LOOK INSIDE AURORA

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Devil’s Party Press released Aurora last Friday, and here is a sample of one of the two stories I have inside,”Red Dust Tours.”

This story was from an assignment I received in a “flash fiction” event. I got these elements:
Sci- Fi, cinnamon buns, and a bus.

Here’s what I came up with:

RED DUST TOURS
Dianne Pearce

TODAY THE LIGHT CHANGED direction just enough to hint at fall, though it’s still August. That was my idea from my West Virginia childhood, that trick of light. I gave ’em that. I knew I’d better be useful if I wanted a damn ticket.

Of course, Bruce got a ticket. Bruce made the most delicious cinnamon buns on Earth. Bruce, and his buns, was to help supply “home cooking,” to the ones with tickets. Wives had to wait for after they worked the bugs out. But I could do anything but wait. I wanted off that little blue ball.

I met Bruce in ’45. Stepped out of the dark burlesque club after my shift on stage, right into a group of GIs shouting, “War is over!” My eyes blinked in the sun. One of them grabbed me, shook me, yelled, “Don’t you understand? The war is done!” then pulled me to him, tears streaming in my hair.

I let the GI come with me, come to my apartment, let him come into me, and afterwards he squeezed into my kitchenette and made real magic. The batch was just three buns; all the butter a girl could get in war time, but, oh, heavenly. He had a dream of a bakery, and I said, “Darling, I believe in you.”

I had been a lonely child. My mother was one of those mothers with no time for me and no husband for her, but a lotta uncles for us both, and no one gave me much of a thought until I got my first bra, and then one of those uncles decided he wanted to have me call him “sweet daddy” instead of uncle. I realized then that I had two choices: either stay at home and become a sort-of second course to what Mama was selling or go out on my own. If some stranger was going to take what he wanted from me, I wanted to be the one to decide what was a fair trade. So I hopped a bus far enough away from where Mama could get her hands on me, and when I got to town, Bruce’s town, though I didn’t know him then, the other girls in the burlesque were more than willing to help me learn to pad my bra and shake my rump.

After that day with Bruce, when the war ended, well, Bruce was looking for something to build, instead of tearing everything down like he’d done in Europe. And when I let him move in with me he wanted me to go legit. Just his girl and all; I’d stop the shaken’ and he’d start the bakin’. He wanted to take care of me. It was sweet, like his cinnamon buns, but when you’ve had as many uncles as I’ve had, you know that any man’s offer to take care of you comes with an expiration date. I agreed to move apartments to overtop the old bakery he wanted to start back up, but I had my eyes open the whole time.

And so Bruce was bakin’ and I was takin’. I was the one in front, the one you had to ask to wait on you, the one you had to give your money to. Now a lot of the townsfolk had menfolk who’d met me before, in one way or another, and their womenfolk just found it a bit hard to swallow, reaching into their tight little coin purses and giving me, that dirty woman, fifty cents, fifty cents, for a dozen cinnamon buns when donuts only cost fifteen for the very same dozen. Though they sure swallowed a lot of Bruce’s cinnamon buns no matter how badly they made them choke on their pride. The little bakery was doing okay, but I still felt like I couldn’t really breathe, not behind that counter, not listening to the little “click!” of those purses when I turned to put the money in the till.

In ’46 the notices began to appear around town:

Uncle Sam Needs YOU for a New Society!

I made Bruce go right away, but when he came home he shook his head. The crazies were going make a colony on Mars! It was impossible. My heart stopped. A new society, a new society, with no one designated as an uncle, and no one designated as a dirty woman, and no little pursed mouths to cluck at me when they passed me in Sorenson’s grocery. A new planet, a real new world, a chance to escape all possible expiration dates.

Helping America was how they pitched it. Having a captive audience for his baking was how I pitched it. Judge Passwater married us the next day; the judge knew us club girls and didn’t ask questions. Bruce was so pleased I’d finally married him. He wanted a little Bruce to teach baking to. And as far as I was concerned, he could have it, if he gave me what I wanted. One last trade on the trip to freedom. Then came the hours making love, talking, in whispers in his ear, about how happy he would be, about taking little Bruce with us, safe in my oven, then raising him in a new sheltered world, where he’d never have to go to war like his daddy had.

