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FALL 2013 •

Interview with


NaNoWriMo Founder

New Fiction & Creative Nonfiction

What Inspires Novelist Regi Claire?


Scrivener FFor or M Mac ac O OSS X aand nd M Microsoft icrosoft W Windows indows

Grow your ideas in style Scrivener is a powerfful content-generation tool ffor or writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the ffor ormatting, its ffo ocus is on helping you get to the end of that aw awkward first draft.

first, unformed m idea all the way througgh to the final draft. Outline and structure your ideas, take notes, view research alongside your writing and compose the constituent pieces of your text in isolation or in context. Scrivener won’t tell you how to write—it just makes all the tools you haave ve scattered around your desk available in one application.

Your complete writing studio Writing a novel, research paper, script or any longform text involves more than hammering away at the keys until you’re done. Collecting research, ordering fragmented ideas, shuffling index cards in search of that elusive structure—most writing software is fired up only after much of the hard work is done. Enter Scrivener: a word processor and project management tool thaat stays with you from that

*T To redeem your discount use coupon code SM ALL V Visit isit us aat: t: h ttp:// *M Macintosh acintosh ve version rsion pic pictured. tured. © 2013, Li Literature terature & La Latte, tte, LLT LTD. TD. A Allll rrights ights rreserved. eserved.

Editor’s Note FALL 2013 V O LU M E 1 , N U M B E R 1 EDITOR


Gene Wilburn



Carole Brannon


What I like in a good author isn’t what he says, but what he whispers.

Linda M. Au

—Logan Pearsall Smith, essayist (1865-1946)


Judith Barrington William Blomstedt Lynn G. Carlson Ann Cefola Margaret Fieland Marie Kane Maja Lukic Marshall J. Pierce Jack Remick Bob Ritchie Robyn Ryle Gene Wilburn Raymond M. Wong

Small Print Magazine (ISSN 2328-9449 print; ISSN 2328-9457 online) is published quarterly by Brannon Publishing Services, Inc., P.O. Box 71956 Richmond, VA 232551956. Services and products do not carry Small Print Magazine endorsements. The views of the writers do not necessarily reflect those of Small Print Magazine or the publisher. Small Print Magazine reserves the right to accept or reject advertisements and assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions. ©2013 Brannon Publishing Services, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of the publisher.


t’s a privilege to present the work featured in this premier issue of Small Print Magazine. e fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry in this issue examine life from many angles and circumstances, at times humorous or serious, but always intriguing. e inter views are inspiring. Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), spoke to Small Print Magazine about the challenging early days of NaNoWriMo and shared his thoughts on revisiting our imaginations. Scottish author Regi Claire, in her engaging interview with Ann Cefola, discusses her novel e Waiting, the cultural influences in her life, and her creative process. is issue also includes several articles on the cra of writing and the tools we use to help simplify our process. For those who are easily distracted, don’t miss writer and computer specialist Gene Wilburn’s soware reviews in “Distraction-Free Editors.” In “Tablet Writing” Gene also guides us through tailoring iPad and Android tablets to our needs and existing workflows. I thank the writers and visual artists for their contributions to Small Print Magazine. eir illuminating and entertaining voices deserve to be heard. Steve Brannon Editor

Subscription & Advertising DIGITAL EDITION Click ■ at the end of each piece to return to Contents page. v1.2


Contents FAL L 2013

VOLUM E 1, NO. 1



NoNFICTIoN 5 Today We Work by Lynn G. Carson

24 CreATIve CATAlYST: NaNoWriMo Founder Chris Baty


Interiors: e Writer in Search of Memory by Judith Barrington

13 Unicorns in Pajamas by Gene Wilburn 14 Sometimes Moving, Sometimes Stuck: Notes From a Bolivian Bus Journey by William Blomstedt 19 A Strapping Young Man by Marshall J. Pierce FICTIoN 36 e Camper by Bob Ritchie 41 Pomegranate Hotel by Maja Lukic P o E T RY 43 Permission by Marie Kane



44 A Wee BIT SUPerNATUrAl: Scottish Novelist regi Claire by Ann Cefola

CRAFT&TOOL 23 Book revIeW Storycra by Jack hart Reviewed by Raymond M. Wong

f On the Cover Chris Baty Founder of NaNoWriMo Photo by Veronica Webber. Courtesy of National Novel Writing Month. SEE PAGE 24.

31 7 Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo From Buffy the vampire Slayer by Robyn Ryle 33 Notes on NaNoWriMo by Margaret Fieland 34 A Short Course in Structure: Writing Tips for the Committed Novelist by Jack Remick 48 Tablet Writing: iPad & Android by Gene Wilburn 50 Distraction-Free editors by Gene Wilburn


Veronica Webber....................CoVER Saihou o. Njie ................................ 6 Yvon Maurice ............................... 14 Valda Bailey ...................................41 Gene Wilburn ...............................43 Dawn Marie Jones, Stoyanov & Jones ..........................45

Creative nonfiction

Today We Work by Lynn G. Carlson


lla hu akbar…the call of the muezzin begins and I hear it as if from inside a jar. Propped up against the foot of a bamboo bed which sits under my millet-stalk-roofed veranda, I’ve been lost in my notes, studying Bambara vocabulary since dawn. Alla hu akbar…the muezzin repeats, calling the faithful to morning prayer: “God is great.” e mosque and my concrete-block house sit on the edge of the village of MPessoba and five times a day this swooning chant was through the African air. My dog Wuluni returns from his morning foray and noses my hand. he is sleek and muscular, a perfect specimen of African mutt. “Today we work,” I whisper to him, excitement squirming in my belly. A flock of guinea fowl rounds the corner of the house, honking in a discordant chorus. Wuluni chases them off and then returns to my side, panting. I stand, stretch my aching legs and readjust the large rectangle of pink and purple cloth—my pagne— around my waist, tucking in my T-shirt. I dip a ladle into a clay jar and take a long drink of the cool chlorine-infused water. Later, face and feet washed and hair combed into a high ponytail, I sit on the edge of my bed and gnaw on a stale chunk of French bread slathered with peanut butter. I dig in my kerosene-powered refrigerator

and find a few morsels of cold mutton for Wuluni’s breakfast. As I feed him chunk by chunk I remind him, “We’re gonna work today.” is is not technically true, since Wuluni will not be helping me build woodstoves. his only interest

I picture myself in action: surrounded by attentive villagers as I articulate in smooth Bambara phrases the steps to build a stove.

is in roaming the bush, hunting geckos and looking for female-inheat company. But finally, aer six months and eleven days in Mali, West Africa— three months aer being sworn in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer

and receiving my Malian name of Tene Keita—I am getting around to doing what I was assigned to do. Construction of my first foyer ameliore—“improved woodstove”—in the village begins today. All that I learned in Pre-service Training will at last be put to use. I’ve worked on the first phase of the project, educating the people in my halting Bambara about the need for woodstoves: ey cut down on fuel consumption by over half so women won’t have to walk so far into the bush to gather firewood. Stoves are also safer than the traditional three-rock fire ring because children can’t fall in the fire. I ka baara nogoya—“It makes your work easier,” I say persuasively to the women. It will feel so good to show off my stove-building skills, to be competent in something aer months of looking like an idiot—unable to eat from the communal bowl without dropping rice on the ground; stumbling to hear, much less enunciate, the tonal difference between words like wulu (dog) and wuulu (penis). I picture myself in action: surrounded by attentive villagers as I articulate in smooth Bambara phrases the steps to build a stove. e villagers call to passersby to come and look—see this wonderful thing the young American woman is bringing to MPessoba. I grab my daba—a metal hoe with



T o d ay W e W o r k b y Ly n n G . C a r L s o n

a wooden handle—and head out for today’s worksite at the family compound of my Bambara language teacher, Monsieur Amadu Daffe. he has three wives and seventeen children, and I visit his compound almost every day to play with the children and practice my Bambara. Daffe’s first wife, hawa, sits on a grass mat under her veranda. I approach her immediately, having learned the protocol in polygamous families: the first wife is highest in prestige, so she must be greeted before the other wives. hawa is generous in girth and humor, presiding over her compound with frequent laughter. She launches into the traditional greeting: I ni sogoma, Tene, she says— “You and the morning.” She smiles up at me as we shake hands. At least I no longer do the American-style hand pump, which used to crack the villagers up. I have learned the proper Malian way: clasp gently with the right hand, while touching the le hand to the inside of the right elbow—a sign of respect. I k’a kene wa?—“how is your health?” she asks. I ka somogo k’a kene wa?—“how is your family’s health?” In spite of the fact that I haven’t seen my family back in Wyoming for over six months, I assure hawa that my father, mother, and sisters are all just fine this morning.




Reproduced by permission from the artist.



t’s a glorious chaos at the Daffe compound—kids, dogs, chickens and goats all bleating, crying, scuffling and pecking. I sit on a small wooden stool near hawa’s mat and watch the action. Daffe’s second wife, Mariam, pounds millet with a giant pestle in a corner of the compound. She is tall and quiet, a good decade younger than hawa. Daffe’s third wife, Aminata, bathes a small child in a metal bucket. She is pretty and petite, and

T o d ay W e W o r k b y Ly n n G . C a r L s o n

all of about fieen years old. Each of the wives has children, but I’m never sure which kid belongs to which wife, except for the babies who hang in a cloth sling from their mother’s back. It’s part of Malian culture never to designate any sibling a half-brother or half-sister, and children call each of their father’s wives Ba muso— “Mother,” much to my confusion. I eventually give up trying to sort out who “belongs” to whom; obviously I’m the only one worried about it. hawa hands her baby, Modibo, to me and I bounce him in my lap. he is a beautiful six-month-old child, with blue-black, translucent skin and a pixie face framed with curly black hair. hawa fusses over him, pressing him into one of her massive breasts. his small mouth can barely wrap around the nipple. Duminike, Modibo, duminike—“Eat, Modibo, eat,” she croons. hawa asked me once if I could give Modibo some medicine to help him grow. A te bonya, she said—“he doesn’t grow.” I had nothing to offer, plus I recalled a warning from the Peace Corps nurse. “Don’t give out any medicine,” the nurse said, shaking her forefinger. “e Malians think all Americans are doctors. Say to the people, Ne te docotoro ye—‘I am not a doctor.’” So when hawa asked me on that day for medicine, I dutifully told her, “Ne te docotoro ye” and she sighed and rocked Modibo in her arms. Today I tell hawa I think Modibo has bonyara dooni—“grown a little bit.” She smiles a huge smile, showing brilliant white teeth against bluetinted lips. hawa summons Guimba and Boubacar, the two teenaged sons who have been draed as my assistants for the woodstove project. Yesterday they gathered shredded millet stalks, manure and clay from the outskirts of the village, and piled it all in the outdoor kitchen area. When Guimba and B oubacar speak to me they talk louder and

slower than normal. Nin bogo k’a ni?—“Is this good clay for you?” they yell. I want to tell them I’m not deaf, but I don’t know the word for “deaf ” in Bambara. Instead I grab my right ear and shake it, thinking it’s a pretty good pantomime of “I’m not deaf.” Guimba looks surprised and glances at Boubacar who grabs his ear and shakes it, laughing. Pretty soon almost all of Daffe’s seventeen children are pulling on their ears and laughing. So much for a good comeback.

Getting the mud just right is a tricky thing— too fresh and the elements separate, too ripened and it will slump.

We begin the back-breaking work of blending the materials into an adobe-like mixture. It’s the same process the villagers use to make material to build their houses. Guimba, Boubacar and I take turns jumping barefoot into the pile. using the daba to draw the clay inward, we work in a circular pattern, add water, stomp around, add millet and manure, stomp again, digging with the hoe over and over until the clay and millet stalks and water meld and all the clumps are worked out. I try hard not to stumble or slow down—sure don’t want the fine people of MPes-

soba to think they got a slacker on their hands. A crowd of villagers forms during this operation. It’s not every day that a white woman is seen mixing mud. In fact, in Mali women never do the mud work—that’s for men. But the Malians are adjusting to my quirky ways and just shrug and laugh at my muddy ankles. People enter the compound, exchange greetings with the Daffe family and each other, and watch the work for a few minutes before going off on their morning errands. I ni baara, they yell as they leave—“You and your work.” When the mud is blended to my satisfaction, we leave the mixture to ripen until tomorrow. Getting the mud just right is a tricky thing—too fresh and the elements separate, too ripened and it will slump. I sprinkle a little more water on top of the pile and give it a happy slap. It should be exactly right for tomorrow. And by tomorrow night, the villagers of MPessoba will be able to visit Daffe’s compound and see the foyer ameliore in place in a typical Malian kitchen. Aer that, I bet they’ll want me to build one for them too. I wash my feet and return to hawa’s veranda, ready for rest and a sip of water from my canteen. hawa hands Modibo to me again. is time he is swaddled in a cloth. A m’an kene, hawa says—“he is sick.” e boy does look listless, and his eyes, which are usually shiny black buttons, have an almost metallic sheen to them. I rifle through my memory, trying to recall the benedictions for illness. I stutter through the only one I can remember: Allah k’a nogoya ke—“May God make him better.” Amina—“Amen,” hawa responds, receiving the blessing on behalf of her son. Worn out from all the mixing and excitement, I return the boy to his mother and decline an invitation to



T o d a y W e W o r k b y Ly n n G . C a r L s o n

come back and take tea with Daffe in the aernoon. I want to review my stove-building vocabulary in preparation for tomorrow’s construction phase. heading back to my house, I study all aernoon and into the evening.



er breakfast the next morning, I perform toe touches to loosen up from yesterday’s labor. “Big stovebuilding day!” I tell the dog. Wuluni stares out toward the mosque, a low growl vibrating in his throat. I look in that direction and see a figure. As it gets closer, I recognize Idriesa, another of Daffe’s sons, coming toward us. I drag Wuluni into the house by his collar. unfortunately, he has developed a preference for white people and will growl and bark at my Malian visitors, who always speak admiringly of this dog who is such a good protector. Idriesa has an envelope in his hand. We exchange the morning greetings. Idriesa stares down at his dusty bare feet. Mun don?—“What is it?” I ask. Idriesa hands the envelope to me. Daffe’s squiggly handwriting is on the front. Mademoiselle Tene Keita, it reads. I tear open the envelope and struggle to translate the words written in French. “e Daffe family regrets to inform you that due to the death of their son, Modibo Daffe, construction of the foyer ameliore will have to be postponed.” I sit down hard on my bamboo bed. Suddenly the morning light is harsh and blinding. e air has hardened into a steely heat. Idriesa does not make eye contact with me—that would be a rude gesture to an elder—but I sense his curiosity. he gazes into the distance, waiting. I sit, immobile. Am I expected to answer the note, I wonder? It would take me an hour to write it in French and I’d need to find paper,



my French dictionary…no, no time for all that. I rub my eyes. An image hangs before me: little Modibo with his translucent skin and pixie face in a halo of curly dark hair. en there is hawa, holding her son to her breast, rocking him. I hear her cooing his name, over and over. I open my eyes in time to see Idriesa shi from one leg to another, still gazing out toward the mosque. A benediction, then? Yeah. Benediction for death. We learned some in training. I remember one because it

Jane austen’s Pride and Prejudice is spread-eagled on the table where I left it a couple days ago. I throw it at the wall.

was so perfect for desert-dwellers. I li my chin and say as precisely as I know how, Allah k’a da yoro sumaya—“May God cool his resting place.” Amina, Idriesa says. he turns and runs toward home. I rummage through the metal trunk inside my house, the one I store all my handouts from training in so that they won’t get munched by termites. I find the one that explains the baptism ceremony, complete with benedictions and the appropriate gi. Another handout describes the marriage ceremony. Where the

hell is the one about funerals? I can’t find it and I can’t remember much that the cross-cultural trainer told us. Muslims bury their dead within twenty-four hours, I do remember that. And there was more. A lot more. What to say, when to visit the family, what to bring. But the handout is nowhere to be found. I cry and cuss and throw the papers across the room. Wuluni cowers in the corner. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is spread-eagled on the table where I le it a couple days ago. I throw it at the wall. I am useless, helpless, pathetic. Stupid white girl doesn’t even know what to do when somebody dies. I sink into a cross-legged sit, my chest bouncing with hiccup-sobs. Wuluni slinks over and slides his head onto my knee. he watches me with tawnygold eyes. “I don’t know what to do, Wuluni,” I moan. he answers by rolling over for a belly scratch. I rub my hand over his chest. I blow my nose on a scrap of cloth. I sit and pet Wuluni for a good long time. Just go and be with the family. Just be human. is missive from nowhere arrives in my brain and I instantly know the truth of it. I pull myself up into a standing position. “No work today, buddy,” I tell Wuluni. “Today, we grieve.” en I bathe and tie my hair into a scarf. I change into my dress pagne and walk toward the Daffe family compound. ■ Lynn G. Carlson lives and writes in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She finds that the genre of creative nonfiction gives her plenty of room to roam—through memories, into and around insights, and deep into family stories. Lynn leads the In Our Own Words writing group at Chrysalis House, a residential addiction treatment center. Every other Wednesday, she and eight other women sit around a table, put pens to page, and dig for their authentic voices.

Creative Nonfiction

INTERIORS: The Writer in Search of Memory by Judith Barrington


nce in a dream I found myself in a van filled with strangers. e van was stationary, parked with its engine running in a nondescript street on a hill. I was the driver in charge. “We’re lost, aren’t we?” demanded one of the passengers. “oh no,” I said. “I know exactly where we are; we’re right outside the house I lived in when I was a child. See? Number 26, Benfield Way!” No longer very prominent amid sprawling new housing estates, my childhood home on the original street, built in the 1930s, gazed apologetically at me across a front garden gone wild, a concrete path

that had crumbled and cracked. “So,” said the passenger, impatient inside her utilitarian brown coat, “if you know this street so well, how do we get back from here?” “I don’t know,” I said. “I know exactly where we are, but I don’t know how to get back.” And then I woke up.



s a child in Brighton, England, I would point from far away to the tall, red brick house whose gable stood head and shoulders above its neighbors. “Look,” I would say to my friends, “that’s our house—number 26!” And I would wrap myself in the

glory of living in the tallest house— the one that intersected the skyline with its confident A-shaped roof. From a distance at least, I was happy about that house. But the dream reflects my reluctance to re-enter it—my reluctance to take myself all the way back inside, the way one must to write literary memoir. If I walk up the cracked path and push open the green door, will I disappear forever into the rooms that memory refuses to furnish or even to place in their proper locations? If I turn le into the living room, will my tall brother—the one who died four years ago—be there waiting to hoist me up and bash my head on the ceiling while I shriek in mock protest?



