Sunday, April 24, 2016

Alison Tyler: Figment

I could throw a lot of adjectives at Alison Tyler's new novella, Figment. Beautiful. Sexy. Riveting. Haunting. Clever. Genius. When writers attempt to "explain" what they do, it feels impossible. Okay, difficult. How do we do what we do and why? Maybe "why" is easy. Desire, obsession, compulsion, expression. How? I don't know. Sit down. Start typing. Keep typing. 

In Figment, Tyler presents the writing process as a sexual relationship, specifically an S&M relationship, in which she casts the writer as the slave or Sub (female) and the Muse as the master or Dom (male). The Muse isn't concrete. The writer doesn't see him so much as feels and hears him. He is a voice. He is pressure and expectation. Full of demands. Particular about what he wants. Quick to dole out punishment when the writer fails to articulate his vision. Cuffs. Paddles. Whips. Clamps. Butt plugs. Yes. Writers "flagellate" themselves for "failure." If not literally, then at least metaphorically. 

Some of the best moments in Figment come when the writers attempts to shirk responsibility for her creative choices and tells her Muse she didn't decide what her characters would do; rather, the characters decided. (My writing students aren't responsible for what they write either. Their characters made them do it.) The Muse in Figment calls bullshit.

Another great moment comes when the writer finds herself in bed with one of her characters, Rick, the wayward rogue, the estranged brother, the deadbeat husband, a literal dead guy, the ghost. This scene is not only erotically charged but begs the question, just how intimate are writers with their characters? Moreover, what does that intimacy demand of a writer, entail?  

Photo courtesy of @AlisonTyler

Ultimately, Figment proposes more questions than answers, which is what good (meta) fiction does. How much of writing is inspiration opposed to solitary drudgery? How much is empowerment? How much is failure? Where does the writer end and the Muse begin? Are our muses, like our characters, figments of our imaginations? Are characters us? Or merely fragments? Why are so many characters sad? Why are so many lost? How must writers earn an happy ending? 

Any ending at all . . . 


Visit Alison Tyler's website

Purchase Figment

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Javon Johnson: Letter from Michael Jackson to Justin Bieber

"Even in death, someone will prop you up, attach the strings, make you smile pretty, so that your funeral will be your greatest concert ever."


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Wishes for My Son's Absentee Father

Wishes for My Son's Absentee Father Who Told Me He Didn't Have a Son

I wish him a life growing inside him,
That first ultra sound,
Wonder and worry, interchangeable.
After all the blood and shit and pain of giving birth,
I wish him that first look,
Feeling pride, feeling protective, signing a contract with the universe.
I wish him dirty diapers, bath time, bedtime stories, hugs.
I wish him his first smile, his first words,
Taking pictures, filling baby books,
Taking him by the hand then leading him into the men's room
To show him how to pee standing up.
I wish him leaving his son at preschool the first time,
Hearing him cry, counting the hours,
Wonder and worry, interchangeable,
Doctor's visits, trips to an emergency room,
All the "I love yous."
I wish him kindergarten and Harry Potter
Grade school and teacher conferences, glowing compliments.
I wish him middle school and that fucking bully
Who tormented his son for months
Until he came home and said, "I handled it."
Worry and wonder, interchangeable,  
I wish him questions and conversations,
Straight A report cards, his son's first drawing,
The one he's working on now,
Graduation looming,
Wonder and worry, interchangeable,
How his son will go against the grain, against the odds
Because he's an artist.
I wished for him this moment,
This phone call
When words fail him, how he weeps, hoping against hope
So I wish for him his three-year-old son
Who asked, "When can I see my Daddy?"
Rather than the young man who tells me he doesn't have a father now.

©Alana Noël Voth
Draft (Rough)
Line count, 35
Time spent, 1 hour, 30 minutes
Inspired by "Wishes For Sons" by Lucille Clifton

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Becky Tuch: Professors in Homeless Shelters (It's Time to Talk About Adjunct Faculty)

(From Salon)

Hi there, Association of Writers and Writing Programs.

We’ve known each other for awhile. We first met in 2009 in New York and it was love at first sight. You plied me with talks about writing craft, you offered table after table of literary magazines and small presses. I got the idea to start a lit mag review site and I met some amazing people. You have inspired me, AWP, in so many ways over the years.

But I want to talk to you about something. Because we’re friends. Because I trust you and, I hope, you trust me. (You did, after all, help me fix the sign on my table when it kept falling down this year. That was awesome of you.) So I want to tell you: I think you’re failing writers in some big and important ways . . . 

Please read the rest of Becky Tuch's article about the dire financial straits adjunct faculty like myself find ourselves in HERE. Thank you. 

P.S. I don't know Becky Tuch, but I am grateful to her and wish I could hug her right now.

By the way, I was a member of The Association of Writers and Writing Programs for one year then had to let my membership cancel because I can't afford the yearly fee on what I earn as adjunct faculty for a university. I decided it was more important to pay my student loans instead. 