America had no space program that I knew of, but they convinced one-hundred single men and two women with skills, a nurse, and a Wisconsin cheese maker, to attempt to live among the stars. Cheese, cinnamon buns: sounds silly, but the army knew good food keeps the grousing down. I had no skill, well, none they thought they needed, though a few of them in the committee tried it out to be sure. They thought, despite what Bruce said, that the cinnamon bun soldier could bake just fine without me for a few months, and when Bruce said no, they reenlisted him like that.

Finally, I got my ticket by worrying them. One by one when the committee members decided they would “take another meeting” with me, “purely out of consideration for you, Bruce,” as they would say even though the meetings happened upstairs in our apartment, while Bruce was below elbow-deep in flour, I started pointing out little cracks in the whole Mars plan, looking for a way onto the spaceship, a way to jimmy the lock.

The surface of Mars was probably too cold for human life at present, so the plan was to build underground cities. And that was the point I hammered on. “You know, people get upset living like moles. What will you do, if they can’t take it underground all that time? Probably all go crazy. But, what if you had a pretty girl to take them on an excursion outside? Provide a trip to the surface from time to time?” I lied, said I had driven a Hollywood tour, seen all the stars. Each time one of the officers came visiting they chewed the idea over with me. I had gotten to them. One brigadier had a brother who sold school busses. The staff mechanic, who liked the idea of a woman in uniform, said he could reassemble the bus on Mars; I was in.

Bruce and me were the only people allowed to share the same bunk when they put us under for the ride to Mars. They closed the glass lid over us. Bruce folded his arms around me. A white fog trickled up the center of the glass. We never felt ourselves leave ground.

We woke up covered in cinnamon; Bruce had stashed in his shirt pocket a packet of Vietnam cassia a buddy had smuggled back from a final tour of duty. The pressure exploded the wax paper wrapping. We woke up choking on it, eyes burning, noses bleeding a little from the heat of it. If I hadn’t been choking within an inch of my life I would’a smacked Bruce for being so damn dumb. But, I think it was that cinnamon saved us, protected us, because, one month after we landed, one month after the construction crew finished the underground build, we noticed the grey hair. Our fellow travelers began aging, fast. Our scientists had a rocket ride back scheduled for the end of year one, but instead they took blood samples from everyone, took extra from Bruce and me, took off. Us regular folks were left to try and societize ourselves, come into a routine, not panic.

Intrigued? Buy a copy of Aurora, and read the rest!

SATURDAY WAS A RAINY DAY . . .

Rainy Day  BUY IT!

And so, of course, I decided to move the furniture around.

Well, you know, the AC was on in the house. It was a tad chilly. Chilly. That’s how spoiled I am.

I thought the curtains might look nice inside of the window frames instead of above them.

I thought the orange curtains might look nice in the bay (bow?) window, rather than behind the piano in the LR (dining room?).

I thought… I thought….

Here is my problem: I have a pole, a beam, a column, whatever you want to call it. My house was created with a two-room first floor, half kitchen, half… other.

In the version I happened to buy there is 1 bay window (some have 2, others none) and, sadly, no fireplace. Because they assume that everyone wants a dining room, my house has these non-exposed beams that sort of square-off half of the “other” room, so, two walls (outside, non-bay window wall, and the kitchen wall), and two beams. And, where the beams meet, a column. Which means that they have essentially divided the front room into two rooms without a wall between them.

I don’t want, need, or use dining rooms.

The kitchen is ginormous.

What to do?

The LR area of the front room is 100% windowed-walls, making it tough to place a TV.

So, we have been using the DR area as the LR and the LR area has been a largely empty and unused spot with a cat tree in it (well, you gotta respect the cat tree. Cat’s need entire rooms to themselves.

And so, instead of finishing my damn novel, I moved furniture, and my husband moved furniture.

Arrrgh!

IT’S BEEN BUSY, PART 2, THE MOM-STUDENT

At some point over the last year I decided it was time to become a student again myself. Like a for-real, back-to-college student. And so I did.

Because I am a mom, and a spouse, and an adjunct, and I run a writing group and a publishing company, I decided to go to school through a low-residency program. And I’d decided to become a psychologist/therapist/counselor, whatever you prefer to call it.

From January through May 1st, in addition to teaching about 13 classes at 4 different colleges, I also took 3 classes online through the one community college where I teach, to get my undergrad psychology requirements. And then I signed up for a low-res MA psych program, and then I spent about 12 days at the low-res program in the middle of March.

And now I have quit school and decided not to be a student.

WTH girl?