InTerIors by JUdITH BarrInGTon

Will he ever put me down again so my feet can tread the hallways, the squeaky stairs and the worn rugs of threadbare recollection? And what if I creep into the kitchen—the room I remember the most clearly with its big wooden table and its scullery with the deep sink and walk-in larder? Could there still be a sign on that kitchen door saying “Beware of Dogs!”—my mother’s idea of a joke when her miniature dachshund’s three fist-sized puppies kept getting trampled underfoot? In that kitchen I might encounter my angry, four-year-old self, redfaced and sobbing as I tug at my babysitter’s cardigan. “Phone the cinema,” I will be pleading. “Tell them to come home now. Right now!” Worse still, if I do walk into this appalling scene, I may be forced to witness the unraveling of the story. Perhaps it didn’t really go the way family mythology would have it—the way it has been passed down over the years. Could I really have grabbed the poor girl’s wrist and sunk my baby teeth into her forearm, biting her with a deliberation and fierceness that has grown into all-out ferocity over time—or did I just retreat to the rocking chair with diminishing sobs, resigned to my lack of influence? Behind that door, I might, too, find my mother sitting at the table shelling peas and not at the movies aer all. Maybe she never went to the cinema that night or any other— never once le me with a babysitter. I’m sure I will recognize the doorknob, so stiff and high that I never could turn it by myself. But what if, when I manage to get it open, it leads not into the kitchen but into some other room altogether—the dining room, say, or some stranger’s bedroom? I know how the house looked from the old Shoreham Road. e golf course was still there in those days and if I stopped my bicycle near the clubhouse, an expanse of green turf rolled away to a hillside topped



by a row of houses, mine included. I can see how it appeared, too, from lower Benfield Way as I trudged up the hill with my satchel full of homework, past the hallams and the omases on the le and Shirley Kipps’ house on the right. But once I reach number 26 and stand right in front of it—there where the van was parked in my dream—it starts to lose focus. e placement of windows eludes me. I’m not even sure if there was a front gate. The clarity of the view from the golf course is rather like the clarity with which I look back on my childhood: I see it in broad, clean sweeps, always from a certain distance. The stories I tell myself have simple outlines: I rode the bus to school; I bicycled with Graham Potter; I played horse with Shirley Kipps. They are exteriors, these childhood memories—memories that have no windows to an interior life. And even if, by chance, I should stumble in through a doorway, I won’t know what’s to the left and what’s to the right. Worse still, if I should grope my way further inside with no flashlight, how will I find my way back to the door? how will I ever get out again?



p on the second floor of that first house, my sister, Ruth, had her music room. is grand title was no overblown fancy; it was the room of a serious musician. When I was four or five, she was studying for the entrance exams to the Royal College of Music. Every day she roped herself to a straight-backed chair because her professor had told her she swayed too much, and practiced for hours on the baby grand until the neighbors knocked or telephoned begging her to stop. It was the Bach that drove them crazy, especially in summer when the bay windows, open wide onto the back garden, tossed twopart inventions or preludes and

fugues into the sea breezes. Mrs. humphreys on the downhill side never seemed to notice: she was too busy being eccentric with her twentythree cats, but the Stevens on the uphill side were persistent in their complaints, even resorting to threats of the police. I know by heart these stories about the music room, but I don’t remember ever actually going inside it. Since I started music lessons myself while we lived there, I must have practiced on the Broadwood piano but I don’t remember running my stubby fingers up and down the major and minor scales or sitting in an armchair listening to my sister; I don’t even remember standing in the doorway to tell her dinner was ready. And if I try to think myself back into it, the room simply goes white, like an overexposed photograph. Granted, a blurry, washed-out piano over towards the windows and a hint of patterned carpet do emerge, along with the faintest outline of a fireplace. But no furniture. And no people. It’s as if nothing ever happened in the music room except what I was told about, or what I heard from outside in the garden. Somewhere near the door to that room, also on the back side of the house, was a toilet which I do remember. It was a little room all of its own, and aer I learned to use it by myself I found it reassuring to sit there listening to the sounds of the house carrying on without me. Sometimes in urgent need of toilet paper, I yelled for my mother to come and help me. over and over, I shouted “Ready!” “Ready!” in a singsong, two-note refrain until someone came to my rescue. Funny I should remember that but not playing my first twohanded piece by Mozart. ere was a bathroom up there with a big bathtub on the le as you went in. My very earliest memory is of the large green toy duck which arrived under the Christmas tree and later took up residence in this bath,

InTerIors by JUdITH BarrInGTon

soon to acquire several large dents in her Bakelite body. is room, too, I picture at a distance. From the far end of the hallway I can see my mother bent forward over the bathtub, her spine in a straight line parallel to the ground so that she looks a bit like a human table. She has a bad back which she calls “lumbago,” and she is stuck. I don’t know how she gets unstuck or how oen it happens, but I remember the pleated skirt of her dress hanging down from her hips as she turns her head towards me from this odd position and calls out with annoyance in her voice, “I’m stuck.”



he day we moved to our new house when I was ten, I got the flu. It was winter and very cold. Not only did I get sick, but when the school nurse sent me home early I foolishly caught my usual bus back to Benfield Way. of course, no one was there and the house was empty— suddenly just a shell. e next thing I remember is being at the new place, though I’ve no idea if I called someone, if a neighbor took care of things, or if my frantic parents searched until they found me. When I arrived, there was no furniture. Beds, chairs, tables, china and pictures; books, clothes, carpets and dog baskets; records, jigsaw puzzles and eiderdowns, all were somewhere between Benfield Way and Eldred Avenue in a moving truck. While we waited for it to arrive, my mother lit a fire in the new living room and found two blankets for me to lie on. I remember lying on a hard floor in front of a coal fire with that peculiar feeling of being hot on one side and cold on the other—a feeling no doubt exacerbated by the brief fever. Sooner or later my bed arrived and I moved into the second floor room with the sloping ceiling and the dormer window that looked out into a copper beech tree. e two other

rooms on that floor were nominally for my brother and sister, but both had moved away from home by then. My parents’ bedroom was on the ground floor, and so for the first time I was alone upstairs, far away from anyone else. I quickly appropriated and explored this new house. Even the cobwebby attics that surrounded the upstairs rooms, connected to one another by little triangular passages under the dormer windows, grew familiar. Sometimes I took my friends

I hold those days up to the light trying to make out the shape of rooms, the texture of furnishings, and our various bodies in their anxious poses.

in there for a flashlit tour, always terrified one of us would put a foot between the beams and smash through the plaster into the room below (but we never did). In my bedroom two black-painted doors opened into this attic—doors which by day invited adventure but by night induced terror as I lay in bed watching for something or someone to push them open from the other side. oen, when I had finally managed to fall asleep, I would walk downstairs in my sleep and arrive in the middle of a dinner party or bump into my parents’ bedroom door mumbling words from my dreams.

Although this house is clearer in my memory than the first one, still I see it most easily from across the street where, in fact, I stop to check on it every time I return to the area. e black fence is to this day the same fence I grabbed to save myself when my roller skates caught an uneven slab of the pavement. Even the posters advertising upcoming symphony concerts—posters which my mother initially sponsored—stayed on that fence for almost a decade, regularly updated, and I was sorry when a new owner removed the notice board. Rosebushes that my mother planted next to the steps look just as they did when I arrived home from school. But what hides behind the windows? upstairs, for sure, is my old bedroom. But those French doors to the right of the front steps— what is behind them? It must be the dining room, but, like my sister’s music room at Benfield Way, it remains blurry, populated only with vague snatches of family meals that I remember as tedious but not scary like the attic doors. Tedium imprints little or nothing, while terror’s pictures remain vivid over time. A long time aer I le that second house, I had another house dream. An adult now, in the dream I stopped by to look at it and saw that the house was being remodeled. Since the roof was missing, the friendly owner invited me to climb up the outside on a ladder and look into it from above. When I reached the top of the ladder, I looked down and saw that the house was now one huge room with walkways and rolling ladders around the walls which were completely lined with books. Ah yes! I thought, waking up: I’m turning my childhood into books….



n 1963, when I was nineteen, there were a few days during which it wasn’t clear if my parents were alive or dead aer their cruise ship caught


InTerIors by JUdITH BarrInGTon

fire. As an international rescue effort got under way, we all—my sister and her family, my brother and his, and I—gathered at my brother’s old stone house on Purley hill. ere, over that Christmas holiday, I slept in an upstairs bedroom that belonged to one of my nephews. e window looked onto the back garden where hungry birds swarmed around the scraps that my brother’s wife threw out for them. Every hour we phoned for news, taking turns to enter the little cupboard under the stairs where the black dial telephone squatted on a shelf and all of us except my rather short sister-inlaw hit our heads on the sloping ceiling. I remember very clearly hunching over that square telephone and listening to a recorded list of names as more and more survivors turned up in the rescue ships. Now, years later, I oen feel driven to write about those days in that house. I have written about how we went to see the pantomime, Aladdin, with the children; how we talked about what we would do when our parents were brought home—not if they were brought home; and how we kept on watching television reports of the cruise ship which was on fire for several days. I see the ship with its cloud of black smoke and the helicopters circling above. I see us all, young adults and children, gathered in one room, newspapers piled beside armchairs and the television flashing pictures of survivors strapped to stretchers covered with Red Cross blankets. e room where we sit around the TV is wood paneled and strewn with toys; the adjacent sunroom, dense with plants, smells of earth. over the fireplace hangs my brother’s favorite painting which he calls “e Egg Lady”: in dark oils, a woman with a kerchief over her head holds an egg up to the light. I don’t know why he likes this picture so much. I’ve been writing about that house, that dining room, and the telephone in the cupboard, for a long time. Poems in books, memoirs in journals,



fragments written and rewritten, all scrutinize the details as if an important secret might one day emerge. Like the egg lady, I hold those days up to the light trying to make out the shape of rooms, the texture of furnishings, and our various bodies in their anxious poses. I want to see through the brittle shell to discover what’s going on inside. Always at the center there’s the boxy television set with its polished walnut doors that open to reveal our parents’ story unfolding on its screen. But one shocking day, aer I’ve finally published one of these stories, my sister-in-law tells me that I’ve got it all wrong: “We

we did, surely, spend some anxious hours. But if there was really no TV, can I be certain that the ship caught fire? ere are certainly a few newspaper cuttings in a drawer, but what about all the things I remember that aren’t recorded in those brittle, yellow clips? e real question is: Can I be sure that my parents really died? And if they escaped on a makeshi ra or on the backs of friendly dolphins, as we, their anxious children, predicted they would, then why the hell did they never come home?



I will push open the gate— if it turns out there is a gate— and walk up to the front door.

didn’t have a television at Purley hill that Christmas,” she says. “our first TV was your parents’ set. We inherited it aer they died.” If there was no TV set—and aer asking around I have to admit that there was not—was there also no turkey? No tree with presents underneath? No recording on the phone with its alphabetical list of survivors’ names? Perhaps not even a cupboard under the stairs or a phone with a fraying cord. If there was no TV, there might have been no accident aer all—although I suppose I could have seen the pictures on somebody else’s television and transposed them into that familiar dining room, where

ow I see that it is time to revise that first dream—the one about the van parked on Benfield Way. I don’t want to wake up stuck outside in the street; I want to stay asleep and go on with the story. I will push open the gate—if it turns out there is a gate—and walk up to the front door. Finding the house empty but the door conveniently unlocked, I will enter, knowing that any time I want to leave, my feet will carry me back over the threshold and down the hill, just as they did every morning when I le for school and every aernoon when I ran out to find Shirley or Graham. In this new dream I will step carefully on the familiar, uneven bricks of the front path. And because I am a writer and there is no other way, I will enter the house boldly. en I will open every door until someone with a clear outline and a familiar voice begins to speak. ■ Judith Barrington’s Lifesaving: A Memoir won the 2001 Lambda Book award and was a finalist for the Pen/Martha albrand award for the art of the Memoir. she is also the author of the best-selling Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art and three collections of poetry. she has been a faculty member of the University of alaska anchorage’s low-residency MFa Program and teaches workshops around the United states as well as in Britain and spain. Her website is www. “Interiors” was originally published online in Triplopia, Vol. V, Issue 1, Winter 2006, “Memory.”

Creative nonfiction

Unicorns in Pajamas by Gene Wilburn [Readers] adore images that trot by like a unicorn in pajamas. — Arthur Plotnik


s I was preparing for my annual rereading of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, I happened to listen to an episode of Writers on Writing, a podcast that included an interview with Arthur Plotnik, author of Spunk & Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Punchier, More Engaging Language & Style. Plotnik was a delightful interviewee— witty, thoughtful, enthusiastic, and highly inventive in his locutions. his reading from Spunk & Bite made me want more, so I checked the online library catalogue and found a copy at my local branch. Great, I thought. I’d been wanting to inject some freshness into my writing, and Plotnik’s funny, irreverent tone caught my fancy. Perhaps I too could dress some unicorns in pajamas. e book reads crisply as Plotnik paces the reader through energetic displays of cleverness. he has even invented his own words for meta phors that describe enormity at one scale, and the microscopic on the other: megaphors and miniphors. For someone like me who writes simply and likes his coffee plain, this was like graduating into the barista talk of Starbucks. No simple brew here— this was the stuff of pumpkin spice lattes and iced caramel macchiatos. Strunk and White, eat my dust! For anyone whose writing needs a jolt— cola or otherwise—Spunk & Bite is a tonic. oops, I think that was a mixaphor. Nonetheless, something about the book bothered me. It made me feel inadequate and I needed to under-

stand why. I’m not always a confident writer. Although I have confidence that I can turn out a clear, concise, and easy-flowing essay or article, I’m more essayist than poet. For me, writing is hard work—I pick at my thoughts and words slowly. I envy those whose flights of fancy can lead them into the world of fiction or poetr y or who can knock off book chapters in a single session. When it comes to style I’m a classicist. I prefer clean, uncomplicated prose with varied sentence structure and a clear sense of direction. Although I know plenty of writer’s words, as Plotnik calls them, I rarely use them. I can be witty, but I try not to overdo it. I prefer thought, rather than cleverness, to drive my prose. e more I read Spunk & Bite, the more uncomfortable I became with it. It sounded too now, too Wired. Attitude über alles. Exaggeration for its own sake. And more than a little bit of old-fashioned showing off. A tincture of imagery and clever writing goes a long way. I like imagery, but think writers should play small ball with it. Spunk & Bite is Barry Bonds glitter with a focus on the big swing. Plotnik’s repeated jibes at Strunk and White also began to gall. While I don’t canonize Elements of Style, it’s my talisman of sage writing advice. I’m capable of making up my own mind about some of its admonitions and I agree that some of them are a little dated. But the emphasis for me is on a little. Plotnik implies that its pre-Internet advice leads to dull writing in a multimedia age.

e same day I picked up Spunk & Bite from the library, I also picked up a copy of A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit. Solnit is one of my favorite essayists. She captivates me again and again, partly due to her subject matter and largely due to her style. I read the first chapter, an essay called “open Doors.” here were the thoughts of a fine mind inviting the reader as companion as she explored new ideas about what it means to be alive. In clean, gorgeous, classical prose that would make Messrs. Strunk and White smile. I felt cleansed. Leave the cleverness to others, the prose sang to me. Get on with the journey. It’s not that I wouldn’t recommend Plotnik’s work to those looking to freshen up their prose. Each time I returned to Spunk & Bite, I found fresh ideas and passages to enjoy. at in itself makes the book worthwhile. But when its due date arrived, I was happy to return it to the library and reflect on its visit into my mind. It was like entertaining a lively guest full of wit, puns, repartee, and joie de vivre—fun, but exhausting. Spunk & Bite is good as a dinner guest from time to time to keep things lively. In contrast, Strunk and White’s Elements is an old friend, perhaps aging, but very dear and proven—the kind who’s welcome for long fireside chats. In the long run, nothing beats an old friendship for trust and affection. ■

Gene Wilburn is a writer, photographer, and computer specialist residing in Port Credit, Ontario, near Toronto. He serves as an advisor and nonfiction editor for Small Print Magazine. SMALL PRINT MAGAZINE | FALL 2013


Creative nonfiction

Sometimes Moving, Sometimes Stuck Notes from a Bolivian Bus Journey by William Blomstedt


