Monthly Archives: August 2011

How Disney Records Influenced the Way I See the World (THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 19)

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 19: How Disney Records Influenced the Way I See the World (or, The Disney Records, Part 2)

In the last episode, I said goodbye to whatever Disney albums I had left, most of which were in absolutely deplorable condition—yet despite that, they were still the most difficult things to let go of so far.

I couldn’t imagine why it was so hard—after all, they were ruined. Damaged. No point in keeping broken junk; when I went through them one page at a time, however, I realized why they were harder than anything else.

The artwork in the Disney booklets had, when I was a child, hypnotized me. I was surprised to discover that the images that had deeply affected me back then still affected me the same way now. And not only did I fully recall those strong emotional responses, I came to understand that these images shaped my early opinions of certain things.

In short, the art in many of those beloved Disney album booklets affected how I see the world.

Here is a brief tour through each of my favorite images and how they affected me.

This scene, from the booklet accompanying 3909—Alice in Wonderland, was one of many my mother used as reference to make our Halloween costumes in 1974, below.

I am certainly thrilled to be Alice in Wonderland! My brother Chuck, on the other hand, looks a little too grumpy to be the White Rabbit. Halloween, 1974.

This shot of one of the cels that illustrates The Rescuers record album (the one that I kept) was used by my mother as a reference for our Halloween costumes in 1977. One of the things I remember about this scene (in the film and in the album, which I played to death) was Bianca’s comment, “I can’t, it’ll wrinkle my dress.”How did Disney’s The Rescuers affect me? Well, I still believe that there’s someone out there waiting or looking for everyone, and that when you’re in trouble, there’s always someone who will help you out.

Chuck as Bernard and me as Bianca from Disney’s The Rescuers, Halloween, 1977.

Anyone who knows me knows I have a fear of and fascination with fire. My earliest memories of fire, and the terror I developed of it, came from the following images and text.

What amazed me about this picture was the dark, orange sky. I was fascinated by the fact that in the earlier pictures in the booklet, the sky was beautiful and blue; here, it was dark and threatening—and it had seemed to occur in practically no time at all. This was my first exposure to the concept of destruction: before and after. My love of films like The Towering Inferno, The Devil at Four O’Clock, Dante’s Peak and the like stems directly from this image; probably, also, does my love of abandoned buildings, because they, too, have a sense of lost beauty—granted, forlorn rather than violent, but still lost.

I took a close-up of the fire coming out of this log, here, because this is the image that made me recognize that fire was pretty. I just couldn’t stop looking at these flames—the white part reminded me of marshmallows, and the cinders surrounding the flames looked like a breaking crust of chocolate, like I’d seen on the ’Smores we made when we went camping. Seriously. I remember wishing I could lick this picture and taste the flames, because I was certain they would taste like ’Smores.

Even now I think this is a powerful paragraph. I had an image in my mind for each sentence, and the thing that disturbed me the most was the last one—a tree crashing right where they had been.

A fan of The Jungle Book but no fan of Sheer Kahn, certainly, this image of fire still scared me—I thought it was mean for Mowgli to tease the tiger. While I was attracted to the way the fire was drawn—it was like a smear—I think what bothered me more about this was the audio that went with it on the record. It was quite terrifying, as I recall.

I remember being scared for all the people who were trapped in the castle who couldn’t get out, and I wondered how Robin could be so selfish as to leave them all in there even if they were his enemies. It also, for some reason, instilled in me that I had better be ready to jump out a window if there were ever a fire in my house. Every night before bed, I would climb up on a chair so I could reach the window and unlock it. I was too young to realize I should have pulled the screen up to make it easier to get out. I don’t do that anymore as an adult for security reasons—all my windows are locked—but at least one window in my bedroom, no matter where I have lived, has a screen removed to make it easier for me to escape. All of that came about because of this image.

It’s the Siamese Cats from Lady and the Tramp! These cats, for some reason, were how I pictured demons from hell might look like. I don’t know why. This picture scared me—even though we did have a cat when I was little; his name was Cuddles. His name was a misnomer—he really wasn’t very cuddly at all, was an indoor-outdoor cat and so most of the time was bringing in things like dead birds and snakes as presents—but he didn’t scare me as much as these cats did.

In short, why I was terrified of dogs for most of my young life. It’s true. This movie cel image from 3917-Lady and the Tramp absolutely scared the daylights out of me, and yet I remember I couldn’t stop staring at it—probably due to the whole psychological well-known fact that things which frighten us also fascinate us. Whenever a dog would bark, or bound toward me, I’d run screaming—and it was all because of this picture. How do I do around dogs today? I’m alright. I can be skittish or nervous at times depending on the dog, but mostly I’ve learned how to force myself to just deal with it.

From the booklet for STER-3995, The Aristocats. I was very attracted to the basket (I didn’t know it was called a bassinette back then); it was just so neat-looking and looked like it could contain something edible, like bread or cookies (not the kittens, like in the story). To this day, I’m certain it’s the reason why I have a fascination with baskets, picnic baskets, when they are full, in particular. I like to, if I’m taking them out someplace, make sure they’re packed picture-perfect.

Again, it was all about the basket. I was fascinated by the fact it was tumbling down the hill, but nothing was spilling out of it.

In this scene from Robin Hood, the birthday bunny is being treated to a quiver and arrows. I liked this because Dad had given me a quiver and arrows and this one looked just like mine.

Also from Robin Hood. I liked this image because of the gleeful expressions on the birthday bunny’s sibling and Mom. It taught me that watching someone else be happy is sometimes a greater gift than being happy just for you. Seriously, that’s why I was obsessed with this picture. I wanted to grow up and learn to be happy like that.

This image from Robin Hood—and the part of the story that went with it—was my introduction to cruelty and injustice. In the story, the bunny has gotten a coin for his birthday, which someone in the family (I don’t remember who, now) had saved and saved to give to him. The Sheriff shows up just a few minutes later and takes it right out of his hands, and he’s heartbroken. I would cringe every time that part in the record came up. It just broke my heart that someone could be that mean—and, of course, I believed at that age (I think I was three) that such evil couldn’t possibly exist in the real world. To this day, the one sure-fire way to get me mad is show me something that isn’t fair, and someone being heartbroken/hurt because of it. I think of this poor cartoon bunny having his one birthday present taken away from him, and I just get roaring angry. It’s probably also what inspired me to have a certain special place in my heart for sad bunnies (I’ve written about this and the nature of tears on my blog before; you can read that here: https://kristipetersenschoonover.com/2011/04/05/what-is-it-with-melancholy-bunnies-anyway/

This image, from Peter Pan, is directly responsible for my whole love the “damsel in the distress” scenario. I loved the idea of being rescued…and still do, and the theme of rescue, physical, emotional, or otherwise, shows up in many of my stories, although it was much more prevalent in the stuff I was writing when I was a pre-teen and teen than it is now. My short story “Doors” is the most recent thing I’ve written in which this theme exists.

I could call the effect this image, from Robin Hood, had on me as good OR bad. It wasn’t so much the rescue—I loved the way his arm fit around her waist. Like she was tiny and weighed nothing. I half suspect this is part of the reason why I’m really weight-conscious. Seriously, I do.

