Uncategorized

Two ADHD Brains React to Fragmented Texts in Different Ways

Robert Berry-Creative Commons

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Uncategorized

Three Things You Might Not Expect on Your First Day of Publication

Strange Appetites is Launched!

You can purchase a paperback or kindle version on Amazon HERE today, and an audible version should be available shortly.

Startling, lyrical, and tender, Strange Appetites shines a light on loneliness in magical and mythical ways. Reality is bent but beautiful in these intricately carved stories, and the author’s varietal, passionate and subtle tone shifts fall on the ear with astonishing rightness.

Red Penguin Books Editor

It has been rewarding and — yes—strange— to see my first book-length work go up for sale. I have been writing since the age of seven, 50 years! A spelling tutor was assigned to me in first grade because I had learned to read and write in Germany. There’s a story about macabre German readers circa 1969 in Strange Appetites. The tutor was trying to explain the concept of vowels, and I was totally confused. Finally, she said, “Why don’t you write a story?

The news that I could write a story was a thrilling revelation. I’d spent years listening to my mother read to us at night, and the idea that I could change the endings filled me with light. But the road to publication took me through many a labyrinth. Most of these stories were published online all over the country, and a hand bound version won the Adirondack Center for Writing’s People’s Choice Award in 2015.

Free Download of Audio Story, “The Opal Maker,” Winner

“The Opal Maker,” the first story in the collection, won the Wigleaf Top 50 Very Short Stories of 2015.

Three you might not expect on your first day of publication:

There have been several fittingly strange occurrences on the very last leg of this journey: like how Amazon autocorrects my name to LAKE, and then the book doesn’t show up. Algorithm killer right there. I haven’t been able to change that… so you have to search my last name and the title to get there.

Another amusing event was when my first search result placed my book next to a plastic yodeling pickle. Who knew such things existed. It was, again, fittingly strange. Sadly, that pickle is not in my book. Maybe next time!

With every twist of the journey, there’s something new to learn and/or buy. I’m trying to do more of the former and less of the latter. You know how everyone talks about being a bestseller? Turns out there’s a way to game the system on Amazon by picking the right categories. How which category is the most advantageous depends on who you have to beat in that category, how many sales a day that category makes, and something else… I started to space out after the seventh paragraph and the purchase icon.

The Northshire Bookstore is hosting a books signing for me on Thursday, December 9th from 5:30-6:30 and I’m planning a Book Launch Bash. Details TBA. Of course everyone I ever laid eyes on is invited.

Thank you for supporting me on this journey.

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Reading, Uncategorized

Upcoming Readings!

SUNY ADIRONDACK Writing Faculty Showcase at the Writers Project September 20, 2021, 12:30.

I’ll be joining other faculty and reading from the prologue of my soon to be released novel, Blue Woman Burning and will have free postcards of the lovely cover.

WAMC Vox Pop Writer’s Forum

September 21, 2021 2:00-3:00

I’ll be a call-in guest with Ray Graf and Barbara Chepaitis.

  • Call in during the show from 2-3 p.m. with questions! at 1-800-348-2551 (1-800-34TALK-1)
  • Email voxpop@wamc.org during the show
  • Tweet us @WAMCVoxPop

100,000 Poets for Change!

Visual Arts Gallery, Dearlove Hall, SUNY ADK

Friday, September 24th, 4:00 p.m.

I’ll be joining other poets to use our creative voices to remind us all of the possible reality of peace, justice, and a sustainable climate.

For a free copy of my book Strange Appetites, due out Oct 26, sign up for my emails below. I promise I won’t paper-mache your mailbox with excessive mailings!

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General, Uncategorized

Camping the 1950’s Way

My parents were adventurers. In my lifetime, the only time they truly got along was when traveling. They lived in separate houses 400 miles apart, but remained married, and traveled together a lot.

Crouching behind the suitcase to get out of the wind.

The way we camped was to pack the trunk of the car with sleeping bags, a stove, a tent, water, gasoline, and a box of food, then drive–only backroads– highways were for tourists, not adventurers. When it came time to sleep, they’d pick a spot that seemed safe and secluded to put our sleeping bags on the ground if there was no rain, tents if there were. I’m pretty sure we were trespassing in farmer’s fields much of the time, and that was mostly okay in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, as was sleeping on the side of the road.