Monday 09:31 As I step out of my hotel and onto the bright streets of La Paz, Bolivia, I am struck by a distinct traveler’s freedom. I can go anywhere and do anything as long as am I back in La Paz on Saturday to catch a plane. e amazing geography of Bolivia presents a host of options: Do I want to see Potosi, the highest city in the world? e giant Lake Titicaca? e salt flats of uyuni? ese ideas flash through my mind but one stands higher than the rest: the jungle. I had yet to experience the deep, sweaty jungle, and the town of Rurrenabaque is circled on my map. By my crude estimate, it seems to be about an eight-hour bus ride away, a perfect



distance for a weeklong trip, and with my small knapsack I flag down a taxi-bus and start across town. 11:06 I arrive at the northern bus station and walk into the first bus office that advertises Rurrenabaque. I reach the door just ahead of six other backpackers and for seventy bolivianos, or ten dollars, I buy one of the few tickets left. Luck’s on my side, I think, as the stragglers begin to figure out who gets the remaining seats. 11:25 Five minutes until scheduled departure time. While waiting in line for a salteña, a kind of meat-dumpling street food, a Swiss girl smiles at me

and asks if I am “ready.” Ready for what? I ask. is eighteen-hour bus ride, she replies. I look at her for a moment and say Yes, of course, before running with my salteña in hand to pick up more supplies at a nearby store. 11:44 Sitting on the bus and waiting for it to move. I am seated on the aisle two rows from the back of the bus. With my butt solidly against the chair, I can barely squeeze my knees against the seat in front of me. e third man in the last five minutes tries to sell me a small, netted bag of apples. People on the ground continually hand up backpacks, boxes, potato sacks and other species of lug-

soMe TIMes Mo vInG, soMe TIMes sTUCk by WILLIaM BLoMsTedT

gage to the top of the bus where a maestro is stacking them together like Jenga pieces. I turn around and see the final row of the bus is all seats. ere is no bathroom on board. 11:58 My seatmate has arrived: a woman in her twenties carrying a large colorful cloth bag and leading a child by the hand. I stand up to let her in, looking around to see where her child will sit. ey both squeeze past me, the child jumping up on the woman’s lap, the bag stuffed down between her feet. Here we go, I think. 12:15 We are still stationary, but the flow of bags has slowed. By the sound of footsteps on the roof, I can tell the maestro is putting the finishing touches on his packing masterpiece. An ice cream vendor is on the bus, sending the child next to me into a fit. e mom doesn’t have any coins, so I buy an ice cream and we split it. I hope this will be a seed that cultivates a friendly relationship in this upcoming close-quarters experience. 12:31 e engine of the bus starts and the packing maestro climbs down. I can see in the reflection of a store window that our bus now has a large blue hunchback. e bus creeps forward, turns uphill and drives away from town. All seats on the bus are filled. All passengers are Bolivian except for myself, three French backpackers seated across from me, and three Swiss girls in the back row. A man behind the Frenchmen hands me a cup of strawberry yogurt as a segue into conversation. I ask him how many hours to Rurrenabaque and with a shrug of his shoulders tells me twenty-two or twenty-four. 13:40 Aer a few unexplained stops on the way up, we reach the peak of the hill. Snow-covered mountains peer through some combination of cloud and fog as we drive around a treeless, gunmetal gray lake. e flat

bit doesn’t last long and we soon begin our descent of the Yungas, a stretch of road which is acknowledged as the most deadly in the world. I am feeling lucky until our driver starts accelerating downhill and passes a truck on a blind corner. I find myself clutching the handrest and wishing I’d told my mother I loved her one last time. 13:53 e driver has calmed down and we are descending in a low gear at a modest pace. My nervousness is soon forgotten as we are passing some of the most striking landscape I have ever seen. e bus clings onto an amazingly steep mountainside

I still feel a bit nervous and think of what I should yell if we go shooting off the cliff.

that drops thousands of feet into a boiling little stream. We are floating above clouds, in clouds, and below clouds. e biomes are changing and grasses and hearty shrubs start to clothe the naked rock. I am taking pictures, but nothing is coming out well and I am annoying my seatmate. 15:04 It feels like we are flying in a small plane. e bus is driving along a cliff edge, sometimes with a guardrail, sometimes not, and if I stand up I can look straight down the precipice. I still feel a bit nervous and think of what I should yell if we go shooting off the cliff. e term “peppercorns” comes to mind, and seems as good as

any. Two of the Frenchmen are reading books and one is sleeping. All three Swiss girls are asleep. I want to yell that they are missing the most beautiful ride of their lives, but I refrain. ere are more trees now, and I roll up the sleeves of my shirt. 15:35 We pass a yellow bucket-loader that has been flipped on its side and abandoned. A few hundred meters away the road widens and a small village clings to the cliff. e village consists of about thirty tin stalls side by side, with twenty-five of them closed. ey all seem to be selling the same items: drinks, potato chips, candy. Laundry is resting on nearby bushes and looks like it has no chance of drying. e man across the aisle hands me another strawberry yogurt cup and tells me this is the new Yungas road, built only a few years ago. e old one, the deadly one, is on the other side of the valley. is bit of information does not comfort me, as we are still racing along an unprotected cliff. 15:45 e town Coroico appears on a small hill in the distance, yet we have an ocean of space separating us. We have to go all the way down to the bottom of the valley and back up. I can see our road continuing a thousand feet below us, but I can’t imagine how we are going to switchback our way there. 16:39 We pass Coroico without stopping. It’s now hot and humid and my armpits feel sticky, like I used raspberry jam as a deodorant. The road is now dirt, and though we aren’t descending as rapidly, we are still driving along a crumbling cliff without a guardrail. The road follows the contours of the hill, and we splash through shallow, bridge-less streams. I give thanks that we are in the dry season. The child next to me, who I recently learned is four years old, has been sucking down different kinds of sugar water for the


soMe TIMes Mo vInG, soMe TIMes sTUCk by WILLIaM BLoMsTedT

past hour and has a bad case of verbal diarrhea. At the moment it seems only slightly better than real diarrhea. he starts jumping up and down on his mother’s lap, sometimes striking her or bringing his face directly up to hers and laughing obnoxiously. 17:00 We have stopped. ere is a roadwork crew ahead and large trucks are continually bringing loads of dirt and dumping them off the side of the road. e construction crew seems not to care about the waiting vehicles and they professionally ignore any frustrated horn blasts. About a quarter of the bus passengers get out to watch. our bus is second in a line which is growing by the minute. 18:23 e bus at the front of the line revs its engine and drives past the helpless man holding the stop sign. our bus follows close behind, as does the rest of the line, and with our power in numbers we advance along the road while skirting many a honking dump truck. Darkness is approaching. ere is a TV in the front of the bus, but it shows no signs of life. ere are no personal lights on the bus. I haven’t eaten a meal since dinner the previous night, but with a constant wad of coca leaves in my cheek I feel fine. I have been sweating since Coroico and starting to smell, but not more than anyone else on the bus. 19:19 It is fully dark now, and only the headlights of the bus show that we are driving along a cliff and one slip-up would mean a spinning, crashing death. e dirt road is about one and a half lanes wide and when we meet a truck coming the opposite way both sides slow down and our bus drives on the le while they pass on the right. I think about this for a while, wondering why we have to face the cliff at every encounter. e only explanation I can think of is



that, with our driver on the le side of the bus, he has a better chance of judging the crumbling, microscopic distance that means life or death. 20:23 We go through a deep ditch and the back axle of the bus makes a terrible cracking sound. My seatmate says “Oh Dios mio” (oh my God) for the fourth time since it got dark. e child in her lap has slipped into a trance-like state where he punches one hand with the other over and over and over.

We pass a bus coming in the opposite direction so closely that I could give a pencil to an opposing passenger without our hands going out the windows.

21:02 The bus stops in some roadside town and the driver says we have a half-hour for dinner. We all pile off and I help a very old Bolivian lady come down the steep bus steps. There are five different restaurants that are serving either fried chicken with French fries or hot dog chunks, also with French fries. There are also five little shops that sell drinks, packaged food, candy, and coca leaves. I walk up and down the street twice before ordering hot dog chunks and eating them while sitting on the curb.

21:20 Walking the street one more time to stretch the legs, I come upon the old Bolivian lady who I helped down the steps. She is confused and asks me where the bus is. I point it out, about fiy feet away, the only bus in town. She thanks me and says her mind isn’t too good anymore. 21:30 We are driving through the thick jungle. e road is jaw-shatteringly bumpy, and sleeping is out of the question. e back axle makes a terrible sound every now and then. e man in front of me cranks his seat back on my knees, causing me to yelp and half-stand before I somehow engineer my legs into the aisle. e only light on the bus is from one of the Frenchmen’s iPod as he plays a video game. Everyone in the three rows behind is watching him play. 23:17 I wake up to stillness and see we are pulled off the side of the road. I didn’t know I had fallen asleep. e insect noises of the jungle now compete with a few snoring passengers and every few minutes the bus inexplicably shatters the scene with a loud horn blast. e moon is just under full and climbing in the east. Everyone is sleeping, or at least pretending to. All the windows of the bus are open and I think of the malaria- and dengue-harboring mosquitoes. I hide under my little blanket and try to cover every piece of exposed skin.

Tuesday 00:35 I come out of a doze to see our seating arrangements have changed. Instead of me controlling half of the seat, with the woman and child in the other half, the kid has slid down by the window and is sitting on about one-fourth of the seat while the mother has about one-third. is leaves me with the remaining fivetwelhs and I twist onto my side so our backs press together. It is almost intimate.

soMe TIMes Mo vInG, soMe TIMes sTUCk by WILLIaM BLoMsTedT

02:51 hours spent half-dozing, halfawake. When I sit-lie on my side, my leg falls asleep after a few minutes and I switch to another position but it is not much better. The Frenchman and I have been kicking each other for the past four hours, continually repositioning our feet on a giant backpack in the aisle between us. The moon watches from overhead. Though we are still not moving, a few vehicles have passed coming from the opposite way. I can see the headlights winding their way along the cliff road. I hear the woman next to me mumble “Oh Dios mio” as she repositions herself once more. 03:40 We are moving now. Some passengers sit up awake. We are in a long caravan of vehicles, their lights all lined up behind us. our stop remains unexplained, but it must have been something with the road. 06:13 I wake up to hammering and wrench-cranking noises beneath the bus. It is light and once again we are not moving. We are in a small town and I am not sure how long we have been here. A few of the passengers



6$1' 6$

are in the nearby restaurant drinking tea and eating breakfast. I get off the bus and see two guys kneeling on cardboard and working on the axle. The ground is wet from rain. I find out that we were stuck last night because a truck foundered in some soft ground, blocking the road, and it took them several hours to dig it out. 07:34 We are moving again. ey have supposedly fixed the axle but it still makes a creaking sound every time it flexes. e ambient smell hit me when I climbed back on board: a fecund odor of trapped, sweating people. Even with the windows open, there are enough little factories to create an enduring stench. If an outsider walked onto the bus, they might faint. 09:30 We pass a sign that says we are entering the province of Beni. We have been on the bus nearly twentytwo hours and, looking at my map, it seems that distance-wise, we are only halfway to Rurrenabaque. My friend across the aisle notices this and tells me the roads are much better from now on.

10:27 It is raining hard. “I thought it was the dry season,” I say to no one in particular, and imagine the swelling, bridge-less streams ahead. As the bus reaches the top of a rise, I look over an ocean of green jungle that stretches to the horizon. Puffs of fog come from little hills and reach up into forever. Looking closer at the side of the road, a bright red dirt shows beneath the vegetation, but the green is savagely tr ying to smother every inch of it. e road and streambeds are the red soil’s strongholds, and as the rain runs through the soil it creates an orange milk which undercuts the green by its roots. It is only one of the eternal battles occurring in this jungle. 11:45 We have stopped and heads are poking out the windows. A truck is stuck in the road ahead and a host of people are working on it with pickaxes and shovels. half the people on my bus get out to watch. ere are two pigs tied up on the side of the road and they oink enthusiastically. is is obviously the most excitement they have had since feeding time. It is still raining and I get back onto the bus. I celebrate the twenty-four-hour

Praise for Linda M. Au’s humor . . . and not just from her mother! “A contender for the Erma Bombeck of her generation . . .”


“This funny look at life had me laughing from cover to cover . . .”




“She says what everyone is thinking and it’s FUNNY . . .”

Available at!


soMe TIMes Mo vInG, soMe TIMes sTUCk by WILLIaM BLoMsTedT

mark with a mouthful of water. e child is jumping on his mother’s lap. he yells “Vamos!” (We go!), which everyone thinks is funny, so he yells it again. And again. 12:42 We are moving. We pass a bus coming in the opposite direction so closely that I could give a pencil to an opposing passenger without our hands going out the windows. We stop, momentarily side by side, and the passengers sheepishly smile at each other from a few inches away. e drivers squeak the buses past each other without touching and we continue on as if nothing had happened. 13:38 I am shocked to realize that I haven’t really had to go to the bathroom this whole time. With a minimal water intake and the use of bushes during the sporadic stoppages, I have been quite comfortable. But by looking at the faces of the Swiss girls I can tell they do not agree with me. I am thankful beyond all measure that a case of the traveler’s runs did not strike in the past twenty-four hours. I can only imagine the horror. I make a mental note to find that street chef back in La Paz and thank her for thoroughly cooking that salteña. 14:04 e bus slows down, pauses, and then bursts forward. Uh oh, I think. e driver needed only a moment to decide that speed was the solution to the obstacle ahead. We splash down into a wallow and the bus tilts dangerously to the right, throwing a sleeping Frenchmen to the floor. But we don’t get stuck, or tip over, and the bus roars triumphantly to the other side. e Frenchman blinks rapidly as he climbs back into his seat. “Oh Dios mio,” the lady next to me says once more—my count is somewhere in the high teens. I look through the back window and see a small pond that I wouldn’t drive a Land Rover through. e waves crash back and forth, awaiting the next victim.



14:45 We are driving on the flat now. A hypnotic jungle view crowds both sides of the bus. Vines are the dominating plant in this biome, crawling over everything and disguising the trees as big, leafy, cartoonish heads. All talk on the bus has stopped, save for the Swiss girls who are unenthusiastically playing Trivial Pursuit. e rest of us are watching the landscape pass in a near-catatonic state. Every now and then we pass a hut, or a clearing, and all the people on the ground turn to watch the bus. I daydream about how long I would last walking alone through this jungle. 16:10 e seat ratios have been redistributed once more. Now the child, who is sleeping peacefully, has about one-third of the seat while my share is down to one-fourth, only one cheek. e bus slows down to a stop and the old Bolivian lady stands up. “ank you to all my companions today,” she says to everyone in a so voice and slowly climbs off the bus. ere is no house or any other sign of civilization other than a small dirt path that leads into the jungle. As the bus speeds away, I get up and move to her seat. 16:54 I am watching the endless reel of jungle green and thinking about the old Bolivian lady whose seat I adopted. how many times has she taken this bus? Was this a bad journey, or were these incidents more or less normal? And what about the rest of the Bolivians on the bus? Was this kind of ride just a trial of their daily lives? What about the drivers who probably make this journey a couple of times every week, with the responsibility of these lives in their hands? What horror stories do they have from traveling in the depths of the rainy season? For the Frenchmen, the Swiss and myself, this ride is a novelty of sorts, something to suffer through on our travels before returning to our timely, comfortable lives. e story could be particularly

colorful if told on a train from Zurich to Bern that arrives within a minute of the stated goal. But for the Bolivians this is their normal life. ey have to take this route to work in the city, to visit family, to purchase goods, or even to get health care. is world is vastly different than the one I grew up in, and I make a promise to myself that whenever I climb into my car, or get on an airplane, I will remember that this bus, or one like it, is somewhere along the route to Rurrenabaque, either moving or stuck. 17:07 My jaw hurts from the near constant intake of coca leaves and my head is buzzing in a strange way. e space between my clothes and skin feels like a swamp. We haven’t stopped at a town since breakfast. I have crackers but I’m not hungry, and I have water but I’m not that thirsty either. e sun is starting to go down again and I imagine another mosquitofearing night on this bus. I wave at a child standing in a small clearing, but the child just stares in response. 18:30 We reach the outskirts of Rurrenabaque. A guard lis open the gate and we pass into town, the houses clustering closer and closer together in this small outpost of civilization. e passengers are coming alive at the prospect of a stop for dinner and perhaps even the night. e bus is scheduled to continue on to Ixiamas, and looking at the map, Rurrenabaque seems only two-thirds of the way there. We arrive at the station approximately thirty-one hours aer the departure time and I am a little surprised there is no fanfare for our safe arrival. Perhaps this is normal. I get out, stretch my legs, and find my bag in the pile of luggage. en walk into the nearby office to buy a ticket back to La Paz in two days’ time. ■ William Blomstedt is a migratory beekeeper, geographer, and writer. He currently lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Creative nonfiction

A Strapping Young Man by Marshall J. Pierce



oach hinds had threatened multiple times to do a jock check on the entire eighth-grade boys soccer team. Jockstraps were required for every boy in sports—it was a school rule. So far he had never followed through, but I feared it was only a matter of time before he found out that I didn’t wear one. Mom had given me money the year prior to buy a jock, but I had been too embarrassed to purchase it, so I just spent the money on Pac-Man and soda. Luckily, I’d never been found out for that egregious mismanagement of funds due to Mom’s fleeting attention to the details of the family laundry, but it was a short-lived reprieve. is year, I was certain the coach would catch me. he’d done an impromptu inspection on the seventh

grade team already, making them stand in line in the locker room while he pulled the elastic waistband of each boy’s shorts back and checked to make sure they were wearing the proper gear. Two boys had been sent home that day for “lack of proper equipment” and their team lost to the girls. It was all over school. While losing me as a second string fullback for our game against the eighth-grade girls would surely not make or break my team’s final score, I still didn’t want to face the humiliation of the entire crew teasing me for going commando. In my conservative little town in the 1980s, being naked under your clothes was akin to an actual sin. Something had to be done. So I bit the bullet, shyly asked Mom for the money, and headed down to the variety store to obtain

my required undergarment. I’m not sure why the Morrisville Ben Franklin was the local site for all things jockstrap and cup related. Mostly the store seemed to cater to hobbyists and people with sewing machines, so this particular necessity was somewhat out of place. But there they were, hunkered down in their own corner at the end of the dress patterns. e year prior I had wandered around the store trying to find them and finally located their rack just in time for a suspicious old clerk to ask me if I needed assistance. Instead of picking one out—I’d been too embarrassed to tell her anything so directly related to my private parts—I lied and asked her for help finding a cheap dress pattern for a nonexistent little sister. She pointed me to a bin labeled “Less an a



a sTraPPInG yoUnG Man by MarsHaLL J. PIerCe

Dollar, Ladies!” then stayed to help me pick one out. I’d returned home that day without a jock and stuffed the dress pattern into the overflowing bureau in Mom’s sewing area.



