Category: Life Now

Lit Mag Love: The Highchair on FB

My Lit Mag Love posts are all about finding treasures when I immerse myself in the hundreds of literary magazines online. I submitted a piece to Lunch Ticket magazine on a Tuesday and they rejected me by Thursday. Liz Breen’s Regarding the Highchair You’re Selling on Facebook is a raw and bold essay that captures what I call “pressing the bruise” of former relationships. Breen uses an erasure format for this stunning work. You’ve gotta check it out: Regarding the Highchair You’re Selling on Facebook

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Lit Mag Love: Amelia Bedelia Takes a COVID Test

My Lit Mag Love posts are all about finding treasures when I immerse myself in the hundreds of literary magazines online. I did a search for magazines that accept previously published material and came across a list of 101 magazines compiled by Randal A. Burd, Jr. on The Edge of Memory. Have you ever heard of The Ekphrastic Review? Their niche: publishing literature inspired by or responding to visual art in some way. Then there’s Space Squid: a sci-fi & humor ‘zine that’s oriented to people who are bored easily. Their guidelines say the work submitted doesn’t have to be sci-fi or funny, but it cannot be boring. The editors explain, “We reject lots of stuff. There needs to be totally rocking shit blasting out of that story of yours.” I’m familiar with The Rumpus and love that they feature letters from authors for kids. They also have a column called Funny Women. I shared this hilarious story about Amelia Bedelia, the classic character from author Peggy Parish and illustrator Fritz Siebel, updated for our pandemic-era by Lindsay Hammeroff with my family. It deserves amplification. Check it out here: Amelia Bedelia takes a COVID Test    

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Where Reasons End

I’d started this novel by award-winning Yiyun Li at least five times since it was published in 2019. I finally sat down with it, reading once through and then again to take notes, in early December. The story takes place in some alternate reality called “aftertime” where a mother converses with her brilliant and funny sixteen-year-old son who’s recently died by suicide. He still calls her Mommy, like he did when he was alive. He was a musician, an avid reader, storyteller, poet, and a phenomenal baker.  Li writes with a quiet, persistent steadiness. The following passage is one of the many I pulled from this novel because it spoke to the ruminating thoughts of the past, the abrupt end of the future together, and then wove in the reality of time moving forward. Throughout the book, I pictured my son talking with me in the very same way Nikolai did with his mother. Yiyun Li is a MacCarthur Fellow. See the genius at work here: There is no rule against anything, including settling into too empty a space, he said. Makes you feel organized. Emptiness is different from unclutteredness, I said. Clutter up then, he said. Clutter, clatter, clot, cluster. None of the words, I thought, would release me from the void left by him. You’ll settle in sooner or later, even if it’s against your wish, he said. Li’s older son, Vincent, died by suicide at age sixteen in 2017.  Here’s a review by Troy Onyango: The Language…

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I just finished reading the brilliant middle-grade debut, George, by Alex Gino with my sixth graders this winter. The novel is about George embracing her identity as Melissa. The book layers in so much about friendship, fear, and family relationships.  Even though George is in fourth grade, students acknowledged the material wasn’t condescending or babyish. They found the gendered structure of George’s school and the examples of toxic masculinity accurately portrayed in the story. Gino uses E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web like a unifying tapestry, weaving the various students, teachers, and their families together in this tale of acceptance. A student working on her English language skills read George independently, wrote a review, and then presented that write-up to the class. She was proud of herself for reading the entire book without a translator. She suggested I read the novel aloud for an all-class read. I agreed. Using the Sora reading app, I projected the story on a screen to share with the students. George is part of Scholastic’s Gold Line, joining a list of award-winning titles like Esperanza Rising, Rules, and Freak the Mighty. The book will be reissued as Melissa in 2022. As a writer, I am both dismayed and heartened by the fact that Gino’s journey from first draft to final publication took TWELVE years!! Since I love cross-curricular programming, reading and discussing George fell in line with a wider school discussion about identity during a recent all-school meeting. Our Equity & Inclusion Coordinator walked students and their…

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Turkey Term

We are in that funky period post-Thanksgiving break and pre-Winter Break at NCS. The English Department Chairperson refers to these two and a half weeks as Turkey Term. In sixth grade, we’re working on poetry. I introduce the lesson with a slideshow about common elements and vocabulary for appreciating poetry along with examples of poems by young people. This mistake couplet by my younger son, and crafted when he was ten or eleven, is one of the poems I feature in the slideshow:     I went to the store to get a box, I made a mistake… and got small-pox. I went to the Moon to find a crater, I made a mistake… and found a gator. I went to Georgia to eat a peach, I made a mistake… and ate a leech. I went to Hollywood to find fame, I made a mistake… and found a game. I went to Russia to find my Babushka, I made a mistake… and found some trashlushka.  

