Tag Archives: Poetry

Wild and precious

Bloganuary: What is a song or poem that speaks to you and why?

I recited Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day at my mom’s celebration of life. You’d think that, as a writer, I could come up with my own words. But that wasn’t happening. Some writers are brilliant in the moment, conjuring up the right thing to say without hesitation.

My writing BFF Darcy was like that. She could dazzle at a moment’s notice. On the other hand, I need to pause. I need to think and then go think some more.

These days, I’m more comfortable telling people I need to think before I produce words or give them an answer.

But back to the poem. It does encapsulate my mom’s love of nature. She had deep passions that included birding and gardening. Despite life-long and chronic back pain, she did both for as long as she was able.

I want to do things for as long as I’m able as well.

Perhaps this is why I hear the echo of those last lines more and more frequently:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

And I pause. I stop what I’m doing—the busy work, the chores, or whatever—and remember I only have this one wild and precious life.

And I want to embrace it for as long as I’m able.


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Free Fiction Friday: Land of the Free (Haircuts)

For August, it’s stories about battles, real and imagined, and which ones are worth fighting.









The place to find the cheapest haircuts in the Khobar Towers
is the fourth floor apartment of Tower D.
I should know because Paul wields the scissors, and his haircuts
are always free.

Soldiers try to give me their place in line.
I wave away their offers, not wanting
to sandwich time with Paul
between two privates.

The line snakes. Paul’s platoon sergeant smirks.
He thinks it’s ridiculous that Paul and I
pretend not to be married. He rolls his eyes, mutters,
Officers, and shakes out an unfiltered Camel from the pack he carries
in his ammo pouch.

The sun slants low in the sky, and when my turn
finally comes, afternoon light fills the apartment,
floods the balcony, turning clouds of cigarette smoke
a tarnished gold.

Paul sees me and the scissors snip shut.
He holds himself to impossible standards
while in uniform.
No PDA goes without saying,
but if he can run his hands over every single
scalp in Echo Company, there’s no reason why
he can’t touch mine.

Still, the price of this haircut may be more
than I am willing to pay.
But I sit in the folding chair.
I shut my eyes.
I hold my breath.

Beth, he says, Really?

I nod, tugging my bangs to my nose, hiding
behind my excuse. I only wanted to see him.
But I can’t tell him that, not in so many words.

He pulls a strand of hair, then another.
It’s like cutting spun gold. And his voice is softer
than the smoke on the balcony.

Two stories above, someone stabs the buttons
of a boom box, and the first notes mingle
with the smoke.
Paul’s scissors snap closed.

That song. The unofficial anthem of everyone
in the Khobar Towers,
although I’m sure I’ve never heard it
before coming to Dhahran.

But you can’t walk a block without cheap speakers
distorting Lee Greenwood’s voice, or someone belting out,
God Bless the USA!

I’d pull on a gas mask, Paul says, but I’d still be able to hear it.
Paul’s patriotism has never been sentimental, and I’m glad to see
my soldier cynic hasn’t lost his touch with either words or scissors.

But by the time the song fades, and the Islamic call to prayer
takes its place, the evening sun can barely crest the balcony rail.
A single shaft of light slants through the balcony doors
and illuminates the bits of gold scattered
around the folding chair. And I find myself wondering
how much more of us will be left behind.

Land of the Free Haircuts first appeared in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, Volume 2 and also made an appearance in my young adult novel The Fine Art of Holding Your Breath.

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Filed under Free Fiction Friday, Reading, Stories for 2020

Weekly writing check-in: the one where I look back at 2014

Action is hopeHappy New Year! I hope it was joyous and safe and you have lots of plans for the new  year.

I’m going to take a quick look back before I jump into 2015 proper.

Words written:

For 2014, I wrote ~270,000 words.

Uh, yeah. That looks like a lot. You know what? It doesn’t feel like a lot. I don’t feel tired or drained from doing that. In fact, I feel energized, and to quote Mr. Bradbury, I’ll be damned, it’s been a good year.

270,000 words looks intimidating. But really? Divide that by 365. It’s only 740 words per day.

740. Not even 1,000 words per day. That’s doable. If you bump it up a bit, you can take weekends off. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now. Daily writing is a lot like exercise. It isn’t sexy or glamorous, but if you commit to it, you’ll see results.

Of those words I wrote, I managed a couple of novels, a handful of short stories, and several novelettes. I love writing novelettes, but it’s hard to find a home for them.

Other stats:

I made 51 submissions this year (down ~ 50 from last year).

I sold six stories/poem thingies.

Of my fiction writing income, 30% came from selling to traditional markets (short fiction markets) and 70% came from publishing my own work. With this in mind, I will probably concentrate on publishing my own work in 2015, in a variety of ways.

2014 Publications:

Straying from the Path at Flash Fiction Online

A Most Marvelous Pair of Boots at Timeless Tales Magazine

Breakfast in the Desert at Every Day Poets

Playing Soldier in issue #9 of Vine Leaves Literary Journal (and best of anthology for 2014)

The Secret Life of Sleeping Beauty, in audio, at Cast of Wonders

Girl with the Piccolo, in audio, at Cast of Wonders

Incriminating Evidence in Fantasy Scroll Magazine, Issue #4

This week:

Writing Work:

  • Writing ~ 9,700 words (I’m on a bit of a tear this week)
  • Graphic Design tutorials


  • None


  • None


  • None


  • None

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Filed under Cooking (disasters), Weekly Writing Check In, Writing

Write 1/Sub 1 check in: the one with two publications

W1S1 2014 - Monthly ChallengeIt’s hard to complain when your week includes two publications. It’s even harder when the universe lines up those publications just so. This week I saw not one, but two, military-themed publications.