his year I was ready. I had a plan. I wore my largest, loosest top— an oversize Frankie Goes to hollywood T-shirt—put on my most stretchy parachute pants and headed back to the Ben Franklin. I walked right up to the clerk and cleared my throat to get her attention. e same little old lady who had helped me the year prior turned from the customer with whom she was chatting and faced me. her Ben Franklin tag had the name “Martha” stuck diagonally in a black plastic strip of letter punch over someone else’s name. “Yes, can I help you, young man? Are you Frankie?” She smiled pleasantly, bracelets clinking merrily against the counter as she continued to arrange the cash in her hand to be face side up. I’d learned from my grandfather that using a server’s name in these situations was polite and got you better service. “hello, Martha. No, Frankie is just a band I like.” I smiled back my best old lady charm smile. “Can you tell me where the dress patterns are?” At this request, she stopped her cheery counting in mid-count and looked over her glasses at me. We were about the same height when she was in the raised platform of the checkout station and she stared me down for a few seconds. Something must have triggered her memory. I’d counted on her not being there or not remembering who I was, but I was probably the only boy Martha had ever seen request dress patterns, much less, twice in one year. “You the same boy who came in here a while back for his little sister?” “Yes.” I tried to look indignant. “And let me guess,” she took her glasses off and let them hang around



her neck, “she wants another one?” “Yes. Well, sort of. It’s for her birthday. It’s a surprise.” “Is it now.” “Yes, she liked the last one. She made it blue.” “Well, I am sure that was very charming.” She wasn’t buying my story and the sarcasm in her voice was as obvious as the mole on her nose. “Chrissy likes blue. It’s his favorite color—I, I mean hERS!” I wished my little brother had heard me namedrop him; he would be furious. But a blue dress would go so nicely with his

now comfortably ignored, I walked into the store for Phase Two, heading directly to the bin of cheap patterns.

eyes and blond hair, I thought, chuckling evilly at my joke. She dismissed this bit of information with a wave of her jingly wrist, apparently not noticing my gender slip. “Well they ain’t moved, you can head on back there and pick one out on your own.” Martha turned back to her friend who was patiently waiting to resume their pleasantries. “Doesn’t seem like much of a present, does it, Lillian? ha ha!” Now comfortably ignored, I walked into the store for Phase Two, heading directly to the bin of cheap patterns. My plan was to grab a few, drop them on the floor and, when I bent over to pick them up, sneak un-

seen to the jockstraps and steal one. Martha must never know I needed one. She must not think about my ass, it would be too embarrassing. Exposing one’s ass was the only thing jocks seemed to do other than what normal underwear does. Why are jocks so specific about the ass? I thought. Surely they were designed by some coach with a lame sense of humor. It took me a minute to get the confidence and make sure the sight angles were so that she could not see me. And I had to scope the correctsized jock—there were many to choose from, but I eyed a “medium” that came with a cup. It seemed suitable from where I was standing, so I checked to make sure I was still being ignored, then picked up and dumped half the dress pattern bin out onto the floor. “oops!” I said, as loudly as possible, and dropped to my hands and knees. I knew I only had moments before the clerk made her way over to help me, and I crawled out of sight to my selected jock, grabbed it off the rack, and stuffed the entire package down my pants. “Everything oK over there?” She was already on her way to help. I scrambled out of sight back to the dress patterns and started to pick them up. “Yep! I just knocked this over, no problem.” I spotted a 99-cent pattern on the floor and snagged it. “I think I have what I need!” She came around the corner and I waved the cheap pattern at her. “See? All set!” Martha harrumphed. “You made quite a mess, young man. You make sure you don’t leave a stitch of that on the floor!” She then turned haughtily on her squeaky black shoes and headed back to her perch at the register. I followed, getting up stiffly, the hard plastic rack case for the jock and cup combination in my pants creating an unseemly bulge down the front of my le leg. Aer I paid and walked out, I snuck behind the Methodist church to extract my

a sTraPPInG yoUnG Man by MarsHaLL J. PIerCe

shoplied item from my pants by shaking it all the way down and pulling it out the bottom, then I dashed home hoping to avoid anyone and an explanation as to why I was carrying both a new jock and a pretty little dress pattern.



hile Mom never made the dress I le for her, the jock turned out to be quite useful. I passed a couple locker room checks, of course, but had never thought about the possibilities outside the gymnasium. one morning I ran out of underwear and the jock was given a shot at assuming a new position as a regular undergarment. Technically, I was faced with a choice between Superman underoos that I had outgrown and a jockstrap I had already worn once. I picked the jock because I had soccer practice that aernoon and it seemed better to me to be seen stripping down to a jock and cup than to red and blue briefs that were so small they could be mistaken for a bikini. So I strapped myself in and tried to enjoy the extra breathability during the walk to school. Luckily for me, this also turned out to be a day that a grouping of local rednecks decided to nail any and all junior high boys in the crotch as they walked up the hill to school. e Chucks, as we called them, grouped at the edge of the school grounds and smoked as many cigarettes as they could before the final morning bell, taunting anyone who looked like a decently dressed person or who was not bigger than they were. usually one could walk by them without much trouble, just some highly offensive word groupings and bad grammar. But they were out for blood this particular day and I have never been happier to have a large piece of plastic wedged between my legs. Even though I doubled over instinctively as I was punched in the

balls, I realized with wonder that I had not been hurt. e Chuck who hit me winced and looked at his hand, but said nothing. he glared at me strangely while his Chuck comrades continued to taunt me and I scrambled to grab my books and get up. I held my crotch for good measure, imitating pain, but gleefully realized how effective the genital cup really was. No wonder they make us wear them! e Chuck taunted me again, but did not mention my protective layer that his hand had smashed, knowing that making a remark about the feel of someone else’s

We made quite a pair in the dusty quiet of old ladies looking for fabric.

crotch might be considered queer, whereas actually thrusting a fist into it would not be. God forbid. For once, fear of homosexuality worked in my favor. It occurred to me that I should wear these stupid things every day. at day aer practice, I went directly back to the Ben Franklin store and stole another one. By the end of the month I had been back five times, had a total of seven jockstraps and three dress patterns, all of which I stuffed into my sweater drawer. I was on a first-name basis with Martha by this point, and she was dying to meet my sewing-obsessed sister. I took to wearing jocks exclusively, throwing

my clean underwear into the laundry every day to keep Mom from asking questions, and washing my new garments in the kitchen sink aer school. Everything was great until soccer season ended and I was forced into joining Boy Scouts. “We can go shopping for your uniform this weekend,” Mom stated aer informing me of the decision. “You need more structured activities now that soccer is over.”



didn’t want to be a Boy Scout particularly, but I spent the ensuing week hopeful a shopping trip might produce extra niceties for me in the form of records or real clothes. My disappointment in this new endeavor increased many times when it turned out the only place one could buy Scouting supplies and uniforms was the local Ben Franklin. Ben Franklin variety stores are a staple of small towns in the uS and they must be doing something right to have been in business for over eighty years. But try explaining that to a thirteen-yearold who was looking forward to a department store and expecting to convince his mother he needed the new Laura Branigan record. As far as I was concerned, the variety store was good for nothing but yarn, fabric, and candy. And jockstraps. At the Ben Franklin that Saturday, I grumpily punched the fabric rolls as I walked a careful twelve steps behind my mother. She breezed up the aisle in her jogging outfit: a purple jumper, a hooded sweatshirt, and a pink headband. It was a bit too olivia Newton-John for me, so passé, and I tried to avoid being associated with her. Mom didn’t care. She jogged so oen in those days, she would sometimes just wear a bathing suit top and running shorts all day if it was nice enough weather. e entire town knew, whether I liked it or not. In my first stages of developing a fashion statement, I had taken to strictly



a sTraPPInG yoUnG Man by MarsHaLL J. PIerCe

wearing parachute pants and T-shirts. We made quite a pair in the dusty quiet of old ladies looking for fabric. She stopped at the small collection of green and tan scout uniforms near the back of the store and quickly began flipping through them. “Did you get yourself the new jockstrap? We can get one while we’re here if you want.” Mom asked this loud enough for one silver-haired browser to look up from dress patterns and smile at me. I squeezed my eyes shut. “Goddamit, Mom!” I hissed at her, mortified she dared bring this up in public. Also, I had six of them by this point, plus the one I was wearing. ey didn’t have any more in my size le. “Your father doesn’t like it when you swear.” She stated this half-heartedly as she was preoccupied with finding my uniform size. An absurd understatement—Dad was an easily excited and vigorous censor. If I had

said that to Dad he would have chased me around the store with his belt. at would hurt a lot more today, I mused. Too bad Dad wouldn’t punch me in the balls instead. But Dad was not here to complicate things. More focused on the actual task at hand, Mom just moved on. “Why don’t you try this green top on? en we’ll find pants. Make sure it’s loose so it fits for more than a year!” She could be ever more pragmatic than Dad. ere’s not much going on, fashionwise, with a Boy Scout uniform, so the choices were easy and I wasted no time getting a size Mom thought was appropriate to accommodate my never-ending growth spurt. In less than ten minutes, we had my uniform, neckerchief, handbook, and a badge-less sash in hand and were trooping towards the checkout where the omnipresent Martha awaited us with crossed arms. Mom plunked

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down the scout paraphernalia with some purple yarn she had found and began rummaging around in her purse for her checkbook. “Boy Scouts, eh?” Martha circumspectly removed the price tags and punched the numbers into the old register, regarding my mother’s clothes with a raised eyebrow. “Now that’s a good boy! how is your little sister doing, Frankie?” Before I could respond, Mom interrupted with a loud guffaw, assuming her youngest had been mistaken for a girl. “Does Christopher need a haircut that badly again?” She seemed to think it was the funniest thing she had heard in quite a while and kept laughing while she filled out the check. “he certainly does have beautiful blond hair!” Martha regarded us coldly, glaring sharply at my clueless mother and staring me right in the eye as I quietly held my ground. While Mom thought it simply a case of mistaken identity, or possibly a joke, I thought I had been discovered and I picked nervously at the strap under my pants. Martha sighed and went back to folding my new uniform into a bag, but I released the jock’s elastic and it made an audible snap on my butt cheek. Martha suddenly looked up at me again, glanced in the direction of the dress bin, then back at me. I could see the unmasked judgment streaming from her gray eyes. She pursed her lips but said nothing, the years of quiet condemnation and Virginia Slims showing in spidery lines around her mouth. Something told me she wished for nothing more at that moment than the authority to do a jock check. ■ Marshall J. Pierce is a Vermont-raised author now living in San Francisco, writing and producing for Evolve Media. His work has been featured in LitQuake, The Cynic, U.,, Crunchable and Piker Press, among other publications, and he was featured author/speaker for UC Berkeley’s extension program in Spring ’12.

Book Review

Storycraft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction by Jack Hart Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press, 2011. Print.

of ethics which is unambiguous. “My fundamental principles are simple enough: Be honest, get it right, keep everything transparent. Don’t fudge, ever, even if a tiny departure from reality produces a huge payoff in drama, clarity, or style.” hart’s perspective is clear from a journalist’s vantage point. however, he is equally adamant his ethics apply to other forms of nonfiction, including memoir. he disparages James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces, and raises questions of truth concerning Frank McCourt’s Pulitzerwinning Angela’s Ashes:

Reviewed by Raymond M. Wong


ack hart, former managing editor of the Oregonian, is now a writing coach. he has a journalistic background, but his book isn’t about journalism. It’s a compendium of advice about writing narrative nonfiction— from defining the word narrative, to showing the reader how to chart a narrative arc, to covering basic principles of writing and storytelling such as point of view, character, scene, dialogue, and theme. hart’s approach is no-nonsense: “In any story, principal characters do one thing, then another, then another, and the writer’s recounting of that sequence creates the narrative.” he goes on to distinguish between simple narrative and plot: “A plot emerges when a storyteller carefully selects and arranges material so that larger meanings can emerge.” ultimately, this leads to a conclusion: “Narrative plus plot, according to this view, equals story.” As a former journalist, hart knows the newsroom, but he’s not teaching Journalism 101. he expands the reporter’s basic toolkit to delve into the elements of effective narrative nonfiction storytelling. he encourages writers to go beyond reporting the facts to uncover the elements of story: exposition, rising action, crisis, resolution, and falling action. In his chapter on structure, hart gives sage advice to writers culled from years of experience. he suggests mapping out the structure of a story on first dra because it saves the time of gathering a lot of material that will later be discarded because the information doesn’t apply to the story’s basic foundation. e story structure is analogous to the con-

struction contractor’s blueprint for building a house. hart differentiates between news reporting, which is about providing factual data, and narrative storytelling: “Stories convey experience. […] stories offer rewards beyond raw information, the kind that yield meaning by recreating life as it’s lived. Stories emphasize process, rather than outcomes.” hart entertains while pointing jagged criticism at the way journalism pounds individuality out of its writers: Newspapers are going down to their graves filled with a stuffy institutional tone that strips humanity from content. Journalese drowns individual voice in an institutional swamp of passive voice, stilted vocabulary, indirect syntax, and weak verbs. Cops don’t catch crooks breaking into a house. Instead, “Police were summoned by a security device early Tuesday and apprehended two suspects attempting to gain entry to a Westside residence.”

In the book’s most compelling chapter, hart takes on the controversy regarding stretching the truth in nonfiction and argues for a standard

Nobody claimed McCourt’s memoir was invented from the ground up, but much of his dialogue was obviously invented and he clearly didn’t apply Walt harrington’s standards to verify historical accuracy. Still, McCourt won his Pulitzer for nonfiction. Did it deserve the label? Many of my journalistic colleagues would take issue with McCourt’s prize. Many writers who teach and practice creative nonfiction would have a hard time understanding their objections. And that ethical divide shows itself most clearly in the practice of memoir.

It’s a shame that hart’s book came out before John D’Agata and Jim Fingal’s Lifespan of a Fact, because a debate between hart and D’Agata would be a ticket worth the price of admission. Some might argue that hart’s stance is too rigid. Agree or disagree with him, he leaves no doubt where he stands. ■ Raymond M. Wong earned the Eloise Klein Healy scholarship and the MFA in creative writing at Antioch University Los Angeles. His stories have appeared in three Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, USA Today, U-T San Diego, and San Diego Family magazine. He is an assistant editor at Lunch Ticket, Antioch’s online literary journal.




Creative Catalyst NaNoWriMo Founder Chris Baty


n 1999 Chris Baty and nearly two dozen others set out on a writing odyssey, a month of literary abandon when word counts reigned supreme, when tight plotlines and punchy prose didn’t matter. e goal? To write a 50,000word novel in a month. e result? National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo. What began as a local lark has grown into an international annual event that breaks loose perfectionist restraints and sparks the imagination of hundreds of thousands. e event includes more than 250,000 writers in ninety countries. Chris now serves as a Board Member Emeritus for NaNoWriMo. he also teaches classes on writing and creativity through Stanford university’s Writer’s Studio. he’s the author of No Plot? No Problem! and co-author of Ready, Set, Novel.



“somewhere around adolescence… we get self-conscious. We see that other kids are much better writers or artists than we are, so we cede that creative space to them. and they in turn cede it to others who are better still. The blank page stops being an invitation and becomes intimidating.” — CHrIs BaTy nanoWriMo Founder



I n T e r v I e W w i t h C H r I s B aT y

SMAll PrINT MAgAzINe: What would you say to someone in 1999 if they told you that 341,375 people would participate in NaNoWriMo in 2012 and that these participants would include published novelists and school children? CHrIS BATY: oh man. I would have thought they were talking about a different NaNoWriMo. Going into that first NaNoWriMo in 1999, I wasn’t sure most of us were going to make it through the first week. I thought we would start writing, get overwhelmed by our own ineptitude, drop out, and never talk about it again. But it turned out to be more fun than we ever dreamed. When I organized it again the following year, 140 people took part, and I was sure the event had peaked. e year aer that, 5,000 people signed up, and some cities (and countries!) began organizing their own chapters. at was when I realized that the NaNoWriMo virus had escaped the laboratory, and that my life was about to change because of that fact. It was a wonderful, confusing time. SPM: How many of the original six winners still participate in NaNoWriMo? CB: Everyone who won that first year has come back to claim the NaNoWriMo crown at least once more. My friend Dan, who won in 1999, has a dozen victories under his belt. It definitely gets in your blood. SPM: Have you participated in every NaNoWriMo? How did you find the time while running NaNoWriMo and the office of letters and light? CB: Yes! I’ve been a proud winner every year since 1999. It’s kind of hard for me to imagine a November where I’m not bashing out a 50,000-word novel dra, and I continue look forward to every NaNoWriMo with an



embarrassing amount of excitement. NaNoWriMo still feels like Christmas to me. A weird version of Christmas where you’re yoked to a laptop and forced to type a lot before you get any presents. But Christmas all the same. e time-finding question is a really good one, though. As NaNoWriMo grew, the responsibilities of running the event became more and more intense. My workdays in october and November would start at 6:00 a.m. and end around 3:00 a.m. You’d think this would make it the worst time to try and write a novel, but I found that being so busy actually made it easier to get creative work done. I was more forgiving of the various sins of my first dras because I was operating under ridiculous time constraints. Which in turn helped my writing flow better, and helped me have more fun with the whole thing. In my sleep-deprived state, I would end up writing these great, spontaneous, true passages that I know I would have second-guessed right out of existence if I’d had more time to overthink it. Also when you’re surrounded by chaos and stress, fiction writing becomes a wonderful refuge from the madness. Aer a day of server meltdowns and missing truckloads of NaNoWriMo T-shirts, nothing feels better than climbing up into the imaginar y world of a novel and pulling the rope ladder in behind you. It makes writing a treat rather than a chore. SPM: Have participants shared personal journeys with you that le you in awe? Do any particular stories come to mind? CB: So many! Last year, I met a woman who had been doing NaNoWriMo for years. As we talked about her NaNoWriMo experiences, she confided that she’d been in an abusive relationship when she’d started doing NaNoWriMo. her husband had spent a lot of time telling her how

worthless and stupid she was, and over the years she’d come to believe him. She’d always loved books, so she quietly signed up for NaNoWriMo. She didn’t tell her husband. She didn’t tell anyone. She just waited until November 1 arrived, and started writing. And over the course of November, an entire beautiful world came alive beneath her fingers. She won NaNoWriMo that year, and the feelings of pride and accomplishment from writing her book reopened parts of her that had been closed for a long time. Soon aer that, she moved out and filed for divorce. She has a life she loves now. She still writes novels every November. It starts with a book. But where it goes from there can be pretty amazing. SPM: You seem to be something of an evangelist when it comes to motivating people to write. Why do you think it’s important for people to write? CB: More than anything else, I think writing is just a lot of fun. It’s a great way to revisit that rollicking, playful space where we spent our days in as kids. Back then, making up stories was our chief occupation. Give a seven-year-old a blank piece of paper and a marker, they’re good for hours. ere are a lot of adventures and people and animals and kingdoms and trucks and battles and princesses in a piece of paper. Somewhere around adolescence, though, most of us stop visiting those imaginar y worlds. We get selfconscious. We see that other kids are much better writers or artists than we are, so we cede that creative space to them. And they in turn cede it to others who are better still. e blank page stops being an invitation and becomes intimidating. But the impulse to create and make and dream is still with us. It doesn’t go away. It just waits, patiently, for us to find a way back to it again. For some adults, it happens through art classes

or music lessons. For me, it was through NaNoWriMo. however you get back there, it just feels pretty incredible when you arrive. on a selfish level, I also think it’s important for everyone to write because I want more great stories to read. If you love books, you should try writing one. Your readers are waiting! SPM: Do you find your academic background in anthropology and social sciences useful in writing? CB: Anthropology definitely made me be a good observer of the ways people interact with each other, which I think helps in fiction and nonfiction writing (and life in general). Also, anthropology is built around this great, novelistic concept of the ethnography, where you head off into a strange world to document the lives of the people who live there. What could be cooler than that? My problem with anthropology, though, was that many of my professors in graduate school were so deep into anthropological theory that they’d completely lost touch with actual human beings. Academic writing is oen frustratingly dense, and whenever someone in the field wrote clearly or with a sense of humor, I felt like they were looked down on for not being scientific enough. While I was at the university of Chicago, I started contributing record reviews to the student newspaper. I’d always been a huge music nerd, but this was the first time that I’d gotten a chance to write about the bands and songwriters who were important to me. Being part of a newspaper staff was a dream. I loved the deadlines, camaraderie, and the fact that the things I wrote would be read by regular people. And I found myself thinking: I wish anthropology were more like this. at was a big turning point for me. Instead of sticking around for my Ph.D., I le grad school and came back to the Bay Area to try and make my living as a writer.