This image appealed to me for two reasons: 1, I couldn’t wait to grow up and have my own home; 2, this truly was my very first introduction to the idea of “love at first sight.” This image made me believe that this was the way true love worked—you met, and that was it.

Who doesn’t love a happily ever after—although of all the happy endings, this one was my favorite, because I felt like after everything they’d been through in the story they deserved a break. This part of Robin Hood was how I developed the concept that two people need to be complete, strong beings on their own before romantically coming together with another.

3907, Stories of Uncle Remus, was my favorite album of them all, and I know why: with this booklet, it wasn’t about the images as much as it was about the stories. I liked the concept that Brer Rabbit could lock up his house in the Briar Patch and just…well, leave…and do whatever his heart desired. Since I really couldn’t stand the house I lived in and how dark it was, and I hated the idea that I couldn’t make my own decisions about what I wanted to do with my day on the weekends, that Brer Rabbit could do this really appealed to me—he was inspiring. I would sit around and fantasize about escape, about the day I could just walk out of the house and go live somewhere else on my own (I will reiterate here that I was three or four years old when I was having these thoughts), when it would happen, how it would happen. I never tried it, but I did build a secret hide-out at the back of my closet, put some raisins, books, water, and even a small lamp in there, and whenever I wished I could do just like Brer Rabbit had done, I would vanish into that closet and dream.

This picture always made me wish I could hammer and nail things—that I could build something, like a really cool tree fort. I don’t know why, but it did. I remember thinking that every time I looked at this image.

Here’s a close-up of him nailing his door. I was always worried, though, that he was going to hit his hand with the hammer—his finger is awfully close to that nail!

 

Look at the left of the photo—you can see the tape Mom used to try to keep the pages in the book. It was, obviously, dried out and ineffective.

Another reason Brer Rabbit appealed to me was because he was clever and smart—it seemed he could always get out of any situation. What I learned from him was that it was always best to think before doing—and listen to your instincts. He also inspired me to believe that I could do anything I set my mind to, including getting out of a seemingly impossible situation.

Look closely at this page—see all the mildew damage? Sad, just totally sad.

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LOVE POE’S “A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM?”…DON’T MISS MARK SUTZ’ “GIBRALTAR” ON READ SHORT FICTION!

If you’re looking for some high seas fun this August, then don’t miss Mark Sutz’ “Gibraltar” over at Read Short Fiction!

What sold me on “Gibraltar” was its mood and tone—I was reminded of Melville, a few of Poe’s sea tales, and Sting’s “Why Should I Cry for You” all at once. What I also found interesting is that the language used makes the story seem as though it was written and/or takes place a couple of centuries ago, and yet it’s actually set in modern-day times. But what struck me most about this piece was its overwhelming sadness…and there’s a big surprise at the end.

Don’t miss this summer treat at Read Short Fiction here: http://www.readshortfiction.com/2011/07/gibraltar-by-mark-sutz/

 

 

 

 

 

FIRST ROUND OF REVISIONS ON BAD APPLE COMPLETE!

The first round of revisions on my forthcoming horror novel, Bad Apple, is complete! Bad Apple is coming from Vagabondage Press Books this November.

Want to know more and read some advance praise? Visit my temporary Bad Apple page, which will eventually have a link to the publisher and the book cover and all of that. Enjoy!

How the Disney Records Died a Long, Slow Death (THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 18)

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 18: How the Disney Records Died a Long, Slow Death (or, The Disney Records, Part 1)

The Disney records were so integral to my childhood afternoons I frequently carried them all over the house; Above, me, 3, with my Song of the South. The woman behind me is my grandmother (we called her Nana), who lived in Daytona Beach, FL, but came to visit every Spring. Photo taken May 19, 1974.

I don’t think I have to explain to anyone how seriously collectors take their passions; Disney Record Collectors are no exception.

I was never a Disney Record Collector and probably never will be, but I owned several Disney Records when I was a kid—and now it’s time to say goodbye. But what’s interesting about this story is that I almost didn’t get the opportunity to say goodbye.

Let’s first review the system for rating record condition as published in R. Michael Murray’s The Golden Age of Disney Records 1933-1988: Price Guide for Disney Fans and Record Collectors:

“Current grading standards range from the ultimate collectible, a “still sealed (SS)” copy of the record, to those records graded “poor (P),” which are in terrible shape, suitable only as Frisbees or as a “filler” copy until you can obtain one of a higher grade…In general, the grading system and the short-hand notation used in descending rank of collectability, are as follows:

Still Sealed (SS)

Mint (M)

Mint Minus (M-): Sometimes noted as Near Mint (NM)

Very Good Plus (VG+): Sometimes noted as Excellent (EX or EXC)

Very Good (VG)

Good (G)

Poor (P)”[1]

The few Disney records I had left, according to the rating system above, would have fallen into the P- – category and wouldn’t EVEN make it as a Frisbee: they were loved by the hands and imagination of a precocious, lonely little girl (who sometimes purple-crayoned her very first “short stories” in them); then they were passed on to siblings, and let’s just say boys will be boys; over the years, the books were constantly masking-taped, the records themselves glued (yes, I swear, when one broke in half my mother GLUED it back together, I KID YOU  NOT!), the arms of the record players weighted with quarters or half-dollars in an effort to “gloss over” the ever-growing number of skips and scratches.

Then, as we got older, the toys and instruments of our childhood were stored—and not well. The records were either shoved in paper grocery bags and set in a mildew-infested environment: the damp, dark below-ground rooms of my father’s house, or stored in the attic crawl-space, which, due to bat infestation, collected amazing amounts of guano.

In the late 1990s, Dad decided it was time to “deal with” the bat infestation in the attic. Any professional he called in wasn’t going to be able to get to the problem, so Dad made me, my sister, and my brother clear out the boxes of junk that were up there*—my dead mother’s shoes dating back to the 1970s, old Halloween and Easter decorations, books, bedding (ew! The thought of that makes my flesh crawl!)…and half of the collection of Disney records (which I thought was the whole set). We, of course, pitched absolutely everything and never looked back. I know—makes you want to cry, doesn’t it? Because I had no memory of what poor condition those records were in at that time, I was a little angry, especially since I knew the bats would never appreciate their Disney-quality crap-receptor.

*Do NOT ever attempt to go anywhere near bat guano on your own; I believe it’s considered hazardous biological material. Call a professional. My father was out of his mind, and we should not have been allowed in that attic. In fact, for the amount of guano that was up there, we shouldn’t have even been living in the damn house. We were probably breathing it in for years. However, the three of us are still alive, free of health issues, and not carrying any bat-related diseases as far as we know. We got lucky. You might not.*

After my father passed away in 2008, I was routing through his den, which was full of mildewed books, and I discovered a paper grocery bag shoved in the back of a cement-floored closet. I got on my hands and knees to pull it out, and nearly choked at the clouds of mildew and dust coming off it. When I peeked inside, I was shocked to find not just Disney records—but the ones I’d most loved from my childhood. I was so happy to see them again that even though they were in a shape that could be hazardous to one’s health (God help you if you pulled these things out and had asthma, you would have been dead), I couldn’t throw them out. So I shoved them in a trash bag, taped the bag closed with Duct Tape, labeled them “Kristi’s Disney Records,” and threw them in a bin, which eventually went into storage in my very clean, very dry, and very brightly-lit basement.