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The First Grief & Growth Notebook Class

Here’s the lowdown on the initial in-person Grief & Growth Notebook class I’m offering at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts (LPCA) on Saturday, October 23, 2021 from 1:00pm – 4:00pm: The G&G Notebook class features a technique that utilizes text, drawings, photos, and other images to help participants incorporate the grief of losing a loved one into their lives. The G&G Notebook is a personal and portable work of art.  I became familiar with the process nearly two decades ago, when I worked as a counselor with adults and children who’d experienced sexual assault. I helped clients create a new narrative about themselves, their relationship with the abuser, and a healthy path forward. I applied the same process, calling it my Grief & Growth Notebook, when I needed to reframe the trauma of losing my teen son to suicide in September 2018. The term reframing refers to perspective: looking at a situation differently so the brain can focus on coping rather than rumination. The idea is to examine hopefulness in conjunction with the heartache. The intention is to provide a nurturing, supportive space for individuals to start creating the initial pages of their own G&G Notebook during this afternoon class. Some supplies will be provided; however, participants will need to bring their own sketchbook-style notebook. While the G&G Notebook class is for those who are dealing with grief and loss, it’s not a group therapy session nor a support group.  The class is offered free of charge and,…

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Succession Extra

When HBO descended upon my small resort community, putting out a casting call far and wide for millionaire types, upscale business types, and amusement park goer types, I was ready. Sort of. It was spring 2019 in Lake Placid. I’d signed up to attend a school-based mental health summit and then I saw the flyer seeking extras for Succession. The dates overlapped. I’d toyed with responding to the call for days and then assembled my paperwork, headshot, and hit “send.” I was a dutiful audience member at the conference, visited with local colleagues I hadn’t seen in months, made the rounds at the tables with stress balls and suicide prevention literature, and then ducked out to change in the hotel bathroom into the outfit I’d been told to wear for my starring role as a “lodge staffer.” I reported for duty at a parking lot by the ski jumps, got my number, and boarded the school bus with the millionaire types and other lodge staffers. The amusement park goers were slated for another day, another bus. Once on location, I was sent to makeup to fix the eyeliner I’d expertly applied that morning. The artist twirled me around in the chair and transformed me into my role…a little blush, a comb through my hair. She’d worked on Rachel Brosnahan of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel fame. I’d worn my own white button-down and khaki pants, but I had to report to wardrobe for the boiled-wool green vest. We ate. We ate…

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Lit Mag Love: A Marriage Story

I told a story about meeting my husband and establishing roots in the Adirondacks for a local story slam competition. I was high from my second-place win a couple of months earlier and worked hard on the narrative about our history together. A lot of it was about how I didn’t want to live in the mountains and his sincere desire to do so…and then, how we’ve made it work, how much we’ve put into our house and property to make it an idyllic home to share with each other and those we love.  I didn’t even place. The winner, hands-down, was an English teacher from Northwood School in Lake Placid. NC’s story about having her “cancer baby” or a teratoma (look it up!!!) at 23 and talking her way into a job she wasn’t qualified for in Tanzania (she couldn’t speak a word of Swahili) wiped everyone else off the board. NC went on to win the regional story slam competition with another captivating and devastating tale of her life in Africa in December that year. Anyway… When I found this moving essay by Therese Beale in Talking Writing, I found someone speaking the same language I’d use about the inner life of my marriage: A Little Something for the Effort

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Lit Mag Love: Gummy Bear

I used to write and publish frequently, mostly in regional magazines that were printed on glossy paper or in a newspaper delivered to your doorstep. I stopped around 2016 and then, trying to re-enter the freelance scene required a new set of skills. I was so rusty. Another writer in the family introduced me to Submittable. Yup, seriously rusty. Now I know about Duotrope, too. The lit-mag landscape blew up and I had no idea. It can be both overwhelming and incredibly engaging.  While grief fuels a lot of my creative nonfiction and personal essays now, there are plenty of other themes I’ve played around with over the years. When I poke around for hours online, trying to find homes for my creative work, I come across so many lyrical and deeply gratifying portraits of life and love crafted by others. Here’s a gem from the masterful Michelle Gurule in the magazine Drunk Monkeys: Gummy Bear

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Library Love

Library Love When I worked weekend shifts at school, I promoted a Saturday trip to visit local libraries and called it “LOL: Love Our Libraries.” It’s helpful if staff secure at least six students for their activities and double that if you co-lead a trip. Jeff and I got two kids to sign up, so I led the trip by myself and poor Jeff had to offer something else a little more enticing that weekend.  The reading culture at NCS is quite huge and always has been, but that particular weekend my trip was a flop. The two boarding students who came along just wanted to avoid hiking all day on Adirondack trails. They were most interested in listening to music in the van as we traveled around to each little library. LOL.  

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