The impulse to create… waits, patiently, for us to find a way back….For me, it was through nanoWriMo. However you get back there, it just feels pretty incredible when you arrive. — CHrIs BaTy, nanoWriMo Founder

SPM: Do you have a recommendedreading list of books on the cra of writing? CB: I really loved Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (particularly the chapter called “Shitty First Dras”) and Stephen King’s On Writing. ere’s also a comic about the creative process by Lynda Barry called “Two Questions” that I think is brilliant. When it comes to cra books, the one bit of advice I’d give is to always prioritize writing over reading about writing. is American Life’s Ira Glass has this great quote about the importance of just diving in and writing as much as you can when you’re first starting out. Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot

of people never get past this phase; they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal, and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

SPM: What is your physical process for composition? Any preferred soware, desk, chair, keyboard, notepads, pens, totems, et cetera? CB: I write on a Dell Latitude 6430u, which I just got two weeks ago, and which I’m pretty convinced has the best keyboard I’ve ever set fingers on. I write with Microso Word.



I n T e r v I e W w i t h C H r I s B aT y

What is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month takes place every November when more than 300,000 people worldwide set out to write 50,000 words in one month. Some writers attempt to add 1,667 each day, while others binge.

What does it cost?

$0, zilch, nada (Donations, however, keep NaNoWriMo running and are highly appreciated.)

Stats for 2012:

• 341,375 participants

• 648 volunteer Municipal Liaisons guided 586 regions on six continents.

• 82,554 students and educators created worlds through the Young Writers Program.

• 615 libraries opened their doors to novelists through the Come Write In program.

More than 250 NaNoWriMo novels have been published!

They include Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Hugh Howey’s Wool, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Jason Hough’s The Darwin Elevator, and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder.

Where Do I Sign Up?

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.



Furniture-wise, my home writing station is a beat-up dining room table, and I sit on a $25 Ikea chair that I fear is slowly pinching off every nerve in my lower body. Perhaps because of this, I do most of my writing in cafés. I find I’m able to focus in coffee shops on a level I never reach at home. When I’m away from my computer, I’m a big believer in notebooks. I like very thin ones I can carry comfortably in my back pocket. I’m currently writing with a Pigma Micron 01 black pen that I bought from a stationery store recently. I will likely lose it in the next few hours and will then resume my normal state of writing with whatever cheap ballpoint pen I accidentally steal from car rental counters and motel lobbies. SPM: Do you have a writing routine? CB: Yes! I really like routines. My most creative hours are from about nine to noon, and I try to give half of that time to non-deadlined, nonpaying projects like novels or scripts. (is is a new development—I used to start my day with paying work and leave the optional fun stuff for later in the day, but I kept finding that “later in the day” oen never arrived. So now I eat dessert first.) Aer my fiction time, I’ll segue into teaching-prep work, nonfiction book projects, and editorial consulting. at lasts until lunch. Aer lunch, I usually head out to a Berkeley café for more work-related writing, emailreturning, and a jug of caffeine. SPM: What is the best writing advice you’ve received or heard given? What is the worst? CB: Best: “You can edit a bad book into a great book. But you can’t edit a blank page into anything but a blank page.” I’m not sure who said that, but it’s helped me through a lot of first dras. Worst: Anytime someone starts

talking about what it means to be “a real writer,” I know I’m in for a treat. SPM: Who would you cite as strong influences in your writing life? CB: I think Dave Eggers has done amazing things, both on and off the page. I love Nick hornby’s prose—his tone is one I would kill to have. Lynda Barry, the cartoonist and writer I mentioned earlier, is also a completely inspiring force. If you ever get a chance to take one of her writing workshops or see her speak, do it! SPM: What were you like as a kid? Did you read? Were you entertained by stories? Did you drink coffee? CB: I’m an only child, and books were definitely my siblings growing up. My parents had this generous policy that they would buy me a book anytime we went to a bookstore, and I definitely abused their kindness by doing everything I could to route every family errand close to a bookstore. I was also a pretty constant presence at the local library. on the coffee front —it’s funny you ask. I was sadly forbidden from drinking coffee all through my childhood and teenhood. When my parents would go out at night and leave me home alone in fih and sixth grade, though, I would sometimes sneak up to the kitchen and make myself a cup of instant coffee. It tasted disgusting, but a mug of Folgers seemed like the distilled essence of adult sophistication to me. SPM: How much coffee do you drink? CB: I’m cutting down! I’m probably down to a pint and a half now? A friend of mine from Scotland recently introduced me to this thing called “tea.” So now I supplement my espresso rations with pots of black tea. SPM: Did you ever hit a point when you thought NaNoWriMo had grown

I n T e r v I e W w i t h C H r I s B aT y

out of control? Did you feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility because so many were following your lead? CB: Yes. at third year, when I was expecting 200 people and 5,000 folks showed up, everything felt truly, totally out of control. Sign-ups were manual and took me and my friends the better part of three weeks to slog through them all. e website was hacked on November 1, and we got booted by our webhost because we were taking up too much bandwidth. I realized there was no way I could personally check everyone’s final word count by hand, so we went with an honor system, and a lot of people got angry about that. I was in over my head in a hundred different ways, and I just kept telling myself: Survive the month. You just have to survive the month. SPM: How many anksgiving dinners has NaNoWriMo ruined? CB: hee hee. I think the better question is: how many people have been able to escape interminable anksgiving dinners because they were able to say they were contestants in a national novel-writing competition and needed to submit their manuscript by November 30th? SPM: In January 2012 you stepped down as executive director of the office of letters and light to spend more time writing. How did it feel to turn over the keys? CB: It was a really strange time. It was very easy in that I was passing the baton to a fantastic staff and board who had been running it with me for so many years. I knew they were going to put a lot of love and hard work into keeping it going and growing. But it was also hard because I was still totally in love with the organization and so proud of all it had accomplished. I learned almost

NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty was inspired to start Chris Baty Studios, which makes posters for writers, after a trip to London, where he found the city covered with incredible posters and signs. Chris said that he comes up with a tagline or concept, then hands it over to his illustrators and designers who transform it into something “a thousand times better than my original idea.”

ever ything I know from NaNoWriMo. It changed my life in more ways than I can count. But aer thirteen years, I knew it was time for me to step back a little bit, finish some of the bazillion writing projects I’d started through NaNoWriMo, and launch a few new adventures. Also sleep. I was very excited about sleeping again. My new NaNoWriMo role as Board Member Emeritus has been pretty perfect for me. I still get to be involved in the organization, but I also have time to write, spread the high-velocity gospel through classes and talks, and travel around to meet some of the NaNoWriMo volunteers and participants who’ve been a big part of my virtual life for so many years.

SPM: When we first contacted you, you were under a book deadline. What have you been working on? CB: Chronicle Books is putting out an expanded 10th anniversary edition of No Plot? No Problem! in fall 2014. It’s going to have a whole bunch of new stuff from me, new pep talks from published NaNoWriMo authors, and hundreds of new tips from NaNo WriMo veterans. It just made it through copyedits and is now heading to layout. I’m very excited about it. SPM: What is Chris Baty Studios? CB: It’s a tiny-but-mighty poster company I run out of my living room. I team up with great designers and illustrators and we make posters for writers. e posters are printed



I n T e r v I e W w i t h C H r I s B aT y

here in the Bay Area, packed up lovingly with stickers and other goodies on my coffee table, then shipped worldwide. SPM: Have you ever been approached by TeD* to give a talk? CB: No. TED people: Call me. SPM: Do you have any plans for other group projects/movements? CB: I did have an idea for a project I liked called one Good ing. Like NaNoWriMo, it would be based around a specific month. But this would be more about communitybuilding than writing. Participants would come up with a small task or project they could do to make someone in their neighborhood happier, or make their community a better place.

Bake cupcakes and take them over to a neighbor you’ve never met. Mow a stranger’s lawn. hold a whiskey tasting for the residents at the old folks home down the street. Something that wouldn’t be too onerous, that would connect you more deeply to the world around you. A month filled with non-random acts of kindness. here is a perfect example of the kind of thing I’m thinking of: www.caines Everyone would document their project on the one Good ing website, and favorite projects could be awarded mini-grants so they could keep going and expand. We talked about doing it at the office of Letters and Light, but it never quite got off the ground. SPM: What are your long-term writing goals?

CB: I’d really love to publish one or two of my NaNoWriMo novels. I’d love to finish and sell a couple of my Script Frenzy screenplays. I’d like to write a follow-up to No Plot? No Problem! about novel revision. I’d like to write a nonfiction book about something. But I’m not quite sure what yet. Llamas? Burritos? If you have any ideas, let me know! SPM: ank you, Chris. looking forward to your next bold project! ■ *TED Conferences include science, business, the arts, technology and global issues. The nonprofit started in 1984 to bring together people from Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Conferences were released online through TEDTalks and now have an audience in the millions. For more information visit


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7 Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo from

Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Robyn Ryle


would not have survived writing my dissertation without the help of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (My reward for reaching each writing goal was to watch another episode.) is cult television classic is even more helpful to those writing full-length fiction. As you’re hunkered down with your daily NaNoWriMo writing goal, consider a Buffy episode as a reward. It has the added bonus of teaching you some important writing lessons from a team of master storytellers.


Tara must die!

Kill your darlings. We’ve all heard versions of this writing truism. Buffy creator Joss Whedon is rivaled perhaps only by George R.R. Martin in his willingness to kill off his characters. As fans, we’ve all felt the pain of losing someone in a book or favorite TV show. Why is this a good thing? Something has to be at stake in the world you are creating. In one story I wrote, all the bad things that happened to my characters were in the past. is was good for me, as I only had to experience the aermath of the suffering of people who I very much liked. It also meant that everything interesting was already over. Put your characters in danger, real danger, where lives (literally or metaphorically) are at

stake. You’ll be surprised what you learn about your characters and how exciting it gets—for you as a writer, and for your readers, too.


Spike is smarter than Angel

Make your villains complex. e world of Buffy fandom is divided between those who love Spike and those who love Angel, two of Buffy’s love interests. I am firmly in the Spike corner; Spike gets all the best lines. In Buffy, the villains oen know more than the good guys. e Mayor (Season ree’s “Big Bad”) explains to Buffy and Angel why their relationship is doomed. Dracula is the one who helps Buffy realize that she wants to know about the true nature of her slayer power. e scariest villains are the ones who are smarter than the heroes—who understand the heroes better than they understand themselves. If your villains are two-dimensional idiots, there’s not much for your hero to do.


“You are strange and off-putting.”

ere is no throw-away dialogue. Joss Whedon once called television “radio with pictures.” In televi-

sion people spend most of their time talking. Dialogue is important. Don’t take it for granted. Every conversation is an opportunity for that perfect pearl of character-revealing dialogue. Every word is an opportunity to veer in a direction your readers didn’t expect you to go. e “strange and off-putting” quote is one line in a conversation between Dracula and Xander, where Dracula is turning Xander into his Renfield. It’s one sentence, but it stays with you. Every bit of dialogue in your story is an opportunity to shine.


Really, a musical episode?

Don’t be afraid to try something different. Artists are sometimes punished for trying something different. The great ones don’t let that stop them. Why not a whole episode where no one can talk? Why not a musical? Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try writing a scene as nothing but dialogue. Then try writing it with no dialogue. Lately, I’ve been playing with flash fiction. What would your novel look like if you had to reduce it to 1,000 words? Don’t forget that writing is play.

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The First and Last Evil

Know where you’re going.

“…let me plead that you have been told of one or two things which Style is not; which have little or nothing to do with Style, though sometimes vulgarly mistaken for it. Style, for example, is not—can never be— extraneous Ornament. … if you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this:

‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it— whole-heartedly— and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.’” — Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch From On the Art of Writing: Lectures Delivered in the University of Cambridge 1913-1914 Lecture XII, On Style, Wednesday, January 28, 1914




ere’s a lot of debate about plotters versus pantsers. Do you plan out everything that’s going to happen in your novel ahead of time (plotter) or figure it out as you go along (pantser)? ese debates sometimes miss the point. how you get there is less important than the end product. however it happens, your readers should have a sense that you knew where you were headed all along. In the seven seasons Buffy the Vampire Slayer was on the air, you could see clues planted throughout about where the series was headed. e First Evil, which is the villain in the very last season of the show, makes its first appearance in Season ree. Every time you raise a question in your story, you make a promise to the reader that it will be answered. When you don’t follow up, your audience loses faith in your ability to tell a coherent story.


Why not a little sister?

Explore your characters. A lot of fans thought Buff y “jumped the shark” when a little sister showed up out of the blue in Season Five. You can also see the introduction of Dawn, Buffy’s little sister, as an opportunity to reveal a different facet of Buffy’s character. What would happen if Buffy had a sibling? I’m not advocating that you invent siblings who turn out to be the magical embodiment of a key to another dimension in your novel, but you might think about how introducing new relationships can help you learn more about your main character.


Thumb wrestling

Show versus tell. In one of the first episodes of Season Five, the Scooby gang, with Dawn in tow, discovers a dead body in the magic shop. Dawn is banished outside where she’s accosted by a crazy man who tells her she doesn’t belong. In a short span we have death, a verbal attack, and the feeling of being le out. When Tara (also a new addition to the gang) comes to sit with Dawn, do they have a long discussion about their feelings? Do they explain at great length what it feels like to be on the outside looking in? No. ey thumb wrestle. unexpected, but the scene reveals a great deal about Tara and Dawn as characters. It’s a great example of balancing a scene of dramatic tension with lightness and humor. It’s also a textbook case for why showing is better than telling. Anyone can say they feel le out, but only the unique people Tara and Dawn are would use thumb wrestling to cope. ■ Robyn Ryle teaches sociology at a small liberal arts college in Indiana. She has published fiction and flash fiction in Pea River Journal and WhiskeyPaper. She is also the author of a sociology of gender textbook with SAGE Press, Questioning Gender: A Sociological Exploration (2014). She is a national speaker on the importance of place from a sociological perspective and writes about place and other topics on her blog, She lives in a 140-year-old home in Madison, Indiana, with her husband, stepdaughter, and two peculiar cats.

Editors Note: An established television show is considered to have “jumped the shark” when it begins an unrecoverable decline, marked by character or plot events introduced to sustain interest. e expression refers to the episode of happy Days in which Fonzie, on waterskis, literally jumps a shark.

Notes on NaNoWriMo by Margaret Fieland



lthough I am a huge science fiction fan, as of late September of 2010 I’d never tried my hand at writing a science fiction story. In fact, I’d written only two novels: a children’s chapter book, which had been accepted by a small print house, and a middle grade novel that I’d put aside as needing major revision. e latter, at 15,000 words, was the longest thing I’d ever written. In late September 2010 I decided I’d write a science fiction novel for NaNoWriMo and used the next weeks planning it. e advice I got from most of my NaNoWriMo-veteran writer friends was to lay out the plot scene by scene in as much detail as possible. Good advice, except I had only a sketchy notion of my story. I quickly decided on a fourteen-yearold boy as my main character, who would be plopped down on an alien planet. I had signed up for an online class on writing sci-fi novels that started a few weeks before NaNoWriMo, and I used the very helpful homework to lay out a few things: bright moment, dark moment, character change, conflict resolution, obstacle, problem, et cetera. What did I keep and what did I toss? The basic problem (terrorists) remained the same, but a number of details changed as I wrote. I had initially figured my main character’s father and another character for the antagonists. This didn’t work, and I created a new, unplanned antagonist. The need my main character faced, to weigh the values he’s been brought up with against the values

of the alien society, did remain central to the novel. I worked out, in my head if not always on paper, quite a lot about my alien society, my alien planet, and my aliens’ values, as well as a lot of backstory and history that never made it into the book. is was, aer all, my first science fiction novel, and the world-building was the part I was most nervous about. I had less than half a page of plot notes, not nearly enough to generate a whole novel in a month’s time. I needed to write an average of 1,667 words per day, so I found myself laying out the next scene or two in my head on the drive home from work. I would picture my characters moving and talking, kind of like a movie. When I arrived home, I’d write the

scene or scenes. en I’d make notes for the next few scenes, keeping in mind the next major plot point and how I could get there. I also wrote a second, related document, thirty poems of a poet in the universe of the novel. Eight of the poems appear in the final version of the book. I also wrote a story, which is told by one of the characters, and a glossary for the alien language in the book. I wrote more than 50,000 words during November of 2010, then spent the next six or seven months editing. at novel, Relocated, was published in July of last year. What did I learn about my writing style as a result of this? I learned what I need to plan and what I can work out as I go. I need to understand the setting, my characters and their motivations, the main plot arc in terms of where they start and where I want them to end up, and at least the major plot points in between. I’m not capable of laying out the whole plot scene by scene before I start to write. And I need to be prepared to revise what I write. ■ Born and raised in New York City, Margaret Fieland lives in the suburbs west of Boston, Massachusetts, with her partner and seven dogs. Her poems, articles and stories have appeared in Main Channel Voices, Front Range Review and All Rights Reserved, among others. She is one of The Poetic Muselings, whose poetry anthology, Lifelines, was published in 2011. She is author of two science fiction novels and Sand in the Desert, a book of science fiction persona poems. Visit her website:



A Short Course in Structure Writing Tips for the Committed Novelist by Jack Remick


very Tuesday and Friday, I sit down with a bunch of writers at Louisa’s Bakery Café in Seattle to write for an hour or so. For years I wrote alone until Robert Ray introduced me to timed writing, and timed writing saved my writing life. Working with other writers— especially writers who know more than you do—gets you outside your head. You get feedback faster; you get to the rewrite quicker. e way I see it, the art is in the rewrite, so the sooner you get a working dra the better you’ll write.