When I finally unearthed them for this Goodbye Project, I literally had to wear a surgical mask so I could breathe to clean them up enough to photograph them.

Needless to say, they went into a trash bag as soon as I was finished. Sad—but like almost every other neglected thing in my parents’ house, the better choice was to chuck them.

Here’s a tour of what I had left. Enjoy.

3903: "Story and Songs from Bambi," 1969; covers with both inner and outer pockets. If M- condition in 1997, it would've been worth $20.00. Note: Booklet art is painted.

STER-3948: “The Story and Songs of The Jungle Book,” 1978; has a matte booklet with inner pocket and color back cover pictures; yellow rainbow label. If M- condition in 1997, worth approximately $15.00. Note: Booklet art is painted.

3917: “Story and Songs from Lady and the Tramp,” 1969; back cover is green with pictures of inner picture booklet; if M-condition in 1997, worth approximately $20.00. Note: Booklet art is movie cel.

This cracks me up. My mother somehow felt the need to write my name in the inside covers of all of my albums—yet at the time I was the only child in the house. This implies that, although I don’t remember it, I probably took the damn things out of the house—such as to a friend’s, or to Show-and-Tell at school, or to grandparents’ houses or whatever.

3906: “Story and Songs from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” 1969; cover of Snow White sweeping; painted booklet art. If in M- condition in 1997, worth $20.00.

3908: “Cinderella,” 1969; pink cover with mice sewing dress; painted picture booklet (there was also a movie cel version). The painted picture booklet version, if in M- condition in 1997, would go for around $15.00.

3909: “Alice in Wonderland,” 1969; green psychedelic cover with eleven-page painted art work booklet; red label (there was also a movie cel version with a purple label). If in M- condition in 1997, the painted booklet version would go for about $15.00.

3910: “Story and Songs from Peter Pan,” 1969. Painted booklet art. If in M- condition in 1997, worth around $15.00.

STER-3995: “The Story of The Aristocats,” 8/1970; features Robie Lester, Phil Harris, and Mike Sammes Singers; Sterling Holloway narrates. If in M- condition in 1997, worth around $20.00. Note: Booklet art is painted.

3907: “Stories of Uncle Remus,” 1970 as “3907” include “Brer Rabbit,” etc; with twelve-page matte booklet with different text than its original 1958 issue. Booklet art is movie cel; if in M- condition in 1997, worth around $25.00.

3810: “Story and Songs from Robin Hood,” 8/1973; Roger Miller narrates; animated version; stereo. Note: painted booklet art. If in M- condition in 1997, worth around $25.00.

There were two that I kept—my beloved ride-through of the “It’s a Small World” attraction, which I just listened to over and over and over again to the point where I knew how to sing that song in every language they had featured on the album; I managed to clean up the mold and mildew enough so that it was okay for me to store.

The second one I kept is actually in really great shape—“Story of The Rescuers,” with the movie cel art. The reason that one’s okay is because I got it when in was new in 1977 and I treasured it. I kept it on my bookshelf as a kid and all through my teenage years, and I even took it with me to college. So that’s the reason it’s in mint condition and didn’t suffer the same fate as the others.

I also suppose you’re wondering which ones were in the attic when they were tossed. To the best of my memory, here are some others I know I owned:

The Story of Heidi

Pinocchio (probably that 3800-3900 series)

Dumbo (probably that 3800-3900 series)

Bambi (DQ-1203)

Tubby the Tuba and Other Songs for Children about Music (DQ-1287)

101 Dalmations (DQ-1308)

Mickey and the Beanstalk (ST-3974)


[1] R. Michael Murray, The Golden Age of Walt Disney Records 1933-1988 (Dubuque, IA: Landmark Specialty Publications-Antique Trader Books, 1997), 11.

I’LL BE AT THE ZOMBIE WALK FOR HUNGER AUGUST 13, 2011

The first annual Zombie Walk for Hunger to benefit the Enfield Food Shelf will take place Saturday, August 13, 2011 in Enfield, Connecticut, and will feature a vendor faire, bands, activities, a “Thriller” dance…and, of course, the local walking dead (and if you’d like to be one, be sure to check out the link below—there’s still time)!

I’ll be there at the New England Horror Writers’ table in the vendor area, so if you’re participating in the event or up that way, be sure to come say hello (and I’ll have the usual Skeletons books—and some cool new swag—on hand for sale). Nathan will be with me, so those of you who are in the area who’ve always wanted to meet him and haven’t gotten the chance…well, we’re putting him to work! Come on by and give him a break!

To find out more about the Zombie Walk for Hunger, how you can participate, how you can donate to this great cause or what you can do to help—I understand they’re still looking for Zombie make-up artists—visit the official website at http://www.enfieldzombiewalk.moonfruit.com/home/4551803272

IMAGICATION STATION: SPLASHDOWN BEACH’S NODS TO DISNEY PARKS

My housemate, Charles, on the bridge at Typhoon Lagoon in 1998.

Any raging Disney Park fan will tell you that those of us who live too far away to enjoy the parks on a consistent basis—especially when the weather is crummy—like to engage in something called “The Imagication.”

There are a number of ways to do this, and I’ve seen a few people post some ideas on various Disney forums: enjoy your vacation pictures on a DVD set to music or some other kind of slideshow. Listen or watch attraction ride-throughs on the Internet. Plug your favorite Disney fan park podcast into your car stereo on the way to work. Or simply go into a room, close your eyes and imagine you’re there.

Sometimes, though, a person gets lucky, and finds a Disney-esque oasis right near home.

Recently, a friend of mine took her son to Splashdown Beach water park inFishkill,New York, which is an easy forty minutes by highway from me. I’d always known about the place, but never made it over there. She came in raving about how much fun it was—and since Nathan and I are moving soon toFlorida(where we WON’T have to do the Imagications anymore), I figured it might be fun to get ourselves a dose of water park fun.

As someone who considers herself a water park junkie (and doesn’t let the condition of any kind of like-park bother her), I was thrilled with Splashdown’s theming (very tropical—loved that, since Typhoon Lagoon is my favorite water park in the world), atmosphere, cleanliness, and food. Visiting a place like that, it’s clear to see that Disney’s quality has inspired even the smallest places to at least try to ante-up.

One thing that’s different, of course, is that there’s a story behind Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon—a reason for the theme. A small fishing town was wiped out by a typhoon, so there is debris everywhere. Splashdown! Beach doesn’t feature any kind of back story, but the Tiki/Shark/Surf theme is consistent.

Anyway, it’s just the fair of August, so there’s still a nice long, hot month left. If you’re in the tri-state area, are in need of an “Imagication,” and you can get to Fishkill, New Yorkwithin an hour or so, Splashdown! Beachis definitely worth the trip. Here’s the park’s website: http://www.splashdownbeach.com/

And if you can’t get there? Here’s a virtual tour—which I peppered with photos of the Disney Parks in Orlando,Florida, for comparative reasons. These aren’t necessarily in the order of our trip—I tried to hug the map so it would make more sense.

