…an Amazon box that was delivered to your house, never opened, and shoved in the basement when you were cleaning up for a party that you completely forgot about? I found this one a year after it was delivered.
I had to open it to find out what was in it, but I can’t can’t tell you what it was. Turns out it was intended to be a Christmas gift for someone, who will get it this year instead.
Volcano, by Yvonne Weekes
Back in 2008, this piece of creative nonfiction blew me away: it’s a heart-rending, four-page glimpse of the devastation wrought on Montserrat by the Soufriere hills in the mid-1990s; I felt her unfathomable despair as I watched her friends leave and her world turn black.
It made such an impression on me that I when I found out, eight years later, that it was an excerpt from a full-length memoir of the same title, I bought and devoured it in one day. Still, I recalled the more succinct narrative packing more punch, so I dug it up and re-read it.
The four-pager is more intense because it’s not an exact lift; it’s some of the most powerful, grief-infused paragraphs from several pages throughout the book made into a haunting piece in its own right.
I recommend reading both.
Full Memoir: Volcano, by Yvonne Weeks: https://amzn.com/184523037X
Excerpt: Stories from Blue Latitudes: Caribbean Women Writers at Home and Abroad https://amzn.com/1580051391
One of the toughest things about being a writer is getting rid of clutter. While it’s a given we need our project materials, as well as the things that inspire us (anyone remember that picture of Ray Bradbury’s office?), there’s more: old projects and stacks of drafts.
While it’s gotten much easier since the age of electronic documents (I can keep drafts in a compact form now), there are still times when paper accumulates…and forget about years ago, when everything was done on paper. My most recent project has been to take paper drafts of stories, scan them into PDFs, and store them that way.
Bad Apple took two years to write and revise, then another two years of polish once the novel was sold to Dark Alley Press. What resulted were seven giant drafts peppered with notes and Post-It flags, wine and coffee stains. A few years back I took one of the early drafts, bound it, and gave it to a reader as a gift–but other than that, they were all there.
Scanning these all to PDF, I felt, was going to be a waste of time and energy–am I ever going to look at these again?Who is going to give a crap, anyway? So…I made a deal with myself. I photographed the pile. Just so I’d always have it to remember.
Then off to the shredder it went.
Bad Apple was published by Dark Alley Press in 2012. You can get your copy here: http://a.co/htRbr9v
I often get asked about what influences my work as a writer. Inspired by the amazing website Kindertrauma–which is right up my alley–I’m compiling all of my childhood (and some adult) terrors.
Back in the 1970s, every Easter–usually on Good Friday–one of the major networks (I wanna say CBS, but it could’ve been ABC) would air Chuck Jones’ cartoon special Rikki Tikki Tavi, based on one of Kipling’s Jungle Book tales about a mongoose and his fights to the death.
Despite the fact that I looked forward to this every year–it might have had something to do with the fact that my young mind associated it with the Easter Bunny’s visit–there were things in it that were so terrifying they’d haunt my waking (yes, waking) hours.
- The opening credits show us a violent, terrifying storm deep among the frightening, mysterious remnants of the abandoned temples of a lost civilization. This was like a train wreck I couldn’t stop watching.
- The narration by Orson Welles. His voice was chilling enough, but there is some kind of reverb or something put on it that gave it a slight echo, rendering it almost ghostly. I sounds like a dead person talking from beyond the grave. This really bothered me.
- The first time we meet the cobras, Nag and Nagaina, they are presented as looming shadows speaking in sinister whispers (which are performed by Welles as part of the narration). Heart-stopping.
- There is also another snake the color of sand, so he’s presented against the sandy background as almost spectral. Yipes.
I was not alone in my terror. Kindertrauma (if you’ve not heard of this website, you owe it to yourself to check it out–I have managed to rediscover horrors that had become nameless over the years) has Rikki Tikki Tavi featured here.
Still, there were a couple of positive things I never forgot. I always remembered the line “A full meal makes a slow mongoose,” and I swear to God that’s what’s kept me for never being overstuffed at a meal, even one as big as Thanksgiving. It’s also where I learned all about mongooses and their relationship with snakes, and probably where I got such a fascination for all things overgrown and abandoned (one of the sources for that, anyway–I also know I was fascinated with the abandoned temples in Disney’s animated version of The Jungle Book).