TIP 1: TImEd WRITIng Writing Practice: Use start lines to get yourself in gear. Timed writing—what Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, calls “Writing Practice”—is either the devil’s design to stifle your creativity or the gateway to a paradise of writing. For me, timed writing is liberation. Timed writing is easy to do. Get a kitchen timer, set it for five, ten, or fifteen minutes, and write as deeply and richly as your hand will let you. I like the physical connection of the fountain pen on paper, so I write by hand. Some writers in my group write on laptops. at’s okay. e idea is to finish what you start—that’s the major discipline. Finish what you start. I use “start lines” to get going. If I’m working on a novel, I might use: Today I rewrite the scene called “A Plague of Locusts.” The scene takes 34


place in the Tabernacle... Ricky kneels in the back pew...

If I’m with my writing group and I’m not locked into a novel or a story, the start line “Today I’m writing about…” gives me plenty of room to explode. I use timed writing to write treatments, scene summaries, memoir moments, short stories, and screenplay scenes. e big thing with timed writing is that you can use it to go nuts on the page, or you can use it in a very structured way to create tight, hard, clear, clean sentences, scenes, and stories. I don’t think in terms of paragraphs, but I do think in terms of “action” and “image.” I try to get a strong image or a strong action in each line. When I’m writing in a more structured way, I use a more structured set of start lines. For instance, I might write a three-act treatment for a novel—the treatment can come at any time in the course of the writing—as a way to check on how well I’m getting the story down. In other words, do I have the story in my head? having it in your head means you don’t plot on the fly. Plotting on the fly is a sure way to writer’s hell. Below is a set of start lines you can use to write a structured, three-act treatment. Set your timer and write for five minutes on each start line. I am writing a story about... Act One opens when... Act One ends when... Act Two opens in a scene called...

At the middle of my story, my protagonist... Act Two ends when... Act Three opens when... My story climaxes in a scene called... My story ends with this final image...

Writing Practice: When writing by hand, type up what you write. Why? ree reasons: • Don’t throw yourself away. is is your life. • honor your words. is is your memory. • Discipline is your obligation to the gi. is is your work.

Don’t row Yourself Away Whether you write fiction or memoir, screenplay or poetry, it is your writing. You invest time and energy in your writing. You set the timer and you write a piece, and later someone asks how long it took you to write it. You don’t say five minutes or ten minutes or even twenty minutes because you know that it took you a lifetime to write it. You had to live it and get inside it and let it get inside you before you could write it. at’s why you type it up. It has taken you a lifetime to get it, and if you don’t type it up, you throw it away. Natalie Goldberg said you must not toss yourself away. Tossing yourself away means that you don’t honor what you write. When you write by hand on paper with a pen, you are getting close to the page, and the work comes out of you in a flood. Some writers say, “oh,

I can’t use this in my book, so I won’t type it up.” e work is yours. You have a better chance of getting it all if you type up what you write. Memory fades. Don’t throw yourself away. ere are plenty of people out there ready to do that for you.

Honor Your Words is is your life and this is your art. When you go deep into the timed writing, you pull small gis from the unconscious. ere is no one but you who sees those words, unless you work with a group. When you write under the clock, you honor the words by reading them aloud. When you type up what you write, you honor your words by not throwing them away. If you leave the words in the notebook, the work piles up and one day you see a stack of a hundred notebooks, and you say, “oh God, I’ll never get that typed up.” And you wind up throwing yourself away. All that time, all those little gis from the unconscious are gone. And nothing can get them back. If you type up what you write, you have a chance to discover what you said. No one else cares. You are the only one who cares. If you don’t care, if you don't type up your work, no one else will ever see it, and who knows what life you will not change. To be a writer you must honor yourself. You must honor the words.

Discipline is Your Obligation to the Gi It takes discipline to become a writer. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen by chance. Discipline. Finish what you start. Discipline begets more discipline. If you write one scene a day in writing practice, and if you type it up every day, in one year you will have a story with 365 scenes. It takes about fiy scenes to make a screenplay or a novel. Do it every day and you become a writer. Without discipline you do not finish, and you waste

your time and your life. Time is not your friend.

techniques that can make our work as novelists richer.



If you take a shot at the three-act treatment, you’ll see that it’s a working piece. It’s about stor y—how things fit together. It’s about structure and how the pieces of your story flow and connect. The pitch is a sell piece that you use to plant your story, in five minutes or less, in the head of an agent, editor, or publisher. The most famous pitch is probably for the movie Alien: “Jaws in space.” That’s it. That’s the pitch. The pitch isn’t a treatment. A pitch is a high-concept sell piece that doesn’t do the writer much good. A treatment is a working document the writer uses to keep control of the story as it develops. In my own work, I write a treatment at critical points in story development in order to make sure the story is in my head. Why? I want the story to live in my head, so when I write a scene it’s like I’m pulling it out of experience instead of making it up. Aer a certain point, the line between history and fiction blurs, and you really get into your characters and you report what they say—and that’s called dialogue. e treatment is a guide to deeper writing. once I have a treatment, I can build a scene list. With the scene list, I can write any scene at any time using timed writing. A treatment, the way I see it, isn’t an outline and it isn’t a synopsis—synopses and outlines are beasts with striped fur and huge gnashers—and those two boys are worthless as writing tools.

TIP 3: ThE “cuT-To” TEchnIquE Like it or not, screenwriters have changed the way novelists have to write. ink ahead a little bit. Your novel is the raw material for a screen play. What happens to your story between print and script? Screenwriters have come up with a number of

Stories are told with action and image, keeping exposition to a minimum. In this sense, screenwriting has more in common with poetry than with prose. Squeeze out what’s not necessary. Dialogue does double duty. It floats on subtext while it reveals character. Don’t tell the story in dialogue. Screenwriting is an intelligence test for the viewer. how little does the writer have to put on the page for the viewer to get it? Answer: Very little. Should it be any different for the novelist?

Structure Scripts are built on scenes. Scenes are built on action and image. Scenes are short so the story moves. For the novelist, learning to think in scenes and white space makes the writing tighter, faster, and smoother by laying out the storyline or the through line. at’s where the cut-to technique gives you a leg-up. Learning to think like a screenwriter makes you a better novelist. Try running your short story, novella, or novel through the cut-tos. I use these words to make sure the cut-tos connect: objects, plot tracks, hooks. Each scene in the cut-to has to hook to a scene down the line. All of those linked scenes work together to bind your story into an integrated structure. ■ Jack Remick is a poet, short story writer, and novelist. He taught Fiction and Memoir in Certificate programs at the University of Washington Extension and Distance Learning. He cowrote The Weekend Novelist Writes A Mystery, with Robert J. Ray, a how-to/ write-along for mystery writers. His latest novel, Gabriela and The Widow, was released in 2013. For more writing tips, visit his blog at www.blood.camel His website is jackremick. com.




The Camper by Bob Ritchie


know what you see. I know that your eye is caught by the window mended with Saran Wrap and duct tape, the wounded bumper that we could never afford to repair. Your surreptitious examination of Rafael, my husband—his mouth dropped open and from which issues a so, halting snore—does not escape my notice. I am old, cataracts cloud my vision; I am not blind. Yet. Yesterday, dizzy, I fell to my knee crossing the street to the hospital. But I can still see the angry swelling that reddens and raises the skin around the scrape. As you pass, leather soles clicking on the cracked sidewalk, step young and full of energy—as you pass, your eyes slide sideways, and you see me put my fists to my thighs. (I will not let my face wince when the net of pain is thrown over my knuckles.) Yes, this is our home. I want to tell 36


you: It isn’t such a terrible thing. We lost the apartment, and Carlito’s wife, Leila, would not willingly let us stay. Even if she would, we would not ask. She smiles and nods when we visit. But the muscles around her eyes contract with tension. eir mansion in El Monte, one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in Ponce, could house two families from the Dominican Republic, where she is from. Carlito—her husband, my son— he was such a troubled child. en, you would not have approved. Now, you would shake your head and feel pity that Carlito never deserved. he did the drugs. he took my pearl necklace and pawned it—I would have given it to him. his own car, a gi from Rafael on his sixteenth birthday, he sold for only a few hundred dollars. But Carlito—you cannot know that he has changed; he is a

good boy. Smart and always in trouble, he was the devil’s own imp growing up. But then he went to school here, where you work. he had the scholarship and what Rafael and I could give him. Naomi, his daughter, my granddaughter, if you could see her, you would know that Carlito is a good boy. A good man. Naomi is bright like the sun. She smiles the 100-percent smile that is only possible when you are five and the world has not yet revealed its intentions. Carlito, her papi, my son, he is a good man. She would show you.


he uncultivated dirt beds that border the sidewalk overflow with weeds and wild ferns. When you brush past the waist-high Johnson grass—it reaches out with feathery flowers—you try to imagine what it must be like to live in a camper

THe CaMPer by BoB rITCHIe

parked on the street. e too-long, too-pale hair falls before your eyes, and you toss your head. Even in the shade, you think, it must be brutal. In your office at the medical school— which is full of minds and vigor and money—you will work in cool comfort. We borrow electricity from an external socket so that our fan can push the wet, hot air back out of the always-open door. I watch your face li, your eyes note the air conditioner that squats, low and silent, on the roof of our home. Our last home, I think. is is not the first time that I have noticed your noticing. is is not the first time that the question has radiated out from your sunreddened skin: Is it broken? No, it functions well enough. But Rafael said, “We will only take what power we must: for the fan, the stove for our coffee in the morning and rice and beans at night, and the radio in the morning for the news. No more. We are not thieves.” he has pride, though you will never have the opportunity to observe it. And if he wore it openly on his lined face, displayed it before your judging eyes, you would not perceive it. You cannot see his expression when he speaks. You cannot see the grimace, the lowered eyes, the lip-turning frown that is not anger, but shame. If you could, I do not believe that you would believe. You first saw us three weeks ago. We had parked the camper under the wide, protective branches of a maricao tree, unaware that it was your favorite of all those that lined the small street. It is my favorite, too. We share that. You thought little of us that first day, being lost in your worries of an uncertain future. If you had noticed me carrying the small bag of trash, you would have assumed that it was our own. Would you have believed that I had awakened at dawn in order to pick up the discarded cups and fast food bags and even a water bottle full of urine that littered the gutters? e second day, shaded by the same fluttering leaves that kept us

cool all the long hot day, you took note. Who do you suppose they are? you asked. Is this their idea of a vacation? You shrugged, thinking that it takes all kinds. I still can’t believe that people would choose the grass verge of the freeway for their picnics, you mused. You did not stare, not exactly, but you saw. Noticed. As I bent and dropped a handful of the fallen and browning leaves into the Supermercados Grande bag, you lowered your chin in a half nod, nice. at’s all. on the third day, you watched Rafael carry in the dish rack. You could see him stop by my chair, incline his upper body, but you could not hear him tell me to stay still, to

I forgive myself for the moisture that springs to the corners of my eyes, but I keep it from rafael.

relax for once. Still, Rafael’s gentle scolding smile and the relief that smoothed the creases from my face were evident. Your furrowed brow smoothed as the distress of yesterday’s failed PCR assay fell away. Sweet, you thought, smiling. You should thank us for the brief respite, hmm? You were not aware that you were staring—yes, with eyes focused and mind concentrated; not only at us, but at one of our last belongings. e camper, which once traveled from one side of Puerto Rico to the other, from El Yunque to Adjuntas to Guánica. It once had bulged with five laughing/playing children and two laughing/scolding adults. Now, like

its owners, it has a motor that wheezes, and tires that are too weak to carry its weight. Just traveling here, to its final resting place, something popped and fizzled in the front. Rafael told me that it was nothing important, but I am sure that he lies. A good lie. one that is supposed to protect me from the knowledge that we are at the end of the road. Sometimes, I can still hear it all: the laughter, shouts, and squeals of seven loving humans; the bubbling-over joy. It stands upon the night traffic sounds of ByPass number 2 and sings to me. I forgive myself for the moisture that springs to the corners of my eyes, but I keep it from Rafael. Would you say that that is my own good lie? at I am protecting him from the knowledge of my knowledge?



f you were to enter this, our home (our last home), and snoop, you would see that we possess little. e narrow closet next to the tiny kitchen sink holds my other three outfits, Rafael’s additional two. he wears his shorts for four days before he will let me wash them. “I do nothing to get dirty, Mi Vida.” he does not want me to scrub—the arthritis—and knows that I will not allow him to. If I were to let him, he would wear them, his one pair of shorts, a week or more. Today you see me in the bright yellow shorts with the white sleeveless blouse. Tomorrow it will be the comfortable gray jeans and the pale blue sweatshirt from Spain that María de la Cruz bought when she was on tour with Enrique Iglesias. It will be dry by then; it hangs from the shower head in the tiny stall. I breathe a prayer of thanks that I was able to scrub out the vomit stain. It is the outfit I always wear for my chemotherapy. It is cold in the hospital; even if it weren’t, I could never bring myself to wear shorts. What would people think? on most mornings, you see Rafael walking away from our camper. Your



THe CaMPer by BoB rITCHIe

gait is rapid and as carefree as your self-imposed gravity will allow; his, slow and careful, as his creaking joints insist. By the time he reaches his destination, you will have put your finger to the time clock and officially started your day. You do not know that we sometimes splurge on café con leche from the food truck that parks down and across the street. For those days that we do not (most days), the days that we tip a measured amount of warm milk from the quart box, adding three teaspoons of instant coffee—for those days, we have a small pan and two stained mugs. e one from Disney that Stefan bought me has a chip from when I threw it at Rafael. Without thinking, I run the tip of my forefinger along the rim and find the rough notch. It should have broken completely, but it bounced off the arm of the sofa and landed on a stack of towels I had just brought in from the lines that crisscrossed the small porch. Such luck. Rafael’s mug I bought on our honeymoon. I found it in the gi shop beneath the Rincón lighthouse. It is white and has a line drawing of the lighthouse, with two palm trees as parentheses. We made love nineteen times in our small, neat room at the parador Villa Antonio. Every hour or two we took cool showers, not to dampen our passion, rather as relief from the summer heat and humidity. A crying child who stumbled in thinking to find his papi and mami was the only interruption in those three, passion-drenched days. Aer ushering the frightened boy from our room, trying not to giggle, we locked the door. No more interruptions. on our return, I couldn’t clean the accumulated dust of our absence from the tiny, comfortable house that we rented for those first years, stopped by the beautiful aches in my legs, arms, and other areas. María de la Cruz, our oldest, visited her beauty upon us only nine months later. With your pale skin and closed, childlike face, you are very like the one who took her from us; Rafael tells



me that I am not to curse the devil. But it is only you to listen, so I say God damn his very soul. I know you are not him, so in the same breath of damnation, I send to you a small blessing. I trust that God will know who is to receive what. Even outside the door, mounted on the plastic milk box that serves as a step, you would hear—were you to attempt to enter—the fan before you saw it, it rattles so. In the last quarter inch of its back and forth sweep (on the le side, only), it emits a grating ratchet that would make you believe it is about to fly completely apart. I think you would cringe, afraid that an outward-flying piece might lacerate your smooth cheek or put out one of your hazel eyes. Yesterday, you turned your attention to the Se Vende, “For Sale,” sign that partially blocks the front windshield. I am sure you wondered about the local—as opposed to cellular— number written in my husband’s angular hand. You probably assumed, correctly, that we didn’t have a landline in the camper.



armelita. She is the youngest of our five. You would like her. her eyes burn and laugh simultaneously. It is a combination that seems to intrigue many men. Rafael once told me that the heat and joy he found in my eyes did more to ensnare him than the efforts of another part of my body. her apartment is not much larger than Carlito’s walk-in closet. Can you hear her voice in the so rasp of my husband’s snore? “Mami, stay with me. You and Papi, both. I can sleep on the floor. It’ll be like the sleepovers I used to have with Samantha and Cassandra and Tatiana.” Can you hear her giggle in Rafael’s clutching breaths? is is a new thing, this small wheeze. at it sounds like a beloved daughter’s so chuckle fools me not at all. And you? I know that you are

not a medical doctor: no white coat or casually draped stethoscope. Yet, you work in a medical school. Are you a researcher? A graduate student? e last, perhaps. You are young. No more than twenty-five, perhaps as old as thirty. A laboratory tech, I guess. A grad student, a postdoc. I remember the vocabulary from Carlito’s tense/happy recountings. Is Rafael’s moan loud enough to reach you? I shake my head to free it from the feathery net of fear. ere is hardly enough money for my chemotherapy. And not enough to purchase the drugs that would relieve the nausea I feel aer every session. I wonder, again, whether I could somehow fool Rafael into believing that I am getting my treatment and squirrel away the money. I am afraid that he will need a doctor. Soon. Carmelita, mi bebé. My baby; a wonderful surprise for us. She stops here every evening on her way home from Pizza hut to give us any messages (there have been none—who, really, would want to buy our decrepit camper?); to check; to share a few minutes of laughter and love. our first day here, she brought us a warm pizza. Someone called it in and did not pick it up, she said. We thanked her, shook our heads in dismay that a person would waste such food. As she le, I captured her eyes with my own, gave my head another shake. Tiny. “You mustn’t.” “But Mami—” During the year she works from 4:00 to 10:00, three or four days per week. As lovely as our island is, it is not so full of jobs that one can be lost. No matter how much you love your parents. It is true that I tell her it is too much—a full-time job and fulltime studies; one or the other will surely suffer. But that is the mother in me, the one who has always worried about sleep and nutrition and infections. At this gentle nagging, she always smiles, not quite a laugh. She possesses energy enough to power our air conditioner and fan, simultaneously. She is studying criminal law

