Bite Your Tongue

Each monthly meeting of Alleghany Writers includes an exercise, a 500 word story based on a prompt. Heidi Jurka is our prompt master, and her selection for the October meeting was “Bite Your Tongue.” 

I decided to write about a true life situation, something that happened during our 2012 trip to Newfoundland. We put many miles on the old Subaru as we ran up one side of the island and down the other. It was rugged, desolate, stunningly beautiful. The people were true pioneers. Self-sufficient, gracious. We also took the ferry to the French islands of St. Pierre et Milquelon off the southern coast. All French, all fascinating.  But, that’s another story.                   

Bite Your Tongue

 

When you decided to make the journey to Newfoundland you knew it would be a real adventure. It wasn’t just entering another Canadian province, it was entering another world. The ferry ride over was a challenge of equilibrium, but the hum underfoot as the engines pounded the strait between the northern tip of Nova Scotia and the dock at Port aux Basques eventually became soothing as you settled into your cabin for the overnight passage. You disembarked at the dock feeling remarkably refreshed.

Cape Spear, Newfoundland – Most eastern point in Canada

The first noticeable difference was the lack of bright color. It was September and the deciduous trees were mostly bare. In the surrounding mountains there was a base color scheme of green that range from pea soup to loden, with neutral and deepening vertical shades of brown. Folks were friendly, and directions were easy to follow. “There’s a road that rims the island. Stay on it and keep the water on your left.”

First the journey north to Saint Anthony, and then to  L’Anse aux Meadows to explore the  11th century Viking settlements. The experience of walking the shoreline, finding rocks and shells that could hold a memory, the raw sense of the place. It made every historical fiction novel of memory come dancing through your head to enrich the moment.

When you heard word from locals of a little known spot to find sea glass, you  traveled to the town of Springdale on Notre Dame Bay.  There was a downhill foot path off the dirt road leading to a notch in the shoreline. You looked at the rocky steps leading to the treasure-trove and seriously weighed the risk of the trip compared to the desire for and potential reward of sea glass. Adventure won the bet and you hit the jackpot. 

Lodgings were rustic. The check-in at a tucked-away hunting lodge was your first glimpse of the local culture. Cordial and welcoming men in camo overalls diving into bowls of French fries covered in gravy and slices of moose loaf. Attentive waitresses of all ages, shapes, and sizes buzzed by with pots of tea

Cape Race, east coast of Newfoundland, September, 2012

and cups of coffee. The first taste of mooseburger was savored and enjoyed. So juicy and rich, your new definition of comfort food.

Over in St. Johns and Conception Bay you found a different food scene. It was all about the cod. The fish with the big reputation, fought over for centuries by English, French, and Dutch. The fishing villages define the most beautiful of basic housing. Simple in construction, every house had a distinct personality expressed in whitewashed tires topped with a stunning display of annuals, or by a clothesline pinning bed sheets and codfish to dry on the same row.

Your next food adventure was not just the codfish, but all the side dishes that go along with it. Food and drink the locals say you must experience to become an “official” Newfie. First there’s the Screech. One swallow sends your mind back to white lightening and grain alcohol of a past life, and you realize this is the Newfie version of high octane.

The next new taste was bits of pork fat fried to a hard crunch. As you eat your scrunchions, the satisfaction of fat and crunch adds a sharp contrast to the mild, white texture of the fish.

The last plate is presented as the delicacy of the codfish dinner. Told they are an “acquired taste” your inquiring mind instructs your mouth to take at least one bite of this most precious part of the cod. So, as you bite your tongue you discover a texture somewhat like a fried oyster, but with the slippery consistency of a raw one. Chewing continues and you quickly discover you are in the group who will never acquire the taste for cod tongue. But, you will be able to say you wrote a story that managed to slide in the prompt before the end.

 

Cod tongue.

Lifetime vs Hallmark

When I’m feeling blue, I watch a Hallmark movie. They are satisfying and predictable. You know there will be a chance meeting, or a combative meeting, (verbal wit and cleverness) or an arranged meeting by some well-meaning friend or family member. There are always some misunderstandings, some harsh words, but in the end, the couple kisses and we assume a happy-ever-after for them.

Then there are the Lifetime movies. Betrayal, revenge, and sometimes violence. Broken hearts, broken friendships, broken bones.  These movies are populated with what my mother used to call, “no-goodniks” out to ruin life for the good guys. Some people watch these movies because they want to see a life that looks worse than theirs. Not me. They make me sad, especially when they mirror the real thing.

Last week was tough, as I worked through the fact that it was the first year of fifty years when I didn’t hear my daughter’s voice on her birthday. It was the first, in what could be the forever of our relationship. The stark reality of separation set in. I rode the wave and held on tight, with a prayer that all storms pass, and there is always a chance to meet when the sea calms.