By the way, I have wanted for five years to travel to the annual writer's conference hosted by The Associated Writers and Writing Programs, but I can't afford the airfare and accommodations on what I earn as adjunct faculty for a university. I decided I wanted to buy groceries for my son and I instead. (And yes, I know they cut students and adjunct faculty a "break" by waiving their conference fee in exchange for labor, but I still can't afford the airfare and accommodations.)

By the way, I am tired of being a martyr or a saint or noble or some shit like that. I am tired of the world expecting me to teach despite all the hardships (financial) BECAUSE I LOVE MY JOB AND CARE ABOUT MY STUDENTS. Yes, I enjoy my job and care about my students. Some of my best moments in life have been in a classroom. But. It is a job. I work hard. (Have you met any college freshman lately?) I am a single woman earning a single income and trying to support myself and my son on that income. I live in a trailer park with trailer park trash because it's all I can afford on what I earn as adjunct faculty for a university. I have no savings account. I never get ahead. I am tired. 

How long will this go on

How long will I allow this to go on? 


Friday, March 18, 2016

Kristina Wright: Madame President

This political election has brought two memories to the forefront:

In 1992, Hillary Clinton made the comment, "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life." I was 24 years old, newly married and very intent on not being a typical Navy wife, so that comment-- and the huge backlash she received-- made an impact on me. I immediately liked her honesty-- it wasn't the "right" thing to say, but it was so clear that she was her own person, with drive and ambition, and she wasn't going to give that up for the sake of her husband's political career. I liked her.

The following year, in 1993, we moved to Charleston, SC, home of the Military College of South Carolina, otherwise known as The Citadel. Which, at the time, did not allow women in the Corp of Cadets. A young woman named Shannon Faulkner fought a legal battle for the right to become the first female cadet and it was brutal. Bumper stickers showed up around town that said, "Save the Males. Shave the Whale." She was called a bitch, a lesbian, fat, weak, ugly-- and she was accused of wanting to destroy The Citadel. She won the battle to join the Corp of Cadets in 1995, but the emotional stress (and the death threats) took its toll and she left the school the first week, exhausted and humiliated. The male cadets publicly celebrated her downfall, but it was a short-lived celebration as she'd paved the way for other women to join the Corp-- and they did in 1996. Those first young women were put through hell too and called all the same names Faulkner was called-- but there was strength in numbers (I believe the first class had 4 women) and they didn't quit. The Wiki entry for The Citadel says simply: "The first black cadet enrolled in 1966 and women were admitted in 1996." No big deal, right?

During the legal battle to get Shannon Faulkner admitted into the Corp of Cadets, I was taking a Philosophy class at Charleston Southern University (formerly, the Baptist College of Charleston). I was sitting in the front row when the professor asked, "Who thinks women should be allowed to attend The Citadel?" I didn't even hesitate, my hand was in the air. Women serve in the military and The Citadel is a public college-- I didn't even understand why it was a debate. There was a rumble of mutterings behind me and the professor (a liberal fellow) said, "Interesting. Only one of you?" I looked behind me-- I was the only person in a class of 20+ with my hand raised. I was 28 at this point and one of the older students in an undergraduate class and I was horrified. But I didn't back down-- I argued my point (with the assistance of the professor) to an entire class of angry people who firmly believed women did not belong in The Citadel's Corp of Cadets.

Photo of Hillary Clinton courtesy of ABC News

And now Hillary Clinton, the woman who didn't want to bake cookies and have teas, is running for president and will most likely receive the Democratic nomination. I voted for her in the primary (and I voted for her in 2008 primary, too). I really like her-- I think she's not only brilliant and insightful, but she has the most experience and background for the job. I've been watching her since 1992 and she's not perfect, she's made mistakes, she has flaws, but I do not understand the vitriol directed at her at all because I honestly believe she's accomplished a tremendous amount. Good grief, this woman has been in the spotlight for decades and been through hell and back and she has managed to stand her ground. They call her a bitch, a hag, ugly and old (and much, much worse) in the comments section of every news site in the world. They insult her intelligence and her femininity, question her sexuality and her commitment-- and she keeps standing. She keeps fighting-- just like every woman who has ever been the first to do anything has had to fight for the right to do it.

I truly believe that not long from now, the Wiki entry for Hillary Clinton will have a line that simply reads: "Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton is an America politician serving as the 45th President of the United States, the first woman to hold the office." No big deal, right? It shouldn't be. But when she wins (not if, I refuse to believe our country would rather elect a megalomaniac rather than a woman), she will be dragged over the coals in ways no male president ever has-- not even Barack Obama. But she will keep standing. And young women in elementary school, middle school, high school, college, will take note. And so will young men, including my sons who have started telling me, "Pink is a girl color" despite the fact I don't gender colors or toys or anything else in our house. My hope is that they will never come home and say, "A girl can't be president," the way I believed when I was their age. It would break my heart. But this is not about electing the first female president-- it's about electing the most experienced, most qualified, best candidate. The fact that she's a woman-- and a woman I've admired for half of my life-- well, that makes the little girl (and former college student) in me happy beyond measure.