THe CaMPer by BoB rITCHIe

reply, “Who is that, my son?” You would see him twirl on his toes and throw back his head, hands wide enough to grab hold of the infinite world. You would be blasted by the eight years of continuous joy beaming from his laughing eyes and rushing from his open mouth. “e camper. She needs a name.” “Mmm?” “Manchita the dog, Resbi the fish—”


not the oldest nor the youngest, not the best nor the worst.… I think that you would like Carmelita, I said. But I know that you would like Ramón. If for different reasons. Everyone likes Ramón. he would make you laugh until you howled. Even you, who wears your seriousness like a shield so that none can get too close. If you were there, you would hear Ramón say, “She needs a name.” And my


at uPR-Ponce. Now on summer break, Carmelita works every minute that they give her, eight hours per day, five days per week. has she taken your order? Because you walk to work in the morning and home in the aernoon, I assume you live nearby, perhaps in a garage-turned-apartment in the upscale neighborhood, Valle Real, next to the school. e Pizza hut is in the small strip mall that protects the neighborhood from enquiring eyes. Easy walking distance, and it seems that you like to walk. Do you eat there sometimes? Do you and your friends/girlfriend/wife stuff yourselves with pizza and pasta, joke and talk and laugh? I sweat. e cloth seat of our single portable chair chills my bottom every time the sluggish, heavy breeze stirs. It will rain today; the pain in my fingers tells me as much. e pain and the hot, wet air that wraps your body like a new-washed sheet and the sixty-three years that I have lived in Ponce, Puerto Rico. You did not have an umbrella when you rushed by. Will you get wet? Will you catch a chill? I would like to give you tea with honey and a splash of rum. But we have no tea; we have no honey. And the rum is Rafael’s last pleasure. A sip here, a sip there, and the bottle will last six months— longer, perhaps. he can’t be sure when he will be able to get another. Every day of the last three weeks— every work day—you have seen us: me, Rafael, the camper. You couldn’t know that Ramón, second-to-the-last and older than Carmelita by eleven years, you couldn’t know that his comic intelligence named this, our last home, though the name never “stuck.” Parked by Río Limaní, a chuckling and friendly river outside the mountain town of Adjuntas, Rafael is scolding María for going around without a top; she is only nine, and there are no other people anywhere close, so I don’t worry.…Perhaps I should have. Still in the middle of summer, the temperature by the river is no more than seventy degrees. If you could see Ramón:



THe CaMPer by BoB rITCHIe

When I turn to him, does the love I feel glow in my face? Enough that the aernoon sun seems pale? Would you see? Does my wonderful son? “A name?” “GuaGuadalupe!” Do you speak Spanish, I wonder? Would you recognize the clever little joke that my young son made? Guagua, a bus or van, and the name Guadalupe; it would not put an adult audience to rolling on the floors, I admit. his humor is more sophisticated, now. And I have seen the people laugh until their cheeks shine with tears. But that first joke will, to me, always be his best. No, we never called our traveling home “GuaGuadalupe.” I think that it was too clumsy on the tongue. But even sophisticated and disparaging Stefan deigned to laugh at his little brother’s wit. GuaGuadalupe, the camper, our last home—by Ramón’s name, or yours. When you pass, every morning at 7:30, every aernoon at 4:30, you wonder why. Why here? And it is a good question, especially since we have four living children. Why? (My stomach cramps; a moan slips past my lips. I am unprepared for the bubble of gas that also slips out, though not past my lips. I can’t help it; I giggle.) e reasons why? e simple answer is that the hospital is within walking distance and Rafael doesn’t trust himself to drive, not even the three or four miles from our old apartment. of course, my simple answer would not satisfy you. You would insist on knowing why our children are not taking charge of our lives. It is their duty, isn’t it?



could tell you that Stefan lives in Miami. he is a concert promoter. I think that he might be involved in money laundering. e disloyal thought makes my cheeks warm. I want to believe that his great success stems from his “American work



ethic”; his words. Such a serious boy. And with little time. he has no wife, no live-in girlfriend; his apartment is in South Beach. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a private study (whose carpet has longer hair than I do at the moment), a view of the Atlantic. And he offered: “Ma, you and Papi should come live with me. I have room.” he doesn’t lie, Stefan. he would house us and pamper us and feed us. And the truth is, sixty-three years in one city is long enough. But no. I could tell you that Carlito has a tiny little house for the nanny and that she never uses it. She prefers to drive in every morning at 6:00 and drive out

I could tell you that all of our loved and cherished children offered their homes, offered to continue paying the rent for our apartment…

every evening at 8:00—fourteen hours under Leila’s critical surveillance is enough for anybody. We could watch Naomi grow—for a few years, anyway. And we could put up with Leila’s resentment; she is not so tough. But no. I could tell you, again, that Carmelita has offered. offers still. It is not the fact that the queen-sized bed is fighting the television for disputed territory. Nor is it the fact that she is young and needs what little room she has to flower and grow and explore. No. I could tell you that the beach house Ramón bought is next to Villa Antonio, where Rafael and I honey-

mooned. (Puerto Rico is a very small island.) But he is never in it, his house. e last time he was in Ponce, when we lost the apartment, he offered. Like his brother, like his sister, as Carlito aches to do. But if he did, we would answer no. I could tell you that all of our loved and cherished children offered their homes, offered to continue paying the rent for our apartment, offered to pool their considerable resources and buy us any house we desired (Carmelita vowing to pay back every cent of her share to her brothers). But no. You are young and have a future. In ten years, you may be a doctor; you may be a successful researcher, traveling the world to talk about your investigations. Whether or not there is a wife, now or in the future, I cannot say. Perhaps you are like Stefan, who has no desire for a wife. Still, your movie is unwinding at its own pace, and it may be happy or sad or triumphant or something of all of those. But we are old, Rafael and I. In ten years, one or both of us will be with María de la Cruz. She will be happy to take us in, as well; do you know? Soon, Rafael will be wearing his other suit of clothes, the one that remains. And I, the last of my outfits: the lilac dress with the spray of pale yellow freesias stitched into the le shoulder. I will wear it once for Rafael and then once more. I don’t regret that. Rafael, I think, welcomes it. he won’t say, would never! but part of him died on the night that the FBI called us from Florida. e hurricane wind simply snatched up a piece of his heart, took it to María, and never said please or thank you. In the meantime, we have his pride. We have café con leche and the news in the morning, rice and beans at night, and a fan that struggles with its obligations. We have the camper. ■ Bob Ritchie is a writer, medical editor and English teacher at a medical school in Puerto Rico.


Pomegranate Hotel by Maja Lukic



mong the ruins of the old city, I briefly pause to clean my knee where gravel pierces deep into the wound and tiny shreds of skin curl up to reveal red velvet beneath. Salty sweat moistens the edges of the abrasion leaving behind a barely perceptible sting. With the cleanest corner of my shirt, I gingerly dab around it, brushing blood and dirt away. e sea stretches before me, luminous Mediterranean turquoise sparkling in the morning sunlight. Behind me, the ancient temples and ruins and paved streets of Tipasa and, further still, mountains in the distance. e old stones, the archaeological

vestiges of a long-ago people, rise majestically toward the clear, unmarred skies and I rest against a decapitated statute, feeling the cool, grainy marble against my sweatsoaked skin. e back of my throat feels coated in dry tissue paper and, feeling shallow involuntary coughs rise up, I regret leaving the extra water behind. At the hotel in Constantine, in the city of bridges, there will be water. And, too, fragrant olive oil, crusty white bread, ripe fruit, sweet wine, freshly caught fish, and candied nuts. e hotel is set on the very edge of the deep ravine that frames the whole city, where a warm North African

wind breezes through the curtains at night while you sleep and dream. If Josephine’s description of the place held true. But Josephine had been a compulsive liar long before she said I’ll be right back and then disappeared into the sea in hanioti, Greece. I was alone on the white sand when our parents came back to find us. And being only nine then, I didn’t know how to explain. Franco catches up to me and demands, What the hell happened to you? Never mind that, I shrug it off. I would rather not let him know I got hurt doing the exact thing he said I



P o M e G r a n aT e H o T e L b y M a J a L U k I C




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should not do. Franco wasn’t actually concerned about my cut in any case— only worried I would slow us down. I’ve always disliked short men for this reason. Time moves quicker for them somehow. It is we tall people who move slowly and sanguinely, like the cool blue surging waves of the Adriatic Sea. When I woke up on the beach earlier that morning, Franco had stood above me blocking the sunlight and casting a shadow over me. An impatient little Napoleon raising himself to his full, pitiful height, taking great advantage of my sprawled out position far below him. My travel companion from Málaga to Palermo, the ultimate destination of our journey, Franco had not wanted to stop in Tipasa and every moment in this obsolete old city at the edge of the sea razed his nerves. I suspect, too, that Franco missed sailing the Corinthian. e smooth predictability of travel at sea. e ease with which one could measure progress. But I wanted to see everything now that I was free of the shackles of the tour guides and the other passengers on the cruise ship, with Franco as my only company. e essence of our agreement is based on need: I need a knowledgeable guide to navigate the route and he needs a free trip home to Palermo. No written contract—a handshake and a suspicious glance from Franco sufficiently closed the transaction. We should go, Franco announces. What about the mausoleum? I stall. Franco looks back at me, unimpressed. A part of me enjoys the banter.



ranco and I are on the night train from Algiers to Constantine. e dirty old train plunges into the darkness as gusts of cool air stream in from the open windows. Even with



the steady influx of fresh air, the thick smell of pungent tobacco and body odor overwhelms the train car and burns my nostrils. Franco’s sonorous snoring is inimitable, but I have been awake since we boarded. e backpack with my passport, our train tickets, and maps is lodged against my right side. A makeshi recliner and a safe. Constantine was not technically on our route anymore. We were no longer part of the tourist tour that had brought me to this side of the world. Franco was no longer part of the sailing crew on the Corinthian and had no loyalty to his former itinerary; a slight detour toward the East was not on his radar. I had read through my travel brochures and guidebooks and there was nothing le to be learned. e Pomegranate hotel does not exist. My research at home in the uS had turned up a Pomegranate Boutique hotel in Turkey. But that could not be right. Josephine had described a city of bridges that lit up like fire at night, with white buildings and red tile rooops, and a great ravine. As I dri off to sleep, I am at the Pomegranate hotel. A bowl of pomegranates greets me in the room on my bedside table. In every mirror, Josephine’s hair comes tumbling down. It’s the hair that whips her back as she runs toward the water and dives into the rolling sea. I watch her golden hair on the horizon until she is so far in that I can no longer track her movement. Dusk settles on the beach and the sparkling white Grecian sand turns a lilac rose. And I wait for her golden waves to rise up out of the real waves. But they never do. ■ Maja Lukic graduated from Cornell Law School in May 2010. She received a BFA in acting from the Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2007. Maja is currently working as an attorney and writing in New York City.

Permission by Marie Kane

Mittened fingers dig into snow and sled picks up speed. Metal runners skim the quick surface, hands steer to avoid raspberry briars, oaks, and maples, their vigilant branches swathed in snow. You begin to turn the sled’s horns before the field drops. You’ve performed this high wire act before, but this time, too fast to make the turn and you tumble off. e empty Flexible Flyer rushes onto Blakely Street. A blue sedan with horrified driver sounds a wooden crunch. A jagged piece boomerangs from the street; your fingers reach to touch its rough edge. At the top of the hill, your brother wildly extends his hands: Stop! A soldier to the rescue, he windmills down the narrow field, evades trees and last autumn’s snow-buried circle of fire-rocks. ere, he had roasted potatoes on orange-eyed embers, tossed them onto blue and yellow corn-flowered plates, presented cutlery and condiments in his baseball glove.


Now, he kicks loose snow during his headlong rush: he thinks you’ve landed onto Blakely Street. Later, snow-crusted mittens, sweaters, hats drip wet-wool scent from living room’s silver radiator. Cigarette smoke rises from your mother’s clenched, right hand, the other smoothes your hair, realizing how little it takes for an ungluing of everything to occur. Your brother never admitted his raw terror at this presumed loss, yet the week before he dies, trach tube preventing speech, he roughly sketched the memory: the sled with its bow under the Christmas tree, dots and dots of snowstorm’s white haze, his sister clinging to the speeding sled, the crushed

wooden pieces that he risked his life to gather, hoping grandfather could repair the damage. You both smile at your good fortune. ere is always resistance in the snow at the beginning of the slide, none at the end. how much harder to release your hands, to let go, to give permission, when no snow, no slick runners, no drop off, no busy street, no jagged pieces loom. ■ Marie Kane’s poetry has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work has appeared in the Bellevue Literary Review, U.S. 1 Worksheets, Wordgathering, and others. She lives in Yardley, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Stephen Millner, an artist. Her website is




A Wee Bit Supernatural: Scottish Novelist Regi Claire By Ann Cefola


egi Claire’s writing has been called “beautifully precise,” “heartbreakingly real,” and “extraordinary” by literary critics in Scotland where she lives. e author of two short story collections and two novels, Regi is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Queen Margaret university and a creative writing teacher at the National Gallery of Scotland. Regi’s latest novel, e Waiting (Word Power Books, 2012), tracks the friendship of two girls through adulthood, evolving a fascinating plot. In weaving the story, Regi contrasts the Calvinism of her native Swiss heritage with Scottish mysticism. is is the perfect moment to talk to a writer who most critics agree is rapidly emerging as an impressive literary voice.






InTer vIeW with reGI CLaIre

ANN CeFolA: When did you start writing, and what titles have you published? regI ClAIre: I first dabbled with

writing in the mid-nineties. Since then I have had four books published, two collections of short stories— Inside~Outside (Scottish Cultural Press, 1998) and Fighting It (Two Ravens Press, 2009)—and two novels—e Beauty Room (Edinburgh university Press, 2002) and e Waiting (Word Power Books, 2012). AC: e back cover of e Waiting says it is part fiction and part memoir. What inspired you to write the novel? rC: e inspiration came from an elderly Edinburgh lady called Dorothy, whom I met one day while walking our retriever in the Meadows, the big city park near which we live. Truth be told, it was Dorothy’s strident voice as she kept having to shout for her scavenger of a Norfolk terrier that was my first introduction to her. Anyway, we became firm friends (as did our dogs!) and Dorothy started regaling me with stories, rather wild ones in fact, about herself and a girlfriend, way back in the past. however, I didn’t set out to write Dorothy’s story. I have always preferred to create my own fictional worlds. e Waiting is really an imaginary retelling of what might have been, as Dorothy died suddenly and tragically, before I had written more than forty pages. She never saw any of them. But she did know that I had been awarded a writer’s bursary from Pro helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council, as well as a writer’s award from uBS Cultural Foundation. AC: e plot layers two stories—the girlhood friendship of Marlene and lizzie, and lizzie’s encounter with rachel, Marlene’s granddaughter, in present time. How did you manage



the de back-and-forth between two complex narratives? rC: I didn’t actually write them separately. And I didn’t really plan the individual sections beforehand; it all seemed to work out quite naturally. of course I had timelines so as to be as accurate as possible within both narratives. For example, the action in the present takes place within the first three weeks of December, during the season of Advent. AC: lizzie stays faithful to Marlene, even when Marlene consistently hurts her. Is that a deliberate tension you created?