Enjoy!

The entrance to Splashdown Beach, which looks like it was recently expanded to include the BulletBowl, Pirate’s Plunge and Pirate’s Revenge. I have no idea if this is true, I only say it because it looks as though there’s a fountain next to those attractions that looks completely out of place. The people you see in line above the sign are for the three attractions I just mentioned.

Here’s the park map. We took this photo toward the end of the day in another area of the park, but since I’m going to be loosely following this map for our tour, I figured I’d put it up front.

This is a close-up of the roof of the admissions building, facing toward the park entrance. I love the fake palm trees; it really does give a tropical flavor.

These are on the other side of the fence near the parking lot. Several of these pilings are everywhere, not dissimilar to Typhoon Lagoon.

“Piling”-style stairwell rails at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, August, 2008. While it’s clear that the Polynesian is copying how villages in the South Seas might be built and Splashdown is inspired by traditionally-built docks (and, so, obviously, the lashing styles are also different), BOTH seem to lend the place a tropical air.

That’s me, waiting in line to get in. I was really excited for the day. There’s just something about the heat and smell of chlorine. When I was in third grade, a roving reporter from the New Milford Times came to our elementary school. They asked some kids and teachers, “what’s your idea of heaven?” My answer was “lots of palm trees and lots of swimming pools.” Even fake palm trees will do!

Here’s Nathan. He’d forgotten to bring a hat, so I ended up giving him mine for the day. It’s one of my favorite hats—I got it in the middle of nowhere in the Adirondack State Park in a little town called Paradox at their store/post office/beach front/town hall/diner. The hat says, “Paradox General Store.” I couldn’t stand it…I HAD to buy it. Too funny!

One of the changing booths. There are three inside the main entrance.

The ceiling of the changing room. I liked the shape of it.

I thought the changing room was really clean.

What I most liked about the changing room was the fact that it was bright inside. Although I love the changing facilities in Typhoon Lagoon—they ARE kind of dark. Which always surprised me.

Lattice on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, September, 2005. I just found it interesting that the Magic Kingdom used it for a Victorian old-town feel, and Splashdown used it for a Key West feel, and even though it’s the same lattice, it works both ways.

This shark bursts out of the cupola on the admissions building.

Another shot of the shark. This gives a nice idea of how beautiful the sky and clouds were that day.

There’s a “fake” tattoo place. Anyone who knows me will tell you I’ve always wanted a real tattoo—but probably would never get one, because my tastes change too much from year to year and what I want one year will change the following year. So I take pleasure in getting fake ones that last about a week once in awhile, usually at a carnival or at a place like this. It’s the same reason I only use temporary wash-out-in-ten-showers hair dye, too. Both are fun, but when you’re done, you’re done and you haven’t done anything you regret. Oh, and by the way? There is also a temporary tattoo station in Typhoon Lagoon.

This is the suspended shark over the gift shop. It’s reminiscent of the same thing that’s done on Shark Reef down at Typhoon Lagoon, only that shark is a Hammerhead and is wearing dive gear (because it’s Hammerhead Fred’s Dive Shop, which provides supplies for the Shark Reef attraction).

Yes, the shark I just referenced, Typhoon Lagoon, August, 2008.

Yes, this is the Jaws shark in the Amity section at Universal in Orlando, which has nothing to do with Disney—however, I think it’s interesting that the way the Splashdown! Beach shark is highly reminiscent of this shark. Yes, they’re both Great Whites, but both have the desperate expression of “caught in death throes.” This is me in Universal, September, 2005.

It’s stuff like this that would get me into trouble if I weren’t moving and trying to get rid of stuff. It’s a cute kids’ bag for their suits or whatever else is wet. Below, the Octopus model, and the matching crab kids’ beach chair.

The interior of the main building contains a restaurant, a gift counter, restrooms, an arcade, reptile exhibits, and the party room for birthday parties and events. The interior of the main lobby of the building has these great dinosaur murals. It was like stepping into the Jurassic Park visitors’ center. While we were there, they happened to be setting up for a child’s birthday party. As Nathan pointed out, “see, that’s why it sucks to have your birthday in February.” Since we were born three weeks apart, I couldn’t agree more—however, our anniversary is actually in January, and yet we celebrate every July (for that reason—really, what are you going to do in Danbury, CT that’s so special for your anniversary in JANUARY?). In fact, this day at the water park was our anniversary celebration.

I think iguanas are cute. This one was huge. And looking at me like, ‘leave me alone.’ For the record, I did not use a flash when I took this picture. I didn’t want to blind him.

The restaurant inside the main building. I don’t think it’s called “Under the Sea”—according to the park map, it’s Cosimo’s Pizza on the Boardwalk—which would explain the “sea” theme. Also, gotta love that it’s a direct reference to that song from The Little Mermaid we all love and adore!

Gotta love plastic barracuda! Anybody remember that movie from the 1970s? Believe it or not, I have it on video. Maybe it’s time to pull it out and have some fun!

Although the map claims there’s a “Tiki Bar,” there isn’t. It really just marks a place where you can buy beer. I have to say, though, I was happy with the selection—there weren’t just your usual Buds; a couple of the beers fit the theme. Here, Nathan holds our tropic-esque beers (mine’s the Bud Light Lime).

This was a huge beer for five bucks (we didn’t find the food or drink unreasonably priced at all, by the way). I convinced Nathan to get this one since I’d had it a few times and liked it. It’s brewed in Jacksonville, FL. Way to go!

I thought this sign was one of the coolest things in the park; it reminds me of the skull which contains the famed The Devil’s Eye diamond in the 1977 Disney film, The Rescuers or Skull Island from Peter Pan.

A shot of Skull Island from Disney’s Peter Pan.

A shot of the skull in which the Devil’s Eye is hidden in Disney’s The Rescuers.

These cabanas are available for private rental for the day and include waiter service. Each accommodates six people. Although it said “call for pricing” on the brochure they give out at the park, on the website the cost for weekday is $80 and for a weekend is $100. Divided by six people to have your own private space really isn’t bad, and it does include, as noted, waiter service and a free locker rental. Since shade is hard to find in the park, that might just be your ticket if you’re going with a group.

Notice the use of netting here at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort, where it’s used to convey a sense of America’s deep south—scroll up to the cabana photo above this one, and the netting is used to convey a sense of a South Seas dock. Neat.

I was very impressed with the quality of the wave pool and especially how clear and clean the water was, so here, I took a close-up shot of the back corner. My first reaction when I walked in was, “wow, it’s tiny!” Well…when you’ve spent your whole life in that massive wave pool in Typhoon Lagoon, yes, this thing looks like a puddle. But it was a crowded day and it seemed to accommodate everyone just fine and have plenty of room.

We pulled up a couple of chairs in the only spot that had shade on Rock Beach—but that was around 11:30 or so, and by the time we’d come back from lunch the sun had moved and we had to move our chairs (leave it to Nathan to predict where we should move our chairs to be in the shade! He’s also great at predicting the time by looking at the depth of the shadows. Pretty cool!)