In writing news, I am seriously inching my way through my story, as you can see. It’s still a work in progress. I’m almost tempted to go back on the weekly challenge, except I am also learning/teaching myself Adobe InDesign.

So, I’m not slacking … yet. And I’m really loving InDesign. Plus, it all contributes to my plan to take over the world.

Okay, maybe not that.


Writing Work:

  • Lawn Mower Serenade ~ still in progress–I am inching my way through this story.


  • Incriminating Evidence


  • The Life Expectancy of Fireflies
  • Incriminating Evidence


  • None



Filed under Promo, Write 1/Sub 1, Writing

Publication: Playing Soldier and Breakfast in the Desert

That’s right! I have two, count them, two publications out today. And in a crazy bit of synchronicity, they are both military-themed.

  • My Desert Storm poem, Breakfast in the Desert, is live over at Every Day Poets. That they picked today simply proves they are a pretty clever bunch over there. (See this Wikipedia article to see what I mean.)
  • My flash fiction/vignette, Playing Soldier, appears in Issue #9 of Vine Leaves Literary Journal.

This is a pretty terrific way to start a Friday.

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Filed under Promo, Reading & Writing, Writing

Looking back: Writing in 2012

iStock_000002528747XSmallIt’s the end of the year (or almost) so, of course, I simply must look back on writing in 2012. All the cool kids are doing it.

Anyway, my key word for 2012 was growth. I wanted to try a few new things with my writing and untie myself from the notion that I could only do just one thing.

I think I succeeded.

First, I mixed it up with some classes. I took:

  • A poetry class
  • Writing in the flow (the Robert Olen Butler method) class
  • Flash fiction/flash memoir class

I ended up writing more than forty poems (not necessarily good poems, mind you). In March, I surprised myself by writing a piece of flash fiction that simply tumbled out of me one morning, sparked by a poem I’d read.

And I thought to myself: Why am I not doing more of this? I like this!

I liked it so much, I ended up writing seven more stories (complete drafts) and have several others in the “stewing” stage.

Than first piece of flash fiction I wrote back in March? The Secret Life of Sleeping Beauty, which ended up:

In the big, surprising, out-of-the-blue sort of news this year, Darcy and I sold audio rights to Audible.com for The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading. And now you know everything I do about that. If/when the audio book is produced, I’ll be sure to let you know.

I finished off the year with The Southeast Review’s 30-day writer’s regimen. At first, I was reluctant. Writing? During the holidays? Actually, it kept me writing during the holidays. I missed a prompt here and there, but I wrote something for nearly all of them. According to the website, it looks like they’re launching all new material in February 2013. Mark your calendars! I highly recommend this. I had a blast doing it.

And that’s my writing year. I think it was a good one.


Filed under Geek Girl's Guide, Writing, YA

In which I write a poem about Carl Faberge

So, for a variety of reasons, I decided to take a poetry class. Poetry is one of those things that has always mystified me–it’s cryptic and obscure and part of me was certain this was a mistake.

Guess what? I’m kind of loving it. It’s not always easy. This week’s assignment was to write a sonnet. Fortunately, the only requirement we had to meet was the fourteen lines. The ten syllables per line and the rhyming scheme were optional.

I gave up on the rhyme early, but I wanted those ten syllables per line–and I was going to get it. So I sat in the lobby where Kyra takes dance and beat out syllables on my notebook. You know how some horses can “count” with their hooves? Yeah. It was kind of like that.

Since I was the only parent there at the time, I didn’t need to explain myself. Which is a good thing, since I probably would’ve responded with:

“I’m trying to write a %$#@-ing sonnet.”

The week before we wrote persona poems. This is a poem from the point of view of someone or

something else. So naturally, I wrote about Carl Faberge. My instructor didn’t respond–and didn’t respond. I figured I broke the class or at least his mind a little bit.

He was probably just having a busy week, because when he did respond, he called it remarkable and said:

You should check out some literary magazines you like and send it out.

As if it’s that easy. And I’m thinking: Here’s my secret talent. Finding the most unmarketable subject ever and rendering it in the least commercial form possible.

If “Two Hammers” (yeah, an inspired title, that) ever finds a home, you’ll be the first to know.

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Filed under Getting Schooled, Reading & Writing, Writing

It was an epic kind of week

This week around the web, in case you missed it:

Over at The Epic Rat, which is an epic name for a blog, comes this epic review of The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading. I think this may actually be one of my favorite reviews of all time. I’m still grinning about it.

And speaking of epic, this is a pretty epic visual poem, presented by Radiolab and NPR:

All you Nerd Fighters have probably seen this one already, but I have to post because it’s, you know, epic. John Green on Looking for Alaska at My High School:

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Filed under Geek Girl's Guide, Video, YA