“I tend not to analyze my work because I am a bit superstitious: too much awareness might interfere with my imagination, kill it stone-dead.” — regi Claire author of The Waiting

rC: Not really. I think such relationships are not that uncommon, relationships involving an element of vicarious living and masochism, of near-fatal attraction. In a sense, Lizzie does get her own back by remaining passive and not making a stand for Marlene when it comes to the crunch. But the original bond between the two of them always proves too strong. AC: I was struck by your accurate and compassionate portrayal of

lizzie at an advanced age. You seemed to grasp the thought process and what-the-hell attitude of a mature adult. How did you get this insight? rC: ank you! I have always liked being with older people, and I was very close to my maternal grandmother. Not that she exhibited that much of a what-the-hell attitude— unlike Dorothy! Last but certainly not least, there is the magic of the imagination. AC: You contrast Swiss and Scottish cultures. What has astonished you the most about one or both? rC: When I moved from Switzerland to Scotland in 1993, I assumed that our cultures were essentially pretty similar, both countries being in Western Europe. how wrong I was! Coming from Switzerland, where we can vote on anything from speed limits to the acquisition of fighter jets by the government, I have always taken people power and rights for granted. By contrast, Britain seems rather dictatorial. e ordinary citizen usually has no say in matters that concern him or her. Just look at the Edinburgh tram fiasco or the overblown cost of the new Scottish Parliament building. I am sure that things would have turned out quite differently had there been more grassroots input and transparency. AC: ere is a supernatural element at work which made me think of “the Scottish play.” Do you find Scottish culture evokes or embraces such a worldview, and is that force always to be feared? A more positive example in Scotland is Findhorn, a profuse garden said to have thrived through other-worldly guidance. rC: e supernatural (or the uncanny) is something that has always been part of my work, though over the

InTer vIeW with reGI CLaIre

years I believe it has become more pronounced. My most recent stories might more accurately be called “slipstream” as someone pointed out to me only the other day. ere is indeed a strong supernatural tradition in Scotland that pervades the whole culture, both past and present. But I suspect that rather than the Scottish heritage, it is my Swiss upbringing that has influenced me the most in this respect, especially Swiss and German literature, for example Friedrich Dürrenmatt (e Visit, e Judge and His Hangman, Suspicion, e Assignment, “e Tunnel,” “A Dangerous Game”), or Jeremias Gotthelf (e Black Spider); Goethe, of course (Faust, Elective Affinities), as well as heinrich Kleist and, most disturbingly, E. T. A. hoffmann. en there are the legends. In the region where I grew up, a powerful story still survives which I think will play a central role in my next novel. So no, I don’t regard the force of the “other-worldly” as something intrinsically threatening; it is something to be aware of, something to tap into but not to meddle with. AC: e book travels through almost every decade in the 20th century, and each era felt authentic. Did you do any research, historical or otherwise, for the novel? rC: Yes, quite a lot: I went to the library to study old newspapers, magazines, books about fashion, old postoffice directories; I consulted history books and encyclopedia to check on dates and chronologies; and, of course, I did online searches for the more elusive details. AC: e Waiting also suggests that the sins of one generation are passed to the next, or a belief in predestination. Can you comment on this philosophical context? rC: I suppose I wanted to thematize both the idea of fate, personified by

the fortune teller Tinker Jeanie, who teaches Marlene the art of palm reading, and the idea of Calvinism. John Calvin was born in Geneva, Switzerland, and greatly influenced John Knox, the founder of Presbyterianism in Scotland—hence the figure of Rachel as a Swiss-Scottish PhD student doing research on the Reformation in Scotland. however, Calvin’s doctrine of predestination, of the elect and the damned, is not really discussed in the novel and it is up to the reader to make the connection. AC: In your writing, what themes do you return to and why? rC: I am not sure, actually. To be frank, I tend not to analyze my work because I am a bit superstitious: too much awareness might interfere with my imagination, kill it stone-dead. AC: What experiences, events or activities stimulate your creative process? rC: Meeting people, friends and strangers, and hearing or imagining their stories; travelling—quite a few of my stories have been sparked off by trips; walking Leila, our golden retriever, in the quiet of the nearby cricket ground; reading the intriguing newspaper clippings my mother sends me from Switzerland every so oen. AC: Do you have a favorite quote that feeds your writing practice? rC: Not a quote as such. But I do try to encourage myself whenever I’m plagued by self-doubt and fear of failure. or whenever I find myself procrastinating and doing the housework instead of sitting down to write. “You can do it, Regi,” I remind myself then, “Just get on with it!” AC: When you are teaching, what is your sincerest desire for your students to discover or learn?

rC: at they learn to trust their imagination; that they find their own unique voice; and that they write what only they can write, not something they think sounds good or impressive. AC: What are you working on now, and is there anything you’d like to create one day that feels a little outrageous? rC: I am working on another collection of short stories and by now have written about a third of it. e stories have all been published (or accepted for publication) in literary magazines and anthologies, most recently in e Best British Short Stories 2013. My newest piece, which took months to finish, I sent off only last week. on and off over the past few years I have also been working on a new novel set in Switzerland. Parts of it, I have been told, are actually pretty outrageous—so much so that I might have to consider toning them down, if just a little! AC: I look forward to reading your new novel, regi. anks for sharing insights into your work and process —it’s been fun speaking with you. ■ Ann Cefola is a poet and translator who lives in the New York suburbs. She is the author of St. Agnes, Pink-Slipped (Kattywompus Press, 2011), Sugaring (Dancing Girl Press, 2007), and the translation Hence this cradle (Seismicity Editions, 2007). A Witter Bynner Poetry Translation Residency recipient, she also received the Robert Penn Warren Award judged by John Ashbery. Learn more at and www.annogram.blogspotcom.

e Waiting (Nov. 2012) was reprinted this summer, and e Beauty Room (2002) is being reissued as a Birlinn ebook (distributed by Faber Factory). For more information, visit Regi Claire’s website at or the publisher at www.word-power.



Tablet Writing: iPad & Android by Gene Wilburn


hen it comes to portability, it’s hard to beat a shiny new tablet PC whether it be an iPad, iPad Mini, Nexus 10, Nexus 7, Kindle Fire, or Galaxy Note, to name a few of the tablets on the market. Tote it in a bag, switch it on, and it’s ready to use, with up to ten hours of battery life. If you spend many of your NaNoWriMo sessions at a coffee shop or library, your tablet might be a better choice of writing instrument than a laptop. e key to writing successfully with a tablet PC is to tailor it to your needs so it becomes part of your existing workflow, matching your personality and preferences. A good place to start is with the keyboard.

External Keyboard e best accessory you can add to any tablet PC is an external Bluetooth (BT) keyboard, such as those offered by Apple, Logitech, Verbatim, Kensington, and others. To be fair, there are writers who can sustain a productive writing session using an onscreen, virtual keyboard, but most of us are more comfortable with an external unit. Some keyboards have better typeability than others, so pay special attention to the key layout to make sure you purchase one that doesn’t slow you down. Folding Bluetooth keyboards offer convenience, though the keys oen don’t respond as nicely as they do on a rigid unit.



Any modern BT keyboard will work with any BT-enabled tablet PC, allowing you to mix brands if, say, you use a Nexus tablet but like typing on the Apple BT keyboard.

Tablet Stand Do you prefer typing on your tablet PC in portrait or landscape mode? Portrait mode is more typewriterlike, with a vertical orientation to the page; landscape, or horizontal mode, is similar to a laptop. In either case you’ll need something to prop the tablet at a comfortable angle for viewing. Many tablet covers fold in such a way as to prop up the tablet for viewing in landscape mode. If you don’t mind carrying an extra bit of gear, you can purchase an inexpensive metal or plastic tablet stand with folding legs that, like a miniature artist’s easel, holds the tablet in portrait or landscape orientation.

choosing a Writing App When you write on your main computer, do you use a word processor, a minimalist text editor, or a specialty application such as Scrivener? Does

your writing require a lot of attributes, such as italics, footnotes, or special formatting, or, like most novelists, does your writing consist mostly of plain words on a page? e majority of writing tools available for tablets are plain-text editors or simple text editors that support Markdown notation (see sidebar, “What is Markdown?”). ere are also a few full-featured word processors available and a few organizing tools that might prove useful. Most of the text and Markdown editors are either free or inexpensive, while the word processors tend to cost more, but are still reasonable compared to the price of soware for a Mac or PC.

Plain Text & markdown Editors Many writers, myself included, like a minimalist writing environment with few, if any, menus showing—essentially just words typed to a blank screen, reminiscent of typing on a blank sheet of paper. e advantage of a plain-text editor is that any files it produces can be imported into any other text editor or word processor on any operating system. Plain text is the universal file format of the computer world. The app stores for tablets are loaded with plain-text and Markdown editors. ones that writers have rated highly for the iPad include IA Writer, Elements, Daedalus Touch, WriteRoom, and Byword. Good editors for Android devices

include Write, Jota, LightPaper, and DroidEdit. You might want to try more than one to see which editor most closely matches your expectations.

Word-Processing Apps If you prefer a more traditional word-processing app, there are several available in the app stores. At this time, there are more offerings for the iPad than for Android tablets. Notables for the iPad include Documents to Go, which offers both a Word-compatible word-processing app and an Excel-compatible spread sheet, Doc2 hD, a wordcompatible word processor, Textilus, an RTF-based Markdown editor for the iPad, or Apple’s own Pages. Pages docs can be exported directly to another app on the iPad as well as sent by email in Pages, Word, or plain-text format. If you own Pages on a Mac, you can set up direct iCloud sync. Leading the list of Android word processors is Kingso office, a word processor that is both Google Drive and Dropbox friendly. Best of all, it’s free. Documents to Go, already mentioned for the iPad, is also available for Android tablets. Smart office 2 is a word processor available for Android as well as iPad tablets. It can create and edit Word-, Excel-, and PowerPoint-compatible files that you can sync back to your main computer. Another Word and Excel compatible contender is officeSuite Pro 7. It offers a free trial version. Lest the obvious be overlooked, any tablet can also use the built-in word processor in Google Drive as long as you have an Internet connection. It’s a simple matter to paste f rom a text editor into G o og le Drive and then use Google Drive to set things like italics, underscore, indented text, and other wordprocessing attributes. Google Drive is also a useful platform for collaboration if you’re working with another writer.

Specialty Apps Despite persistent rumors that it might happen, Scrivener has not yet been ported to the iPad, but for fans who love the Scrivener corkboard for creating and rearranging scenes and sections, there’s an iPad app called Index Card that is very Scrivener-like. ere’s a workable, though less flashy, index card app called Cardboard Index Cards available for Android. A specialty app that might appeal to Android users is SwiKey, an alternative virtual keyboard that turbocharges the onscreen typing experience, making working with a virtual keyboard a decidedly more attractive option. ere are alternative virtual keyboards for the iPad as well, but they require you to jailbreak your iPad in order to use them.

Printing from a Tablet Android tablets can print to any WiFi-enabled printer whereas iPads can print wirelessly only to AirPrintcompatible printers, or a printer that has been disguised to look like one. Current printers from hP and Epson offer AirPrint. If you have an older, non-Wi-Fi printer, as I do, there are utilities available that can trick your printer into looking like an AirPrint printer. handyPrint for the Mac does an excellent job of making my shared hP Laserjet 1300 available to my iPad. Windows users can use a utility such as FingerPrint to enable Airport printing from older printers. ere are, of course, more apps available than are highlighted here, but this should be enough to set you on your path to turning your tablet into a formidable writing tool. Now, break out your tablet and get cracking on that word count! ■ Gene Wilburn is a writer, photographer, and computer specialist residing in Port Credit, Ontario, near Toronto. He retired from corporate IT work in 2005 and now focuses primarily on writing and photography. Gene serves as an advisor and nonfiction editor for Small Print Magazine.

What is Markdown?

Several of the products mentioned in “Tablet Writing” and “Distraction-Free Editors” are Markdown editors. Markdown is essentially a way to insert common typographic characters into plain text files to create attributes such as bold, underscore, italic, ordered lists, unordered lists, program coding examples, indented text, and URL links in the final output. It was created by John Gruber who maintains the reference site for Markdown at Daring Markdown was originally created as a text-to-HTML converter, allowing bloggers and others to write HTML code without the pickiness of HTML syntax. It has since been extended to general writing, exporting the results not just to HTML, but to various forms of formatted text that can be imported or pasted into word processors. It still works beautifully for blog writing, but it now has more general utility. All of the Markdown editors in these articles offer a preview mode so you can see what the formatted text will look like when printed. Most of the editors can send formatted text to an email address, to a Dropbox account, or directly to a printer. Markdown is easy to learn and to use. For instance, surrounding text in asterisks *like this* will produce like this in the converted document. To bold text an entry you use two asterisks, e.g. **bold text**. Other attributes are similarly easy.

If you need even deeper features, such as footnotes, tables, and citations, there is a superset of Markdown called MultiMarkdown that you can explore at fletcher

For those of us who like writing with a minimalist editor, Markdown and MultiMarkdown provide the best of both worlds— plain text with word-processing attributes when needed.



Distraction-Free Editors by Gene Wilburn

Simplify, simplify, simplify. —h.D. oreau, Walden


et’s face it: desktop, laptop, and tablet computers can be distracting. You only just begin writing and achieve a little momentum when your mind decides to take a quick email break, or see what’s new on Facebook, or dash off a tweet. or an alert informs you that there’s a fresh New York Times crossword puzzle waiting in your crossword app. e next thing you know, your writing session is over and your time has been frittered away by addictive, fun, but non productive pursuits. Don’t feel alone. Most of us find our computing devices distracting. What we need is help in blocking out distractions. e most obvious way to avoid distraction is to screen it out, like a blackout curtain in oslo used to screen out the midnight sun at midsummer. happily, your current word processor may already have a screening mode that will hide the menus and icons of other programs so that what you see resembles a blank sheet in a typewriter. The latest versions of Microsoft Word, for instance, offer a view called Focus View that opens your writing palette full screen and hides all menus and scroll bars. Similarly, the Swiss army knife of writing tools, Scrivener, has a view called Composition Mode that effectively screens out the complexity of the menus. In Libreoffice Writer this view is called, simply, Full Screen, and it’s also called Full Screen in Apple’s Pages word processor.



underscore, bold, and font choices. RTF files end in the extension .rtf and are easily imported into any major word processor.

Text Editors

iA Writer’s focus mode on iPad.

If this mode helps you and you’re happy with the result, then you’ve already found a solution. however, if you’re yearning for even more freedom from distraction, or are simply curious about what other writing tools offer, there are products that also screen you from the complexities of, say, Word or Scrivener by keeping things minimal. ese apps don’t try to be full word processors or outliners. ey simply let you write text, the way you would on a typewriter. With the addition of spell checking, of course. In general, minimalist editors share certain characteristics. ey usually create plain text files that end in the file extension .txt. ey sometimes offer rich text format (RTF) for preserving attributes such as italic,

e simplest editors of all are the text editors that come with your operating system. In Windows, this is Notepad or a third-party substitute. For Mac users this is TextEdit. For Linux users the editor would be Vim, Gedit, Emacs, or one of the many open-source variants. e reason some writers write with a text editor—Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon), for instance, uses Emacs, a unix/Linux editor—is that text editors are fast, lightweight, and nimble, as well as being free of any formatting distractions. ey also perform well on older computers. You don’t need the latest in hardware to run these peppy little programs—you just start typing and go. e following distractionfree editors, however, offer additional support for writing not generally found in text editors.

WriteRoom WriteRoom (http://www.hogbayso may be the quintessential minimalist editor aimed at writers. Available for Mac and ioS, it costs $9.99 and $4.99 at the respective app stores. WriteRoom offers two modes: a text window similar to Windows Notepad or Mac TextEdit, and a full-

screen mode that blocks out all distractions from the system. one interesting option it offers is “typewriter scrolling” that, similar to a typewriter, keeps the current line in the center of the screen so you don’t have to type looking at the bottom of the page. WriteRoom has customizable sounds, including typewriter clicks for those who miss the typewriter experience. You can set the color palette of your choice, such as black background with soothing amber or green letters, like an early PC monitor. WriteRoom offers spellchecking as you type and it tracks word count. It can also convert between plain text and rich text formats. is timeproven product is a solid choice for Mac and ioS users.

q10 Q10 ( is a free Windows minimalist editor similar to WriteRoom but with a few extras. It offers a spellchecker, timer (for timed writing sessions) and statistics that include word count, character count, and page count. It has a useful “notes” feature: any paragraph starting with “..” is considered a note. You can get a list of all the notes in your manuscript and jump immediately to any of them. You can also set goals: a target count of words, paragraphs, or pages, and view a percentage stat of how close you are to meeting your target. is is particularly useful for NaNo WriMo writers adhering to a strict daily word count. Like WriteRoom, Q10’s color schemes are customizable. unlike WriteRoom, Q10 produces plain text only, with no option for rich text. is editor is an excellent choice for Windows users.

FocusWriter FocusWriter ( focuswriter) is a free editor that runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. Similar to WriteRoom and Q10, FocusWriter combines some of

FocusWriter runs on multiple computer platforms with customizable colors and background themes.

the elements of both. Like Q10, it offers daily goals, timers, and alarms, and like WriteRoom it can produce both plain text and rich text files. It also provides support for basic openoffice/Libreoffice .odt files. Its appearance is especially customizable, not only in terms of colors, but also in terms of background themes for those who prefer a bit of pizzazz, even in a minimalist editor. It includes a spellchecker and an optional scene list sidebar. FocusWriter can put you into a focused text mode in which the current sentence you’re writing stays in full view while surrounding sentences are dimmed. is can be useful for keeping your mind on composing rather than editing. Running on multiple computer platforms, FocusWriter is an especially good choice for writers who use more than one operating system.

iA Writer iA Writer ( is available for Mac ($9.99) and ioS ($4.99) at the respective app stores. It presents a white background with black letters, like a sheet of paper in a typewriter; a full screen mode that blocks out distractions; and a focus mode that focuses on the current sentence, in the manner of Focus Writer. unlike the rest of the minimalist writing tools, it doesn’t offer the writer a choice of screen fonts. Instead it supplies a single, attractive fixed font, akin to a typewriter font. iA Writer can export to both .rtf and .html. What makes this little edi-

iA Writer employs standard Markdown symbols. (For more information on Markdown, see “What is Markdown” on page 49.)

tor hot is its secret weapon: it employs standard Markdown symbols to add attributes such as bold, italic, lists, or block quotes. For instance, in Markdown language you can italicize iA Writer by typing *iA Writer*, surrounding it with asterisks. If the concept of plain-text formatting piques your interest, you can find out more about Markdown syntax at on the website maintained by John Gruber, creator of Markdown. (For more information on Markdown, see page 49 in this issue of Small Print Magazine.) Even without using Markdown, iA Writer is a pleasant writing tool that can sync files between a Mac and an iPad, via iCloud or Dropbox, for those who switch back and forth between computer and tablet. Although these distraction-free editors are great for NaNoWriMo writers, they’re also useful to any writer who needs help concentrating on the work at hand, especially while composing. once you’ve had a taste of distraction-free writing, it’s jarring to go back to a writing mode that displays menus and icons. As oreau implies in Walden, simplicity can be deeply profound. Productive, too. ■ Gene Wilburn is a writer, photographer, and computer specialist residing in Port Credit, Ontario, near Toronto. He retired from corporate IT work in 2005 and now focuses primarily on writing and photography. Gene serves as an advisor and nonfiction editor for Small Print Magazine.




Tigers may be one of the most revered animals but they are also vulnerable to extinction. With as few as 3,200 tigers left in the wild today, we have lost 97% of their population in just over a century. )\[^LJHUJOHUNL[OH[>VYSK>PSKSPML-\UKPZ^VYRPUN[VZH]L[OLZLTHNUPÄJLU[JYLH[\YLZ so they remain a part of our world. To learn how you can help make a difference, visit: © 2012 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. © 2013 Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment LLC. All Rights Reserved. TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX, FOX and associated logos are trademarks of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and its related entities. World Wildlife Fund. ® WWF Registered Trademark. Panda Symbol ©1986 WWF.

Small Print Magazine || Fall 2013  

Small Print Magazine, a resource and showcase for writers, publishes creative writing, artwork, and articles and reviews of interest to writ...

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