This was the view from my chair. I love these Tiki shades. They have them at Typhoon Lagoon, too.

Here’s the beach at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, April, 2008. See how the Splashdown! Beach Tiki shades are similar to the ones at the Polynesian?

I liked this—my chair was behind it, so it was like having a private spot on my own tropical island.

Here’s a view from my chair looking back toward the wave pool.

Earlier, I referenced the Tiki shades at Typhoon Lagoon. Here they are, behind me (to the rear left of the photo), August, 2008. Sorry about the disgusting picture of food, but it was the only photo I had in which I had captured Typhoon’s Tiki shades.

Our first spot on the beach wasn’t far from the Nathan’s hot dog stand.

When it’s really hot, Nathan and I don’t eat much. He treated himself to a Nathan’s hot dog. I think he just got the plain one and put mustard on it, although maybe that’s cheese. I can’t tell.

Yes, I had to do it and have my favorite thing—beer-battered onion rings. Again, the food was reasonable—I think these were only $3.99 or something. Not bad at all.

Me on lunch break. We were lucky enough to get part of table in the shade.

Nathan went off to get something, I forget what, and I was bored so I took this picture. Simple as that. I liked the way the beer can’s color complemented the bag’s, though (if you’ve read my Goodbye Project Episode #15, handbags—http://wp.me/pIXRs-Ne—then you know I’m a bag girl!)

Our second beach spot was on the other side of Rock Beach—in fact, it was just beneath the Humunga Half-Pipe attraction and the control apparatus for the Wave Pool, which we didn’t get the opportunity to try (we’re saving it for when we go back, which we will at least once before we move).

I bought Nathan a frozen lemonade so he could take a few minutes to cool down. If you know Nathan at all, you know he really doesn’t do well in the heat. Yes, that’s what I said. But we’re moving to FL because he knows I want to be there. That’s love!

Beach Spot #2 turned out, though, to be the perfect cooling spot—every time the wave maker kicked on, there was a breeze and a spray that blew right over our chairs. Here I am enjoying it!

Below, a video of what the wave pool apparatus sounded like from our Beach Spot #2.

Crock Creek is the name of their Lazy River, and the set pieces around it have an Aztec/Old Mexico-type/Caribbean feel (I’m not sure exactly, it seems like a bit of a mish-mosh, but I enjoyed it). I’ve been on a number of lazy rivers, and though this certainly isn’t the twenty-minute extravaganza that Typhoon Lagoon’s Castaway Creek is, and you do have to get off at one go-around so others can get in, it wasn’t too short a trip at all (judging from the times Nathan took the photos, it takes seven minutes), and it had some neat water features.

Here I’m getting whacked by a water feature, most likely one that’s perched on the edges of a couple of the bridges that cross the creek.

Floating.

One of the set pieces around Croc Creek that gives it flavor. It reminds me of some of the architecture around Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort’s Caribbean Cay area (you can see a photo of what I’m talking about here: http://allears.net/acc/cbr/cbr08a2.jpg)

In the photo above, note the rock structures to the left. They reminded me of the back wall of Typhoon Lagoon’s wave pool, pictured here in August, 2008.

This statue, here, is why I noted earlier I wasn’t exactly sure what type of look the park was going for. Nathan pointed out that this is closer to the statues on Easter Island in design than they are anything you’d find in the Caribbean or in Mexico. Also note the water feature spewing from the wall next to it. There were several of these types of spraying mechanisms along the attraction.

There is a lot of nice landscaping around this attraction; I just have to point that out, because there are some non-Disney water parks I have been to and their lazy rivers have nothing around them but concrete or gravel or something. And whoever did the landscaping here took the time to put in plants that fit in with a tropical theme, or at least looked like they might be tropical. I didn’t see one evergreen tree or one of those horrible ratty hemlock bushes (common in the north because they’re cheap and you can’t kill them, but boy do they look icky unless you spend your life pruning them) in the whole place.

My sister, Missie, and her daughter, Andi, float down Typhoon Lagoon’s Castaway Creek in September, 2006. I chose this photo only because, if you look at the back of the photo, you can clearly see the beginnings of the lush landscaping—something I felt Splashdown! Beach imitated very well.

Here I am, getting whacked with another water feature.

The style of this lighthouse also echoes the feel of Disney’s Caribbean Cay, especially with the palm tree alongside it.

Nathan got this shot of this fish statue near the creek. This style reminds me of Disney’s The Three Caballeros.

It’s pool water! I was trying to capture the sun’s reflection on the bottom; it didn’t exactly work.

Shipwreck Lagoon is the children’s interactive play area. While the brochure doesn’t boast it has the “Over 50 interactive water features” that the new Bob the Builder Splashworks area features, I thought the Shipwreck area had plenty to do for kids—and I liked the festive décor. Here, this crab reminded me of a decorative container in my bathroom.

The crab I just showed you, above, reminded me of the style of the animals in The Little Mermaid diorama that’s outside the Main Street Emporium in the Magic Kingdom—take a close look at the snails in the lower right-hand corner and you’ll see what I mean. This photo was taken in September, 2007.

The stacked parrots in the back remind me of the Enchanted Tiki Room in Walt Disney World (I’m a purist, I refuse to deal with “Under New Management” and am grateful that element is FINALLY going away this year!). I don’t have any photos, so if anyone’s got one they’d like to share so I can post it, just leave me a comment and let me know.

This grouping is an interesting mix of the Tikis in Adventureland, the Finding Nemo display outside Epcot’s Living Seas, and the Tiki figures inside Nemo’s fishtank in the film.

The Tikis near the Adventureland entrance.

In this photo and the next, I could really note the similarities in style between the Adventureland Tikis and the ones depicted in the crab display at Splashdown! Beach. This photo was taken in September, 2005.

Looks like the Tikis had just gotten a fresh paint job here in August, 2008—now Splashdown! Beach’s colors seem to more closely match what’s down in Adventureland.

Here’s a shot of the display outside The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Future World in Epcot, August, 2008.

Here’s me posing for animal crackers or something at the display outside The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Future World in Epcot, September, 2005 (note—the pavilion wasn’t open yet; it was in the middle of being remodeled at the time).

Here’s Nathan in front of The Seas with Nemo & Friends, September, 2005.

I know these are common in children’s areas in water parks and feature all manner of animals, fish, and birds. I don’t know why, but this bird reminded me of the famous rainforest bird in It’s a Small World in Disney World.

Here’s the bird I referenced in the caption for the last photo. See how Splashdown’s is reminiscent? This photo was taken by my housemate, Charles, in September, 2005.

The bird I just referenced, above, at Splashdown! seems reminiscent of The Three Caballeros’ José, pictured here in the load area of the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros (formerly the El Rio del Tiempo) attraction in Epcot World Showcase’s Mexico Pavilion. This photo taken September, 2007.

A pirate keeps watch for trouble approaching.

Here’s me at the entrance to Typhoon Lagoon in August, 2008. I thought Splashdown! Beach’s pirate, shown in the previous photo, was reminiscent of the Disney water park’s signature sign.

…and, it also reminded me, of course, of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean attraction signage (well, minus the skeletal pirate in the crow’s nest), seen here in September, 2006.