Sometimes, people DID consider it trespassing, as when some shepherds in Turkey attacked us in the night and we had to make a getaway across a river, but that was before I was born.

My novel Blue Woman Burning (due out in December 2021), is partly autobiographical, and starts with one such trek from Santiago, Chile to Oneonta, New York, in a Dodge Dart sedan. 12,000 miles. Took us six weeks.

I’m thirteen, and washing the dishes with my older brother somewhere
on the altiplano between Chile and Bolivia.

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Tools of the Trade, Uncategorized, Writing Prompts

Facing It: Poetry Writing Prompt

Kenneth Koch’s Rose Where Did You Get That Red is classic book of poetry invention exercises geared to fourth graders. He uses the structure and premise of existing poems as a template or recipe for a new poem. For example, the recipe you might extract from William Blake’s “Tyger” is: ask a magical creature how it was made and what makes it tick, and make each question describe an awe-inspiring aspect of the creature using metaphor. This recipe technique is a common writing prompt for adults, also.

Inspired by Koch and the “Where I’m From” poetry template broadly available online, I developed a template based on Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem “Facing It” which has resulted in some excellent student work in my college introduction to creative writing classes.

If you haven’t already, outlining some basic components of poetry reliably steers students in the right direction, especially those afraid of poetry.

Rough Poetry Rules

Poetry usually:

  • Uses images and more than one of the five senses to show rather than tell
  • Balances concrete and abstract word choices
  • Uses the space on page for evocation (line breaks to emphasize last and first words, white space and stanza breaks, etc)
  • Comes from the unconscious and speaks to the unconscious
  • Reverberates with more than one layer of meaning the more you read it
  • Uses language concisely (is compressed)
  • Involves leaps of association (from light to dark, inside to outside, etc)
  • Progresses (as in change of mood, plot, character-development, or perspective)

Good class discussions also occur when I ask students to extract their own recipes from published poems.

The Writing Prompt

komunyakaa
Good video of Yusef Komunyakaa reading “Facing It” here.

Preparation: Yusef Komunyakaa’s  poem “Facing It” takes place in front of the black, reflective surface of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.  Read the poem two or three times, each time asking students what images they remember ( as per Sheridan Blau’s literature workshop).  Note how Komunyakaa uses reflective surfaces to shift from outside to inside the reflection, from flesh to image, from surface to depth, from past to present, and from illusion to reality.

Directions for students:

Compose a poem following these steps. Break the rules wherever inspired. The numbered directions loosely correspond to the lines of the poem. When confused, notice how Komunyakaa’s poem does it and substitute your own images/ideas. Continue reading “Facing It: Poetry Writing Prompt”

Uncategorized

Trump’s Covid-19 Cocktail* (Guaranteed to cure your quarantine blues!)

 

Guest Post from Loren Davidson

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz Citrus Meadows Lysol disinfectant spray (I like that one, but any of the flavors will do. The Cherry Blossom and Pomegranate is quite nice, or if you’d like something more exotic, try the Jasmine and Rain variety.)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 oz lemon flavored Clorox (again, try different scents; see which one works for you!)
  • Then for that woodsy flavor and lovely color; just a soupçon of Pine-Sol!
  • Shake vigorously with plenty of ice and strain into a chilled martini glass
  • Garnish with a Tide pod

As you know, I’m more of the industrial type, so I like something with a little more city scent.  So instead of the Pine-Sol, I found CLR works well (calcium lime and rust remover), but if you happen to have an auto parts store near you, I found that any STP product works well.

I myself prefer the carburetor and fuel injection cleaner. Lucas Oil has some fine products, too, but, unfortunately, they’re all clear colored.  So, for a nice chartreuse color, a little Prestone antifreeze will do the trick, or if you prefer a nice mauve, ATF fluid (for those of you not in the know, automatic transmission fluid).

And since you’re in the auto parts store anyway, garnish with a pine tree air freshener. It has a much more chemical pine scent then Pine-Sol and a lovely texture when you chew on it.

Drink under a tanning light!