Well, before I sound like a complete idiot… I had my reasons.

You might not realize it, but to be an adjunct professor, traveling from school to school, can be very very exhausting. Add to that the fact that I always get stuck teaching essay writing, which requires a load of unpaid time spent grading essays, and I end up pretty worn out by the end of the semester. So, thought I, why not switch careers? It would only be my 4th or so time doing it; no big deal, and I am good at school.

However, I realized, after I spent 2 weeks in Vermont at school, and many weeks taking psych courses and buying and reading psych texts, that I just don’t want to do that.

What I want to do, is to be a writer, and a publisher.

I don’t know what is so difficult about this “being a writer” thing that I keep trying to dodge it.

I do know that I want to believe in myself, and work hard, for myself, and run a great publishing company that really help’s older writers find an audience.

And so, I am going to keep being an adjunct for now, and I am going to force myself to be the writer/author I want to be, to finish my damn novel, and to run my damn company, Devil’s Party Press.

What do you do to avoid pursuing your dream? Why do you do it?

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FROM MY TEACHER, ABOUT TEACHERS

A wonderful piece from my very first poetry teacher, Chris Buckley:

Chris Buckley

Teachers

Feeling nostalgic. I had a wonderful time working with Chris. He taught me to like other’s poetry, in addition to writing my own. And I believe I had, at the time, a terrible horrendous perm, so he was extra nice to work with me.

Ahhh…. the past.

IT’S BEEN BUSY PART 1: THE EXCHANGE STUDENT

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Hi Everyone~

It’s been a busy spring for me. I’ve been shaking up the place a bit.

What’s new?

January zipped by, as it always does, school starting again for Sophie and me. All my new students to meet, all those new papers to grade! Oy vey!

But let’s start off with my temporary teenage daughter.

I don’t know if I mentioned, but my family has been hosting an exchange student from China through an organization called PAX. It has been just wonderful. We love our loaner teenage daughter like a second daughter, and wish we had a second daughter! LOL. My husband is trying to think of an international incident that he can cause so that China will not allow her to return home, and too bad for her poor parents, for whom it is difficult for us to have sympathy, because we want their daughter!

OMG, we love her to bits, and Sophie, our daughter, sees her as a sister. And loaner teenage daughter has been a sweet big sister. So willing to play dolls, or make crafts, or play board games, or even babysit for us once in awhile.

I could not have imagined, when we picked loaner teenage daughter up at the PHL airport in August, that I would love her so much, that she would fit right in as if our lives had just been waiting for her, that the year would fly.

As happens every time I add a living thing to my home, whether it be spouse, pet, or child, I had the thoughts “Oh my god, she/he/it is always going to be here! That is going to be annoying and feel like forever!” And, as happens whenever the new creature/human comes to live with me, I end up, instead, thinking, “How did I live without him/her/it? Will I ever be happy without him/her/it again?” And the answer is, no.

Well, in truth I will still be happy after loaner teenage daughter leaves, because I have other wonderful people and pets in my house and life and all that jazz, but I will never have the same kind of happiness I had with her here. And I hope that her parents feel we did a good job. I don’t know how they didn’t cry forever without such a great kid, and I am so grateful they loaned her to me. A school year, in some respects so long, in other respects, so fleeting, it has not been enough for me. I mean, I am glad to be almost done teaching for this semester. Spring Break makes the spring semester unbearably long. However, I am not done sharing my life with loaner teenage daughter. *sigh*

In any case, after January was in my rear view mirror, we had February, which, around here, is always a bit busy, and this year was even busier:

Feb 1st: Mom-Mom’s birthday and loaner teenage daughter’s birthday.

February, second week, Chinese New Year and a Valentines party at a friend’s.

February end-of-the-month, Sophie’s birthday, which we have not yet been able to have without having a party because, well, I mean, she’s really adorable. How could we not? This year we did a “Nancy Drew” theme that we put together last minute, because that is my whole MO in general. C’mon people, I’m no “Mommy Blogger” here; I’m a creative person, the undisciplined kind. So, we sent children and parents out with a map to go all around our development on a scavenger “clue” hunt to find the prize box full of the take-home goodies. It was fun. 🙂 I cannot remember what kind of cake I made, but I remember it was good, and Sophie chose it, and then she wouldn’t eat any because it was made by scratch instead of with that oily store-bought crap. Typical Sophie and me. 😉

For loaner teenage daughter’s birthday, she and I made one of those cakes where you take thin chocolate wafers and cover them in whipped cream and wait…. It’s heavenly. I want some now. We also sent her to “high tea” with her friends, and took her out for sushi with us.

