try to phrase my short story so the reader thought she MIGHT be helping, but avoid a decisive Gram-fixed-that.

I also tried a style I’ve used successfully on occasion in the past: Tell the story entirely in dialogue. It doesn’t always work, but I like the idea of having the reader visualize what the protagonists look like, how they sound, where they are — all the elements that a writer of fiction usually provides to set the stage.

That technique worked, and the story was soon told. I offered it to OpenDoor Magazine, which has published my work before — and which had a theme for this month’s submissions: mental health!

It’s out today, with my story featured on the cover. You can download the entire virtual issue ==>>here, and scroll down to page 107

Or read it ==>>right here at my blog

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Splitting the difference

There’s a writers-and-poets group that meets monthly here at Seabury, often sharing short pieces prompted by a theme our leader offers. Whatever the prompt was in May, my fictive imagination conjured up an older man (not quite as ancient as I) working up an appetite to make firewood of a tree felled in his yard — and looking forward to his loving wife’s massaging away the aches of seldom-used muscles.

My friends liked the story and its unexpected ending, and offered a few suggestions. I tweaked the piece accordingly and offered it to a magazine that’s taken a few of my stories, Flora Fiction, whose theme for the summer issue was “desire.”

They thought my story fit the theme; it’s out now. You can read it online  ==>>here, and scroll to page 32. Or it may be easier to read ==>>right here

 

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A different kind of debt collector

I knew when I started writing Penances that it would be a hard sell: Suggesting that Saint Peter might create a role for a former Mafia enforcer was impious if not sacrilegious. But the idea tickled my imagination; having tiptoed into irreverent territory, I decided to have fun embellishing my blasphemy.

Zimbell House, which had published several of my stories, invited stories on a “debt collector” theme, but wanted 4,500-word pieces. When I told my story in half that, and didn’t see any point to padding it, Zimbell’s editors put my Penances on their maybe-yes list, but ultimately decided against it. A bunch of others turned it down; nobody said so, but I suspect they didn’t like mocking anyone’s faith.

Then Caustic Frolic, the literary journal of the NYU graduate school of arts and humanities, invited stories on the theme of “limbo.” They’d already published two other pieces of mine, and I was confident they’d take this. They did, and it’s out now: Read it ==>>here

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If her past caught up with an old lady

With all the talk about Roe vs. Wade, my fictive mind has been going back to remember – and imagine – what pregnant girls did when abortion was not only illegal but not available nearby, either. Was it a matter or shame or loss, or both? Was the secrecy of their decisions inviolable?

The protagonist of my Relinquishing decides to give her baby up for adoption. In retirement, she thinks that is all behind her — until a visiting speaker prods memory.

borrowed solace magazine liked it, and it’s out now — but they won’t let you read it without buying a copy, so read it ==>>here

 

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Old stories never die

Jean Shepherd had an overnight storytelling gig on New York radio in the late 1950s that was one of my favorites. When one of his stories popped into my head not long ago, it occurred to me that modern technology might allow elaborations Shep couldn’t have imagined.

I made no secret of my debt in rewriting his story into “The Aeronautical Lawn Chair”. The editors of Lowestoft Chronicle liked it, and it’s out today, at http://lowestoftchronicle.com/issues/issue50/donnoel/

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A street like the one we lived on

    Our family lived four decades in a house facing the huge Keney Park that divided middle-class Blue Hills from Hartford’s lower-income North End.
    In our first year, my wife Brad was walking up the long block from the old Weaver High when a kid ran up from behind, snatched her purse and ran into the park.  Undaunted and unafraid, she ran after him hollering “Stop, thief!’ until he outran her.

    Happy ending: A woman across the park saw him (after he’d taken the little cash) throw the purse into a dumpster; she retrieved it and phoned us to come get it.

    It didn’t take much to imagine a not-so-brave woman who didn’t know her neighbors and had a less happy ending.  OpenDoor Magazine’s theme for March was “Footsteps,” a perfect fit. You can find my “By the Park” by downloading the March issue and searching (a bit cumbersome), but it’s easier read right here:

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An old car for a young man

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In my back yard, but still fiction

    I suppose most writers describe best the places they know well. I increasingly find myself placing stories in a retirement community much like the one I’ve lived in now almost six years.
   But, I tell any neighbors who happen to read one of these stories, this isn’t about anyone here. Some of us may find common ground in some situations I invent, but they’re fiction.
    “New Beginnings” is a made-up story that I hope many of my friends will find as authentic as the locus. It fits the “l’appel du vide” (call of the void — don’t jump!) in Vol 12 of Nightingale & Sparrow, a literary magazine available both in print at Amazon and online ==>>here

  Frankly, it’s hard to read there; easier ==>>right here

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A gritty night in Death Valley

     Inlandia, A Literary Journey, invited narratives celebrating what they call the “Inland Empire” of Southern California.

   I had such a narrative almost ready to go: Remembering when my college buddy Bill and I visited Death Valley on New Year’s Eve of 1951. As we clambered around an unusual formation of sand dunes, studying the patterns, the wind began to rise.

   We were in for a gritty evening. I called it “A Lesson in Dunes.” It’s out now; read it here ==>>

 

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