As far as this has influenced my writing, when I was in high school, I wrote a story (two versions of it, actually, a couple of years apart) set in a village in India with the terrible title of “Slithering Serpents” (the stories are probably equally terrible). It was Rikki Tikki Tavi that made me start reading about India, and that’s how I learned about the subject matter that inspired the stories.
God knows why I’m doing this, but you can read both versions of the story by opening the PDF below. Special thanks to my friend Rob Mayette, who found the only existing printed copy of the one that was published in The Piper — our high school literary magazine (which I’d forgotten even existed) in his basement during a move.
If you’d like to cleanse your palette after reading those pieces of crap with Rikki Tikki Tavi, you can get it here.
A decade ago (I can’t believe it’s been THAT long), I was lucky enough to do the teaching practicum required for my Goddard MFA at Gibbs College in Norwalk (thanks to my friend Chris Emmerson-Pace). I taught Comp 101, which required this book which was expensive as hell (as most college textbooks are): Literature Without Borders.
Despite the book’s cost, it was the absolute cheapest thing I’d ever seen. Pages–in sections–started falling out. By Week Four of teaching, I had to use an elastic band just to hold the pages in. By the end of the semester, there wasn’t one page attached to the binding or the cover. It might as well have been a loose stack of manuscript pages.
I’d forgotten about it, but last weekend, I was looking for another book when I discovered it in the bottom of one of my many bins of books. Apparently I was annoyed, because look what I did to it.
My ghost story “Blood on the Snow” is now available in Ink Stains: A Dark Fiction Literary Anthology Volume 3, published by Dark Alley Press!
“Blood on the Snow” takes place on an abandoned Christmas tree farm in rural Connecticut. I’m not going to give anything away, but here’s a link to the story’s real-world (and very much still in business!) counterpart: Angevine Farm. My family, however much it’s changed over the years, has been getting our Christmas trees there since the 1970s. I don’t have many photos from that time period, but here’s a montage of the pix I do have — notice some of the landscapes, particularly on a gray day with snow. It’s the perfect place for a ghost story.
If you love ghost stories–and stories about being haunted by the past–then Ink Stains Vol. 3 is for you! Here’s the full Table of Contents: Read the rest of this entry
Have any of you heard of the SCRIBEdelivery Monthly Subscription? I hadn’t until a very generous coworker gave me a three-month trial membership for Christmas…and if you’re a writer (and/or an office supply geek) then this is for you!
SCRIBEdelivery is a monthly box of themed goodies especially for writers or lovers of notebooks, pens, and the like. Each “box” is carefully curated by people who love the stuff just like we do!
I’ll let Chris and Holly tell their story in their own words…you can find out more, and get your subscription, here: http://www.scribedelivery.com/.
That said, here’s the January Unbox…the theme of which is “Organization.”
It’s often thought that writers love solitude. I can safely say that we do…when it’s appropriate and we need to work. But then there’s this other part of the writing life called socializing–when it’s with other writers especially, it can profoundly inspire.
In Episode 6: Hangin’ with Sasquatch, we surprise writer Andrea Schicke Hirsch with a release party for her YA novel Sasquatch (which you can purchase here!) In Episode 7: Words at a Wedding, the partying leads to some new projects on the horizon.
Check out Episode 6 here: https://youtu.be/B19dlTm_otg
Check out Episode 7 here: https://youtu.be/zbRuiAHR2X8
…is that you buy stuff. Now that I finally read that book on Freedomland–the “Disneyland of the East” that lasted for just five seasons on the site in the Bronx where Co-op City stands now–I wanted a piece of it. I found a program they would’ve handed out to guests on Ebay for a reasonable price (well, $30 is reasonable because this stuff is hard to come by). It’s not in the greatest shape, but it’s good enough for me to get a sense of the experience. The descriptions of the attractions are particularly fascinating, as they put the stress on the guest “being there,” in much the same way WDW used to in its earlier ephemera. This dates to 1960.
The crew of Dark Discussions picks its most anticipated horror movies of 2017! Listen/download on ITunes, Stitcher, or here: http://www.darkdiscussions.com/Pages/podcast_266.html