Or, if you have one near you, a concentrated thermal solar plant!

Or, if you have one of those nerdy friends, their solar oven!

Also, don’t forget! Share a lollipop for Trump day is coming up, just around the corner! I’m so excited!!! Be sure to bring plenty of lollipops to share! We’re going to try to set a record for how many people can share a lollipop and how many lollipops get shared!

Save the date!

*Loren Davidson is a comedian/contractor from Los Angeles. He is neither a doctor or a chef. The above recipe is not to be taken seriously in any way!

Fantasy, Literary Criticism, Meditations, Uncategorized

Does Fantasy Dodge or Enhance Reality?

Newborn_of_Lesser_short-nosed_fruit_bat
Baby dragon? Or newborn lesser short-nosed fruit bat. Photo by Anton

Lately, I’ve been writing and reading realistic stories with a hint of guilt. Why guilt, you may ask?

Because I’ve been a staunch defender of the literary merit of fantasy, sci-fi, and magic realism, and because my turn to realism in middle age is accompanied by a bit of skepticism about the paranormal and a bit of boredom with its fiction, even as these genres are gaining status in the publishing world and as writers are beginning to blur genres with greater effect and fewer apologies.

In a recent interview with the New York Times Book Review, Samantha Hunt said: “’Magic’ is a tricky word. It separates the unexplainable from our daily experience. Yet eyeballs, snowflakes, quantum physics and birth (along with many other things), are magical and habitual. I prefer the word ‘science.’ I like to write about wonder found in the ordinary.”

Basically, she’s saying, reality is so amazing that she uses the concept of magic to call attention to it. That’s sort of what I do—use magic to externalize emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual truths – make metaphor materially (or at least verbally) manifest.

But while I agree with Hunt that molecular structure is wonder-inducing, calling into question, as it does, the nature of solidity, I disagree that science equals the magic or the miraculous. The words “magic,” “supernatural” and “miraculous” specifically mean that which is beyond nature – that which has no rational explanation.

So why do we keep using it in fiction if what we are really talking about is our perception of reality?  Why, in the wonderful featured story, “The Thing In the Walls Wants Your Small Change,” does author Virginia M Mohlere use the tiny dragon to symbolize the main character’s need to let her own inner monster out to fight the very real monster of her abusive, alcoholic mother? Why didn’t she just write a realistic story about that? Wouldn’t that be more complex to have the character fight her own battle, thus inviting the question of whether it’s right to fight violence with violence?

I don’t know if I can answer that question, but I’ll try: the tiny dragon is a more delightful, more beautiful, more loving solution to rancid reality. The dragon is allowed to be an animal. It’s right and correct for the dragon to bite and scratch the mother—because it is acting in accordance with its true nature, whereas it would be wrong for the narrator to do that because humans are supposed to transcend their basic nature, to transcend violence. The dragon construct, therefore, allows us to have both. It allows us to deal with a heavy subject in a light way.

But, at the risk of offending, I wonder when approaching my own writing on this score, if I’m dodging the difficult. If one goes much further down this road one might conclude, as some do, that all of fiction is a contrivance, and that only “real stories” are worth reading. Is there something wrong with relying on a construct? Is a construct the same as a contrivance?

Ursula Le Guin by Marian Wood Kolisch
Ursula Le Guin. Photo by Marian Wood Kolisch

Ursula Le Guin, in her essay, “The Critics, The Monsters and the Fantasists,” would object to this line of questioning. She says, to assert that fantasy is mere metaphor or allegory is to reduce it and negate its primary power, which is to point us outside the box of quotidian life, which she sees, I think, as an inherently good activity because it opens us up to tolerance for difference and to imagining a better life.

Of course, we all know how subjective reality can be.  And we’ve all heard the adage that fiction (good fiction anyway), is truer than truth.

I remain conflicted and curious about this issue, and ultimately, I think the world takes all kinds of fiction and needs all kinds. After all, there isn’t just one version or a willow, but thousands, and new ones crossbreeding every day.

Reblogged from Luna Station Quarterly

Advice, Interview, Uncategorized

Radio Interviews

I think I forgot to announce this on my website.

Here is the most recent, only eight months ago:  Writers Forum on Vox Pop, “Writers on Writing. Me and Barbara Chepaitis.

