Economical with electricity — and words

Toho Journal, a young print-and-online literary magazine based in Philadelphia, invited short stories for its second issue that managed a strong sense of place in less than 500 words.

The place that came to mind was New Hartford, where I built our first house — and the near neighbors who still largely lived off the woodlands as their Yankee forebears had. I called it Thrift.

The journal is available now for $20, and an online version is promised soon. Meantime, yo9u can read my st0ry ==>here.

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Death Valley at New Year’s

Falling Star Magazine invited short stories somehow involving an intersection. The one that popped into my mind was on a floor of Death Valley, where a college pal and I explored an unusual sand dune and got caught in a blinding sandstorm on New Year’s Eve almost 70 years ago. It was also, symbolically, a nice intersection of a dark desert and a hostelry ablaze with holiday lights.

But the magazine didn’t invite narrative non-fiction. Never mind, I’d turn myself into “Andy” and relate that night in the third person.

The editors liked it. You can buy a copy of the winter issue at an online bookstore name Lulu (sorry, they haven’t so far made this issue available online) — or just read it ==>>here

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Seeing Charlie Off

“We are here,” wrote the editor, “to explore the human condition . . . .  submit anything that explores your life views, existence, mortality, spirituality, conflict, and more.”

So the oddly-named online magazine Cleaning Up Glitter planned a different kind of October/Halloween issue. I had written, years ago, a slightly fictionalized account of a memorial service I’d attended, that I’d titled “Seeing Charlie Off.”  She liked it; you can read it ==>>here

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Non-fiction, blurrily

Montana Mouthful, a literary magazine basedin Mom’s home town of Helena, said it wanted stories for its next issue that somehow related to schooling. My mind immediately jumped to some of my Dad’s stories about the tough schooling he received 70 miles or so west in the Butte area. I sat down to write it, and it came easily.

Was it non-fiction? I’m pretty sure the broken-ruler event was real. I’m less confident in the absolute authenticity of the rest of the story. I’m not even absolutely sure, at this distance, that Dad told it first person.

Never mind; it’s a fun story. The Montana editors thought so, too. You can read it (flip through to page 32) ==>here

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Casting for secrets

Zimbell House, which has taken several of my earlier works, invited short stories on a theme of “secrets in the water.” Initially, as I thought of all the rivers and oceans I’ve known, nothing came to mind.
But then I remembered fishing for shad at what used to be the Enfield Dam on the Connecticut River (which has since collapsed). There’s a secret to getting shad to take a hook, since they don’t eat anything on their way upriver. Secrets to tying flies. Maybe other secrets would develop. I started writing, but it took weeks for a story arc to take shape.
Although I suspect the editors were expecting stories of pirates, mermaids and selkies (Scottish mythological seals that take human form), they liked my more prosaic secret enough to include it among 31 in an anthology Secrets in the Water,” available today at Amazon and other booksellers. You can also read it ==>here

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Shortening a mystery

I’m not a fan a super-short fiction, but every now and then I’m drawn to the challenge. An online litmag, 50-Word Stories, wants EXACTLY 50 words. I did something called Earthworm Ruminations that they liked two years ago; this time around I concocted an ending to a real-life Noel family mystery that remains in fact unsolved: What happened to Brad’s family-history engagement ring? Read the fictional answer ==>>here

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Throwing O.Henry out the window?

I suggested to the editor who chose my short story “Ransom” that the author bio mention my debt to William Sydney Porter and Red Chief. Alas, he must not be an O. Henry fan, so there’s no such acknowledgement.
The story did, though, meet the criterion established by the online magazine, Defenestrationism — that, as the name implies, it involves an incident of (figuratively, at least) throwing people out of windows.
It’s a contest. You can read my story, and participate in a reader poll, ==>>here

(But don’t feel compelled to take time to vote. In their 2016 contest, there were 2,494 votes cast, so it would take a LOT of my friends to make much difference. I took second place in 2016 —with a short-short titled “Surveillance” — read it ==>>here — but that year there was no runner-up prize. There is, this year: two will get $30 each. Not exactly a king’s ransom!

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Back to the editorial page

An insanely huge honorarium for a 2018 Joe Biden speech at a Connecticut college was a back-of-the-paper item last week in both the Hartford Courant and the Connecticut Post. Both newspapers missed what I thought the key element: Had someone found a way to make a tax-deductible campaign contribution?
Two decades ago, with a bully pulpit of my own and the resources that went with it, I’d have happily chased it down myself. Instead, I wrote to a couple of next-generation journalistic pals suggesting they take a closer look.
Hearing nothing, I grew impatient, and decided to get the idea out for everyone to think about. My letter to the editor (the shortest thing I’ve ever had on that page!) is in the July 16 Courant. Read it ==>>here:

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The inevitable entropy of Alzheimer’s

Writers are urged to draw on their own experience, to incorporate ideas and events they know well.

Easy to say, but I still find it difficult to work Alzheimer’s into my writing. Nonetheless, I’ve been going through notes I made through those hard years, and managed to put together a piece remembering my dear Brad’s gradually diminishing ability to go anywhere by herself.

The editors of American Writer’s Review 2019 liked it. It’s out now, a thick anthology, and is available at booksellers including Amazon –$15(!!) in paperback, $2.99 as a Kindle book — or you can read it ==>here

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