All-in-all it was a great start to my “spring semester.” I am incapable of thinking of the year in any way other than college semesters and summer session. Yeah. I’ve been teaching a long time. But wait! There’s more! That’s right, and unlike usual, I promise a new post soon, because, wait! There’s more!

2018

2018 is here, and I noticed, as I reviewed my blog thus far, that I have a post called “How to Start a Workshop and Keep It Going.” I am having no trouble with that, but I need one from someone else on how to start a blog and keep it going! The truth is I would love to write something here everyday, but I so seldom have the time. Do you suffer from the same lack of time? Should blogging be my NY resolution? Does anyone keep NY resolutions?

For me, I need a bit of privacy and quiet to write. I need some time to sit in my seat and noodle around on the web, and then, get ready to write. I also need not to be tired. I was, once, a night owl, but now I am more of a morning person, simply because I often get up before 5, so by the time my daughter is asleep, I am usually ready for bed too! During the day, when I have some day hours to myself, I often get interrupted by my pets or family in one way or another, or a pop-in from a friend, or even a package being delivered can be enough to set my mind all wonky so that I wander away from what I was doing.

A member of my workshop recently said that writers don’t choose to write; they have to. Ugh! then I am definitely not a writer!

It’s Michelle Obama’s birthday today, and I just read that she was twice discouraged from applying to the colleges she attended. Who or what discourages you? Aside from my workshop group, I typically do not ask for feedback on my writing because feedback is very subjective, even from the greatest writer ever, and because I do not want to invite myself to be discouraged. Margaret Mitchell (author of Gone With the Wind, which I have read many times!) is said to have written many books, but burned all of them but GWW. Well’p, if that’s true, then she only has one book. The ones you burn don’t count. And so I do not open myself up too much to criticism, because writing is hard, and finishing is harder! Don’t burn your work, or ever allow someone else to burn it.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the day Carol Channing first starred in Hello Dolly on Broadway.

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After over 2500 performances by Carol, Hollywood gave the movie role to Barbara Streisand. Oh Carol! Babs probably had bigger name recognition. But who can do Dolly like Carol? No one. Even the very successful can lose their rightful recognition due to subjective concerns. When people don’t recognize your gift(s), and you know, with no narcissism involved, that they should, simply “… raise your little hand and whisper ‘So long Dearie; Dearie should have said so long so long ago.'” BTW, I saw Carol as Dolly at the Valley Forge Music Fair, in the round! She was fantastic, and too big for the place.

And so, let’s make 2018 the year that I think I am good enough, and you think you are good enough. I will try to blog more regularly, and I will respect me for what blogging I do accomplish. How will you love yourself this year?

HAY FOR THE HORSES

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I want to share with you today, as I do my 9-5 job, one of my favorite poems ever, “Hay for the Horses,” by Gary Snyder.

Gary Snyder reading Hay for the Horses

Hay for the Horses

by Gary Snyder

He had driven half the night

From far down San Joaquin

Through Mariposa, up the

Dangerous Mountain roads,

And pulled in at eight a.m.

With his big truckload of hay

        behind the barn.

With winch and ropes and hooks

We stacked the bales up clean

To splintery redwood rafters

High in the dark, flecks of alfalfa

Whirling through shingle-cracks of light,

Itch of haydust in the 

        sweaty shirt and shoes.

At lunchtime under Black oak

Out in the hot corral,

—The old mare nosing lunchpails,

Grasshoppers crackling in the weeds—

“I’m sixty-eight” he said,

“I first bucked hay when I was seventeen.

I thought, that day I started,

I sure would hate to do this all my life.

And dammit, that’s just what

I’ve gone and done.”

Are you a writer who’s been bucking hay for 51 years?

Time to write!

Happy Monday!

🙂

Dianne

WHEN THE EMPEROR WAS DIVINE

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Hey all~

Because I am a teacher, I often get assigned by my college to read a book. This year I have been asked to read, When the Emperor Was Divine, by Julie Otsuka. It’s a great, quiet, atmospheric, and brief historical novel about the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. You should read it!

Buy the book here!

I came across an interesting interview with Otsuka where she talks about her writing process. It’s always interesting to hear how a successful book came to be:

JO Interview