And here we are with“Family Stories,” on the Vox Pop’s Writer’s Forum. Not sure of the date. 2016?

WAMC.org

Reviews, Uncategorized

Cimarron Review

Cimarron REview.jpgCimarron Review
Winter 2017
Issue 198
Quarterly
Review by Lâle Davidson

With prosy poems and poetic prose, Cimarron Review provides fodder for intelligent readers. Founded in 1967 and a member of CLMP, the magazine regularly nominates its writers to “notable contests.” The Winter 2017 issue is a clean, slim volume, the pages almost square and formatted with a lot of white space so the reader can breeze through. Of the 25 writers, 14 are male, and a different 14 had published one or more books, while 8 were either MFA graduates without publications, or had published in fairly unknown magazines.

Most of the poetry in this issue leans toward spare prose, sometimes based on a vivid anecdote that leaps deftly into philosophy. For example, Karen Skofield’s “Abbreviated Guide to Unusual Phobias” begins with a wry list of eccentric fears posed as questions, “If I abide crowds but not the man in the fringed vest…If children are welcome but identical twins cause sweating.” Then it builds to fears that have shaped civilization: “The fear that I will outlive/ my children is called parenting” and “A fear that the lion will never lie down with the lamb/ is called Revelations…”

Michael T. Young’s “High Dive” explores how body and mind navigates the laws of gravity, while Michelle Menting and Katharine Kaufman’s poems enter and exit dreams. Amy O’Reilly’s poem “Girls in the City” paints a vivid picture of girls playing sidewalk games that grow into adult despair: “…Like so many girls/ who become bigger girls. Fish in dim,/ shallow bowls. Their suns,/ wounds in the sky’s flesh…”

Just when you think you’ve figured out this magazines’ prosy esthetic, it springs a few poems on you which experiment with form, like Doug Ramspeck’s “Field Anatomy,” which is formatted like a double-spaced prose poem, but is written with choppy syntax and juxtaposed images, or a highly abstract poem, like Michael Hurley’s “Samuel Explains Departure:”

It will discredit you
to look too longingly
at a thing like this,

the way a laugh is
half
for the other person.

The poems make you work some, but not too hard before they yield rewards, which is always my personal preference.

In addition to the 25 poems, there are four short stories and two essays. The stories range between 8 and 14 pages, some straight up realism, and two that challenge.

Jessica Hollander’s “Oracle,” explores a relationship from a man’s point of view, whose emotions flicker on and off like the streetlight outside his apartment at twilight…”nervous about its judgment.” It finishes with a de rigueur unresolved but thought-provoking ending. Miriam Cohen’s realistic “Wife” deals with an old story in a vivid yet humble way, a woman’s rage at being cheated on, while William Haas narrates the downward mental spiral of a “one-hit wonder” in prose that is dense logic defying.

My favorite was Michael Biel’s “La Négresse,” narrated in first person, which starts out seemingly realistic, but gets stranger and stranger. The first person narrator tells the unlikely story of twins who turn out to be doppelgängers, who join him at a café in France. Narrated in tongue-in-cheek, false-British style, using words like “moue,” “chap,” and “a frisson of delight,” the narrator wanders farther and farther afield of logic, with observations, like, “I would have despaired of telling the two apart had I not noticed almost right from the start that Jack was right-handed and Jed was left… Shouldn’t all Jacks be left-handed? Marys right and Marthas left?” I’m not sure I understood it, but I think a send-up of narcissism.

That leaves me with the two essays. Both are richly figured, written by men dealing with male issues in not particularly male ways. “If It Had to Perish Twice,” contrasts childhood vignettes with adult vignettes to explore the complexity of intentional and unintentional racism and aggression. “A Man of Action” features the aggressions latent in a relationship of father and son.

All in all, Issue 198 of Cimarron Review delivers highly but subtly crafted mainstream writing with some boundary pushing pieces that provide fodder for the intelligent reader without demanding more than their due.

I wrote this review for NewPages.com, which posts news, information, and guides to literary magazines, independent publishers, creative writing programs, alternative periodicals, indie bookstores, writing contests, and more. Check it out here!