It’s a long way up to the three slides that begin from the same point. Similar to Typhoon Lagoon’s Keelhaul Falls for those of you who know it, we were told by some frequent-riding early teens that “purple’s fast, yellow’s orange is swirly.” We chickened out and did orange. It was still pretty fast!

I love these sharks just popping out of random walls; it’s like something out of a bad Syfy Channel movie.

These Tikis, reminiscent of the ones on Easter Island, stand firm among the serpentine coils of the super-fast Cowabunga Falls purple slide.

This Tiki guards the orange slide, the one Nathan and I both chose to ride.

As I’d mentioned earlier, Nathan had commented that these Tikis really are like the ones on Easter Island. Here’s another what seems to be more-closely-related-to-what-you’d-find-on-Easter-Island style—this one at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Photo taken in May, 2008.

These three attractions also launch from the same platform; we stuck with the Pirate’s Revenge and while not as exciting as Typhoon Lagoon’s Crush ‘n’ Gusher, we thought it was pretty intense. Let’s put it this way—I was certainly screaming on the way down! According to the brochure: “Over 400 feet of enclosed tunnel and 360 degree loops.”

Tikis like this eye you all the way to the stairs that ascend to the launch platform for Pirate’s Plunge, Revenge and the Bullet Bowl.

The landing pool for Pirate’s Plunge (center output); Revenge (output at left) and Bullet Bowl (far right).

Our 8th anniversary picture.

THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 17-Rejection Slips, Part Two: BURN THE REST!

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 17: REJECTION SLIPS, PART TWO: BURN THE REST!

A rejection slip goes up in flames in my writing buddy Al’s fireplace, February 23, 2008.

In a recent conversation thread on LinkedIn, several writers were sharing the best and worst rejection slips we’d ever gotten. Although I remembered a few of the worst ones (Lunch Hour Stories told me that little boys would NEVER torture bugs or caterpillars, and so how dare I put that in a story?), the funny ones (I once got one that said, “HAVE A HAPPY DAY!” at the end of it), and the best ones (either signed by someone really cool, full of compliments or offering helpful feedback), I knew that I could have more actively participated in the conversation had I not burned—that’s right—burned—most of my rejection slips.

Saying goodbye doesn’t always mean just saying goodbye to objects. Sometimes it’s saying goodbye to an era, a group of friends, even an annual event. In this case, it’s all three.

In the summer of 2003, I founded a writer’s group called Pencils! Writing Workshop in Norwalk, CT (our original website is still up here: www.pencilswritingworkshop.com, although I will tell you that the layout is nowhere near what it was due to the fact that when I set up the site, it was Google Pages, which changed over to Google Sites in 2009). While the group’s main focus was to meet twice a month to critique work, its secondary aim was to create a community of like minds who could gather socially, attend conferences, and embark on writing-related outings.

(Note: if you visit the Pencils! website may see some of the copy you’re about to read over there. It’s okay—I wrote that stuff, so I’m only plagiarizing myself).

One Valentine’s Day in 2005, when the weather had dipped below zero, five Pencils! who had nothing to do decided to gather around a fireplace with a couple of bottles of wine and a plate of pepperoni and cheese. Somehow we got the idea that, because of theHoliday, we should bring our rejection slips and share them.

What started as a share and wallow became a banishment of our angst and negativity toward rejection—after taking a few minutes to explain our frustrations and anger, we hurled our slips into the burning fire.

We couldn’t believe how great we felt afterward—unburdened, ready for another round of submissions. We dubbed the night “The Rejection Slip Burning Party,” and the difference it made in giving us the courage to go forward through another year of submitting our work was so positive we made the party a Pencils! annual tradition.

There aren’t any pictures from that first event in 2005—it truly was a last-minute thing; I think we just all agreed to grab a snack and BYOB and meet at someone’s house at 5 p.m. But it was the start of something that grew exponentially, something to which everyone looked forward—and what was really great was that you could only come if you had submitted your work the previous year and had at least one rejection. Over time, the evening became an incentive—people who never would have had the courage to submit anything otherwise started sending out their work.

So, I share these photos of the four rejection slip burning events we had after 2005, and in doing that, I say goodbye to the era of mid-winter burnings with my writing friends in New England.

2nd Annual March Against Rejection 2006

A screen shot of the 2006 invitation. It was the "March Against Rejection" that year since the gathering had to be on March 4 instead of the usual mid-February due to a blizzard! No matter, we got that fire burning hot -- and our disappointments down to ash!

Al's FABULOUS sparkly fire! He bought the color powder so our unhappiness would go out in all the colors of the rainbow.

Kathryn, humorist and columnist, and Al, science fiction writer and our gracious host. Kathryn went on to pursue her MFA at Sarah Lawrence, have her humor columns published in numerous magazines including McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and is now a professor at Quinnipiac College.

Writers at work! Jen, journalist and webmistress; Al, seated on couch; Peter Duveen, magazine freelancer who traveled to the Far East pretty frequently; and Kathryn, who was reading the rejection that pissed her off most!

3rd Annual REJECT-A-RAMA 2007

A screen shot of the 2007 invitation. Once I found I liked this layout, I just did it year-in and year-out and only changed the necessary information and the color scheme. Doing that also provided a “branding,” so that when members received it in the mail (yes, even though we used e-mail, invitations to events were sent via postal—made it more special) they knew what to expect from the event.

The 2007 rejection gathering, held on February 10, was a smash hit and saw a jump in attendance from five people to twelve. Amid shouts of “Burn It!” and some other things not appropriate for the web, feelings of anger, hopelessness and frustration went up in smoke.

The candles at the center of the buffet table.

What would ANY Valentine's Day be without candy hearts?

Hostess Maryann lets her hair down!

Our host, Al. At the time he joined Pencils!,Al was writing short stories in the science fiction and fantasy genres; his short story “Lucerange” was included in the Pencils! Writing Workshop anthology Every Other Tuesday. His most popular story, though, is called “The Christmas Man.” Al is definitely a Christmas enthusiast—it’s his passion, and it spills over into his basement woodworking shop, where he makes ornaments, sleds, and all manner of hand-crafted Christmas gifts. Al has also just completed the third rewrite of a fantasy novel he’s been working on for several years. Since this photo was taken in 2008, he has managed to read nearly all the classic novels including Moby Dick, Great Expectations, The Three Musketeers, and The Man in the Iron Mask. He’s the only guy I know who purchased one of those home library collections and really did read every single one!

Pencils! supporter and friend Andrea expresses dismay at someone’s rejection story, though I don’t remember whose. She and her husband, Jim, are close friends of Al and were frequently at Pencils! gatherings.

Since this is part of The Goodbye Project, I should probably mention that I still had these paper hearts up until a couple of months ago. Hey, party stores can be expensive, and if the stuff’s in good shape, you might as well re-use it. However, great shape or not, I’m not paying to move these to Florida!

Maryann and I always put out a nice spread, and we always enjoyed shopping together. That year we did typical hors d’eouvres. The half of the table in the foreground is empty because Pencils! members always brought a dish to share, so we had to leave room. I should also note here that Maryann’s talented in her own right—she does beautiful, creative centerpieces and flower arrangements and party theme design.