This shot was taken from the shoreline in Malibu. I remember that visit. I remember the beach walks, and talks, and those moments when things were good between us. We watched one lone surfer, catching a sweet wave. Others behind him hoping the next wave will bring a chance to ride to the shore, balanced, poised, unscathed by the beating surf.

Neda G…Her Flashy Fiction List…and a ciggy story.

From The Sisters of the Scorched Soles

Committed to our writing. Keeping our feet to the fire!

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Scorch Report – October 1, 2018

Editors note: I am continually fascinated by the amount of determination it takes to sit down and keep up with this blog. There are so many amazing things going on right now…in my life, in my community, in my world. Alleghany Writers, Blue Ridge Fiber Fest, Alleghany Chamber of Commerce, AuthenticallyAlleghany.com   It’s a beautiful revival of literary and cultural arts in Alleghany County. Involvement in these projects brings such joy to my life.  It’s hard to pull away from playing to put words on a page!

But, I’m a working writer with a commitment. Each of the Sisters of the Scorched Soles has an assignment. Mine is this blog. If I don’t do my part, the other sisters will put a flame under my tootsies!

Jill has her short story collection and historic novel. Recent shoulder surgery has her a bit hobbled, so she’s spending time binge watching everything from drama to comedy, movies to multi-season series. Always good to study plot, character, and setting. And, when your shoulder is in a sling, it’s the best you can do.

Neda received very positive editor reviews on her historical fiction manuscript based on the life of Frederick Stowe, son of Harriet Beecher Stowe. She’s off on the next part of the process…editing, more research, market development.

While she was waiting on the editor, and since we must keep our feet to the fire, Neda decided to work on some flash fiction pieces.  After some research and analysis on places to submit and what the editors want, this is her concept:  A Pack of Flash.

The word count for flash stories was originally determined by what could be read while smoking a single cigarette, so Neda is working on a twenty story collection. Cigarette Stories – smoke ‘em and read ‘em. The perfect break!

 Here’s one from the pack….

Neda Gayle, Writer, Realtor, Bubbe. Jewish mother to the Scorched Sisters.

Birdlike Prey 

What kind of bird is it?
A pretty one she answered.
I like watching it fly then land so softly on its tiny little legs. They’re so cute. I like little animals, creatures.. but they have to be little.
And why is that? To fit in your tiny hands? She said it with a smile and slight chuckle.
Just little. Like Alice in Wonderland – when she drinks the bottle to get little.
Oh. She was not sure what he meant by the answer but with a slight tilt of her head she stared down at the little boy next to her, gently lifted him up into her arms and threw him against the brick wall.
He slumped over. Pigeons circled his feet and sparrows danced on his little legs.
 

Something for CoppertopMountaintop readers…………

Since we are all in this together, Neda is sharing her flash fiction research and links on this blog. They are freshly qualified and ready for you. If you use the links and find them useful……..let me know!

Google Link

Targeted Research: (More to come in future posts.)

Flash Fiction Online

  • 35,000 visitors monthly
  • Past 3 years good content.
  • Open to reprint submissions.
  • Offer pro payment for stories (.06 per word)
  • Many of staff like speculative, sci- fi. journal has that focus but tastes extend beyond that genre.

Everyday Fiction

  • 22,000 visitors monthly
  • Stories of mass appeal.
  • Categories listed on their sidebar where you can target what you want to read – it also provides insight into what they are looking for.
  • Pay token ($3 per story)
  • IMPORTANT: September 26th deadline for October submissions for October / Fall theme.

Brevity

  • 10-20,000 visitors monthly (conflicting info)
  • Non-fiction flash.
  • View their published authors -pretty significant.
  • Looking for pieces 750 words or less.
  • Pay $45 each

Pank

  • 16,000 visitors monthly
  • Founded by Roxanne Gay. She has a huge following
  • No maximum word count on their website, but pieces tend to be shorter
  • Publishing arm – Tiny Hardcore Press

 

My Last Week Of White

Sporting my pants from DB Designs in Roaring Gap.

I bought a pair of “good white pants” this spring at DB Designs in Roaring Gap.  Over the summer I dribbled blueberry juice in my lap, splashed an entire iced tea down my leg and everywhere else, (no longer welcome in the Atlanta Bread Company Smyrna location) and smeared my butt with road dirt while the trunk door was open. They are great pants and did not disappoint. Each assault on their whiteness came clean in the wash.

Mary’s Mermaids showing off our whites! L-R Ginger, Vicki Maynor, Sandy Sutherland, Mary Mellis

 

 

With Charlie Lovett at Bookmarks in Winston-Salem. I later dropped raspberry vinaigrette just short of the napkin and onto the leg of these pants.

My reputation as a spiller went on but I was undaunted. Unless it was raining or tragically gloomy outside, I wore those, (or other) white pants all summer to take full advantage of the short period between Memorial Day and Labor Day during which the whitest of whites is seen as appropriate attire…at least in the world where I was raised.