I have nothing against Bernie Sanders. Hell, he looks like every president I've known from birth to 2008. I'm sure he'd be as good a president as he could be. But let's not pretend he's not part of the status quo-- he's a career politician, and a white male at that. And I think he and Hillary Clinton are more alike in their policies than they are different and that she is more likely to accomplish more during her time in office than he would. That's my opinion, based on a very strong and long-held admiration for her. Hillary Clinton is my candidate and has been since she made that comment in 1992 about cookies and tea. I've been watching her since I was 24 years old and here I am now, 48 years old and casting my vote (again) for a woman to become President of the United States. I want her to win. I believe she will.

©Kristina Wright

Published with permission from the author. 

Visit Kristina Wright's WEBSITE.



Monday, February 29, 2016

John Coughran: Letter to a Fallen Deputy

Photo courtesy of

I’ll make this quick, because I know you’ve got to leave soon.

I was barely out of my rookie year with FPD when you hired on with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department. 15 years later, here we are. We weren’t close; we didn’t hang out off duty, and our kids never played together, but we shared a bond: we are brothers in arms.

I remember you working in the jail for the first few years of your career. You were always smiling. Even now I think to myself, how can anyone who works in the jail be smiling all the time. But you were… always.

One night on graveyards, I was contacting a suspicious person at Dinosaur Hill. I was nervous; it always sucks to be on these calls alone because you never know what might happen. Then you showed up, smiling. Turns out the cross dresser in the four-door monster diesel truck was just recording himself masturbating parked in public places for his fetish porn website. I remember you said, “I bet it’s hard to keep that kinda thing fresh.”

A couple years ago you seriously considered coming to work for us. You put in an application and everyone was thrilled that you might make the move. We were all disappointed, but understood, when you decided your home was at the Sheriff’s department. However, you would have been a welcomed member of our family.

I heard the first call go out - suspicious person possibly armed with a gun. You and I have both been to those types of calls many times over the years; more often than not it’s something innocuous; a kid with an air soft gun or something. This thought actually danced through my mind as I was working on whatever mindless thing that was occupying my time during the last few moments of your natural life.

Then, I heard the second call go out – officer down, code zero. I could hear the emotion in your teammates as they converged on you. Time and space expanded. The details were few - you were bleeding, with no pulse to be found. I felt so helpless listening to all of this happen to you. It felt like an eternity till you were on your way to the hospital, lights and sirens flooding the area.

Even now as you wait for the next part of your journey you are saving lives. Part of you is going to live on in seven other people. The ripple effect of the events that occurred last Monday is hard to fathom but even in death you’re finding ways to be a hero.

The truth of the matter is that on any given contact on any given day that could have been any one of us. It’s in the nature of our occupation that we may come upon those who are capable of such senseless violence. However, every day we put on the vest, we strap on the belt and pin on the badge; we go to work because if not us… than who?

Rest easy brother, we’ve got the watch now.

Sgt. John Coughran
Fruita Police Department

©John Coughran
*Published with permission from the author.

Visit John Coughran's Website. 

Donate to the Deputy Derek Geer Memorial Fund.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Letter From Her Muse

Mica is her name for me. Watch: I’m a criminal, a vagabond, and a sin eater, too. I’m like schizophrenia. A haunting. Every man she’s ever known. Her Muse. She thinks I’m the strong one, more popular and braver, too. But listen while she meditates on unsolved mysteries, hostages, the blues. When she’s ready, we start to dance. Sticky entanglement: Voice in her ear. My hungry introvert. She never writes on a full stomach. I have to string her along. Desire plus anticipation, is a rush. She wants permission to swim in the deep end, run with scissors, and sniff glue. We’re up to our necks in tension, in over our heads, hyenas back from the ambush, at loss for a resolution. Anyway, we’re in no position to judge each other. “I’ve never had a friend like that,” she says. See, that’s what I live for. Blood brothers, soul sisters, wolves who mate for life: Lucy and Mina, Levi and Himmler, Jekyll and Hyde: What she makes of me, who I am, pieces of people, places, and things—like Frankenstein’s monster, I’m dangerous because I’m benevolent, beautiful actually, when she’s through. 

©Alana Noël Voth



Sunday, January 24, 2016

Bree Sharp: "David Duchovny, Why Don't You Love Me?"

Since it's Sunday night, and The X Files is happening again . . .

Read all about my X-Files Stash (Or Fox Mulder Obsession) HERE.

Read all about my TV boyfriends (including Fox Mulder) HERE.

Picture courtesy of The X Files on Facebook