Vance, who writes mysteries set in the Italian Renaissance as well as shorter nostalgia pieces, kicks off the night with his turn to burn! Kathryn looks on.

I don’t exactly remember the exchange here, but I think Vance and Kathryn had had the same rejection experience with the same publisher. I seem to recall something like that.

Vance presents: "And do you think they'd at LEAST have the courtesy to use a FULL sheet of PAPER?" At left, me, and at right, Kathryn, laugh it up.

Joyce, a memoirist and travel writer who is working on a novel set in the 1950s, expresses her disappointment over a slip from a certain Review.

Al: What's this? We found this yummy box of very expensive cookies on the front porch when we got home from shopping that afternoon, but we didn't know who it was from! "Please tell me," he said, "that one of you dropped this on the way in." We said "no," and of course LOTS of wild theories presented themselves. (We found out later it was VERY thoughtful member Yvonne, who at the last minute could not attend.)

Both Al and Maryann had to take a turn posing with the cookies.

Jen, a journalist who now works for NJ.com, and Vance enjoy a snack.

Cally, who wrote short pieces about a country in which she spent a great deal of time—Greece—is a lot like me—always talking with her hands.

Chatting it up! Left to right, Al, Vance, and Cally near the bar. I just love Al’s expression here. It says it all about what that night was like.

Here’s me, all dolled up in a very appropriate pink and red. I just got rid of those earrings last week, and the hair band three weeks ago—the earrings I’m just not into wearing anymore, and the hair band was broken.

Pencils!’ newest member at the time, Jerry, who writes mystery and crime stories, welcomes Andrea, who’s just been invited in by Maryann.

We never had many leftovers at these parties; it always seemed like it was just the right amount. Here, Cally and Andrea have pulled away from the main crowd in the living room to enjoy some conversation.

I have no idea what rejection story Cally was sharing here, but it doesn’t look like it was pleasant.

Kathryn takes a moment to smile for the camera and show how much better she feels now that she’s gotten rid of her rejections.

I know. Jen is one of my closest friends and one of the things I love about her is she loves to clown around. She totally couldn’t resist posing between these hearts.

Our newest Pencils! member and mystery/crime/suspense writer Jerry, who presents his only rejection slip thusfar -- oddly enough, one from Pencils!, a private e-mail he wasn't supposed to receive! (I reacted a little badly to his first queries about joining the group; I'll admit it. Today, he’s one of my best friends and trusted feedback provider.) Ouch! I was HOSED! Pretty funny. Everybody had a laugh.

Jim, a Pencils! supporter and friend, chills out with a glass of wine.

I just love Joyce’s expression here. She looks like she was having a great time.

Kathryn tells her own horror story. Always funny, even when annoyed!

No, I’m not really that tired—just looks like someone caught me in the middle of a sentence when I was blinking. That was getting on in the evening, though, and so I probably was getting tired. Maryann and I had, as usual, been running around all day getting prepared.


Kathryn heads to the bar area.

Maryann and I would always purchase plates and cups in an appropriate theme. Believe it or not, I just used up these napkins (we’d bought way too many) in the past couple of weeks. One of the processes of The Goodbye Project is using up all those paper goods that everyone seems to have leftover from parties.

Kathryn and Cally exchange stories.

Jen, me: Have some more wine!


4th Annual “Oh Sweet Rejection!” Slip Burning 2008

The 2008 event, held on February 23, was the most well-attended and celebratory burning of them all. Highlights? For starters, somebody got ballsy and burned a bestseller (We have proven over time that just because it is a bestseller does not mean that it has the best, or even decent, writing.) Someone else brought an entire BAG of slips to burn. And the capper? Well, the Pencils! gave me a great big surprise that was so awesome I couldn’t even accurately express my gratitude; basically, I was stepping down from many of my duties as founder and moderator of Pencils! that year because I had my hands full with my MFA.

Your hostesses: me, left, Maryann, right. The party was held at Al and Maryann’s for the third year in a row.

Me, left, and Yasmine, Pencils! supporter and friend. Yasmine is an actress who had come to the party bearing the good news that she’d gotten a part she wanted – so, here, I suspect the two of us are more than a little "winey"!

The 2008 buffet was desserts only—we wanted to do something other than the same old hors d’eouvres. We decided to start the party later, around 9, to make the dessert service work as an after-dinner event. Now that I think about it, that’s probably why we got such great attendance—it was later on a Saturday evening.

The black and white cookies have been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl. These aren’t as good as the ones that Dad used to get from the deli down the street every Sunday morning (the guy had them brought up fresh from NYC every week), but they’re close enough. Heck, I only eat the vanilla half anyway. It’s true. I was never a fan of the chocolate.

Hostess Maryann sweetened the deal with lots of sugary goodies!

Yasmine enjoys dessert before the party begins. I remember it was a pretty cold night, so that fire was toasty!

From left, the late David Roberson (standing), Maryann, and Jerry. Dave passed away suddenly in 2010. He was a science fiction writer who achieved the honor of being accepted to Breadloaf, but had many other passions: he was heavily involved in political activities in Greenwich, CT, and had worked at the NASA Johnson Space Center. He had a great sense of humor, especially about SF writing. I miss him.

From left, me, Tom Barker, who writes humor stories as well as science fiction and is now working on writing nonfiction about motorcross, John, horror writer and filmmaker, and Joyce. We’d usually sit around and chat before the actual ceremony got started.

Another view of the guests: the gentlemen waving in the chair is a friend of a Pencils! member, Al (standing against the wall), Dave, Maryann, and Jerry. I can tell by the position of Jerry’s hands that he was expressing a strong opinion. The original caption I’d written for this picture on the Pencils! website reads: Left to right, Michael, Al, Dave, and Maryann listen to Jerry complain about the state of the publishing industry. Why not?

That’s me, kicking off the festivities.

Burn, baby, burn! All flames burn hotter following a good long smolder...

I love this picture; it’s such a nice shot of the thing literally going up in flames.

Dave smiles for the camera. I really miss him. We used to have the most interesting conversations about the state of science fiction and tons of other things.

Joyce. It looks like she's hearing something horrible, doesn't it?

Roger. At the time he joined Pencils! he was working on a memoir about his retirement. It was his first burn with us, and it looks like he’s enjoying it! He had a few things to burn, too...good ones. We like those!

Now THAT'S the spirit! An entire BAGGY! Way to go, Lon Prater, sci-fi and horror writer extraordinaire! Yes, he’s the one who brought the whole bag of rejection slips, and it was incredible to watch. Lon now lives in Pensacola, FL, so I’m looking forward to being in the same state. Maybe we can get some kind of horror organization going down there, since at the moment, I don’t think there is one.

Joyce—it looks like I caught her by surprise.

John shares...this was a particularly important one, if I recall...

Is Maryann having a little too much fun?

John had lots to say...and more than a couple of things to burn. Just look at how happy he is! I'd say this is gleeful.

Roger socks it to 'em!

Left to right, Al, Yvonne, who was writing an ecothriller, and Dave watch things burn.

Lon's got piles...he's only just begun...

My pile of things to burn.