It may sound silly, but I really like the constraints of limited wearing time between the two holidays. It’s “seasonal” just like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. You wouldn’t wear a pumpkin embellished shirt in May, would you? Or, maybe you would, and therefore fall into the, “I’ll wear what I want, when I want” school of thought.

 

With Tyler Wilmoth at the Elkin Library. This is when I rubbed my white-panted backside on the car fender while fetching posters from the trunk.

But for me, I’ll go white for three months, and promptly switch back to khakis and black tights on the first Monday in September, for fear of hearing Mother’s words in my head. That exasperated tone I remember so well,  stripped of all hope she would ever get the daughter she wanted or expected after all her hard work in the child-rearing department.

I wear white as she would have wanted me to, between Memorial Day and Labor Day. I do it out of respect for her attempts to turn me into a proper lady. And while I do, I’ll work to grant myself forgiveness for all the years I exhibited those same maternal behaviors.

 

From the big box of endless pictures.

 

1952 – Topless in Toledo! Can’t believe I found this picture. Can’t believe my mother let me out without a top. I don’t remember my friend, (on the left) but I do believe I was showing a greater degree of modesty!

1950 – Wearing white and practicing my public speaking.

The Scorched Report – September 1, 2018

From The Sisters of the Scorched Soles

Committed to our writing. Keeping our feet to the fire!

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Our August long distance meeting was very productive.

Although none of us could figure out SKYPE, we managed to put together a conference call and get some work done.

 

Jill at her home office.

   Jill’s short stories centered on the five senses are coming along. Contemporary, thoughtful, and full of all the “sensual-ness” you would expect from stories about the five senses! We reviewed Summer of Love, Spec House, and A Normal Thing. After critique and discussion, Jill was off to her next assignment…a finished draft of the other two senses to be explored. We have sight, smell, and touch. Next is hearing and taste. I’m hoping Jill will let us preview a few excerpts here as she submits the stories to magazines and literary journals.

 

 

 

 

 

Neda on sight at a model home.

Neda has her novel manuscript with an editor and is itching to get on to another writing project while she waits for the results. Flash fiction is the thought, and with Neda’s bountiful file of story ideas and drafts, she has the makings of some great short pieces to submit online and in journals. She’s doing research on places to publish flash fiction. If anyone has suggestions, leave a comment here or connect with Neda on Facebook.  I’ll post our finding in a future report.

 

 

 

 

Ginger lounging with snacks.

Look for Ginger’s post White Pants Rule coming this Tuesday. Have you stashed yours away until next summer? Or, do you subscribe to the “wear white whenever” philosophy? Opinions abound on this topic!

The Book Club Profile project for Alleghany News has four participants so far. A visit to the Olde Beau Book Club on Friday was a delight! They reviewed Amor Towle’s Gentlemen in Moscow, complete with photos and props to follow the story line. It really brought the story to life! Questionnaires are being sent to participating clubs, with the guarantee of a variety of results that demonstrate the variety of readers we have in Alleghany County.

 

Say What?

At the August meeting of Alleghany Writers it was all about the dialogue.

There were eleven writers at the Thursday meeting of Alleghany Writers and that many different variations of a conversation between the two women in the photo below. Were they mother/daughter/granddaughter/acquaintance/friend? Yes! We had them all!

Every story had a validity. Each writer played out the scene using these characters and this particular setting. The orange liquid was fruit juice in one story and a veggie smoothie in another. Either way, it was perfect. Intentional.

It’s why the prompt exercises are my favorites. We have a very diverse group. Our minds drift in different directions, and each path is just where our stories need to go.

This is what I heard when I looked at the picture:

What are you doing over there Mrs. Findlay?
Looking at these peas. They are so perfectly round and look so pretty against the white plate.
Why, yes they do, don’t they? But why don’t you put down the knife. Try your fork. It will scoop them up better.
But its fun this way. Counting peas just like I counted pills at the drugstore. Put them in tall rows and funnel them down into the little pill bottle. Watch.
Well good. I’m glad you found that memory, but your hand will get all greasy if you scoop them right off the plate. And you know we’ve talked about how it’s not nice to eat with your hands in the lunch room.
You mean it’s alright to eat with your hands in other places? Great. Let’s go there for dinner!
Now, Mrs. Findlay. Let’s not get funny. You know the campus has everything you need. Just a few more bites of dinner and we can go over to the park and watch the sunset. You know how you like to do that.
You’re pretty new at this angel thing, aren’t you dearie?
Yes maam, you are my first assignment. Is it that obvious?
I have dementia. I’m not dumb and blind. You’re trying, I can see that. But your trying is very trying. Get it? Trying and trying, same word but different definitions.
Oh, yes, I get it now. I’m sorry. I don’t always get what you’re saying, Mrs. Findlay.
I know. You millennial angels are a bit slow on the uptake. You need to learn some references from other generations, for goodness sake. Spread your wings. Get a dimension.