Lon gets started…lots to burn…

It's Joyce's turn...and boy does she have her say!

Maryann listens in.

Dave's got yet ANOTHER great story!

Lon and Roger share a hearty laugh. I believe it was during John's rejection story. Which had a fair element of $%^&*#@ you in it!

Dave tosses some of his in the fire.

Dave had a true winner...the rejection slip in his hand was his fault, he says...because he never changed the name of the magazine in the letter he sent out. OOPS!! I know I've done that at least once...maybe twice...depends on how much I've been drinking...

Dave brought quite a few that year, as I recall.

Jerry shifts the party’s focus—the group gives me a “goodbye” and “thank you” gift!

I’m standing in the archway with John and Yasmine, watching Jerry, and clearly I’m clueless.

Pencils! Writing Workshop outdoes themselves…

Well, here it is…the big surprise. Jerry headed the whole thing up, and the story goes way back to December, when Jerry apparently sent out an e-mail about surprising me with a gift — and he didn’t realize one of my other e-mail addresses was on the “cc” list!  I did read the e-mail, but discreetly ditched it and said nothing.

At that time, my Dad was really going downhill. In fact, I came home pretty depressed on a Friday night…my family was descending that weekend, the weekend before Christmas, to go spend time with him in the hospital. I stopped to get the mail and there was a card in my mailbox from Pencils!. I thought it was going to just be a Christmas card.

I was so overwhelmed with happiness when I opened it to see everyone’s signatures…and a gift card for Disney (they all know I go to Disney World at least once a year!). I just started to cry. Good tears! Here’s what I received on that cold, depressing day. I’ve gotta tell you, there aren’t really words to express how brightening and emotional this was. It made me realize that I’ve got the best thing in the world…good friends. And they’re hard to find.

In case you’re wondering, “Kaye” is my nickname. Several people know me by it, and when I move toFloridait’s likely the nickname I’ll use.

Here’s the envelope the Christmas card came in. The return address is Borders Wilton, where we were meeting at that time.

The front of the card.

The card’s interior. What’s really cool about this is the group did it through Zazzle, and so all of their signatures are different. It was a great way to do it, since Pencils! members were from a widespread area—everyone could e-mail whatever they wanted to say to the coordinator and whoever it was could order the card online.

The card’s back.

The Disney Gift Card Cover.

The Disney Gift Card Interior.

The Disney Gift Card Back.

Now, fast forward to our rejection slip burning on February 23. They totally shocked me with this other gift — because they realized that I had probably seen the first gift and therefore wasn’t surprised enough, the card and gift card in December were just a “Decoy!” Several Pencils! members pointed out that Jerry is so good at this stuff that if he wanted to overthrow a country, he could probably do it.

What did they give me? Well, besides a REALLY cool card with pencils on the cover –which meant so much to me because it just proves that great art comes from great people — it was another gift card to Disney World, and dinner with Lorraine Warren — someone I’ve always wanted to spend time with but never got the opportunity!

The card’s cover. I love the whole idea behind this card cover, because we had a slogan among ourselves: once a Pencil!, always a Pencil!

The card’s interior.

Disney Gift Card Cover.

Disney Gift Card Interior.

Disney Gift Card Back.

Lorraine Warren Gift Card Front.

Lorraine Warren Gift Card Back.

So, here’s me, being stunned:


After the big surprise, there was another one. Jerry decided to burn a bestseller. With good reason. The first few sentences were so poorly written, why pass it on to anyone else?

Jerry, on why crap should not be allowed to exist -- although, he didn't really need to justify it. At least, not to us!

“This is a piece of crap,” said Jerry, blithely. (Every tag line in this book had an adverb like that. I swear to God.)

Our hosts, Al & Maryann, yukkin' it up!

Bestselling crap in the fire! And, oh, what a nice pile of rejections it had to fuel its deserved demise...


5th Annual Rejection Slip Pyre & Potluck 2009

This was Pencils!’ last rejection burning event, and it was held at my house inDanburyas a luncheon on March 14, 2009. Several Pencils! were in attendance, but having it inDanburyallowed some other writer-friends who live locally to come on by and share in the festivities.

The lunch!

At right, Kay Cole, a Pencils! member whom I met through the original Truth & Lies writing group that met at Barnes & Noble in Danbury, and me.

Tom Barker, and, at right, Henderson Cole. Henderson, at the time, was working on a science fiction novel, but he had also published a book on theory and wrote many opinion pieces that were printed in The News-Times (our local paper).

The favors. Anyone who’s been to any kind of party at my house that has to do with a theme can tell you there are usually favors given out.

Nathan—who was pretty much responsible for Pencils!, and funny enough, Pencils! is responsible for us. In June, 2003, he was the Community Resource Manager for the Barnes & Noble store inNorwalk. He scheduled our first Pencils! meeting for July 15, 2003. That’s the day Nathan and I met. The rest is history.

Tom enjoys a soda.

Henderson breaks the ice and is our first presenter. Here, he presents a rejection slips from (if I remember correctly) a publishing house for his book, which, at that time, he had already had published with another house. Persistence pays off!

Obviously I’m horrified by Tom’s rejection story.

Me, presenting.

Tom chucks his stuff in the fire.

Rob Mayette, fellow writer and friend of mine since childhood, presents his rejection slips. Just a few months later, we would start up the magazine Read Short Fiction. In fact, I’m thinking that some ideas for Read Short Fiction may have been discussed later that night, after most had left.

Leon, a poet who had been with Pencils! since its inception in 2003.

Rob presenting.

Rob presenting.

Nathan chills out and listens in.

Jen has a laugh.

Henderson listens to Rob’s story.

Leon, left, and Kay.

Rob.

The fire. Nathan is great at building fires, so we had a nice one going!

Rob gets rid of his rejections!

Nathan had pens for everyone in the group. They were nice expensive ones.

Nathan gives out his pens.

Maureen, photographer, stopped by later on to have a glass of wine and put a cap on the final Pencils! Rejection Slip Burning Event.




GhoStory Guru: “Autopsy” by Theresa Williams

I’m always on the look out specifically for ghost stories, but sometimes I start reading a short story simply because I’m intrigued by the title—and am surprised to find out it’s anything but natural.

Such was the case when I discovered “Autopsy” by Theresa Williams. My short story “Denigrating David” appeared in July 2011’s State of Imagination, and as a rule, I try to read all the work in an issue in which mine was published—I almost always find a gem of a story that way, and sometimes I even reach out to the authors to make friends or tell them how much I admired it. I haven’t reached out to Theresa yet—I’ll share my thoughts with you first.

What makes “Autopsy” an effective ghost story is its honesty, and its lack of the fantastical: if a loved one with whom you were close has died, especially if, at the time, you were a child or teen, you’ll recognize the thoughts of this character. And what happens could just as easily happen to you—if it hasn’t already.

“Autopsy” is extremely short, and that’s what also makes it effective: every word is succinct, every one is important, and it packs a powerful punch in its last line. This will take you less than five minutes to read—but you’ll remember it for months to come.

You can find “Autopsy” in State of Imagination’s July 2011 Issue #3 here: http://stateofimagination.com/autopsy-by-theresa-williams/

 

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