Rhonda worked SO HARD on her thesis, and this story in
particular, because she wasn’t sure how to end it. She pushed and pushed and pushed herself…and
came up with this, which made me cry when I first read it because I knew it was
Take a few minutes and see for yourself:
…My daddy loved mining. Or used to, before they started
lopping off the mountains. Fifty years he worked underground. Went from
shoveling coal into a rail-cart to watching it gouged out with a continuous
miner and dumped onto conveyor belts. I seen his face the first time he saw the
dragline megaexcavator shearing off the head of Kayford Mountain. Looked like
he’d get sick.
Made me feel sickly, too, watching the monster that stands
taller than Lady Liberty eat two-hundred-forty ton of mountain in every bite,
two bites a minute. Progress, they call it. Progress that puts thousands of
underground miners like me out of work. Progress that changes the land forever.
Progress that pumps sickness into the water supply, kills fish and deer and
daddies and babies.
It was Daddy’s plan for me and Romie to pack up and head to
North Carolina, get out of the West Virginia mountains before the coal
companies flatten them all, before the mountains bury us in return. It felt
like a message from beyond, then, when we learned on the first anniversary of
Daddy’s death that Romie was pregnant again. I knew right then we had to leave….
Some upcoming events/classes of interest:
Reading Sonnets: a seminar led by Kim Roberts, editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly
This class will use a range of modern and contemporary sonnets written by
authors from the Washington DC region as a text. We will examine the traditions
of the form: rhyme, meter, subject matter—and discuss how contemporary poets
have both honored and subverted those traditional expectations. Participants
will be asked to read assigned poems in advance of each of the three class
meetings, and be ready to join in a lively discussion on the amazing longevity
and flexibility of the sonnet. Open to all: no specialized knowledge about
poetry is needed.
Meets three consecutive Thursdays, October 30 through November 13 from 7:30 to
Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church, Adult Programs, 9601 Cedar Lane,
Advance registration required: email@example.com or (301) 493-8300
Established in 1996 to celebrate the centenary of F. Scott
Fitzgerald’s birth in the city where Fitzgerald, his wife, and his daughter are
buried, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival, co-sponsored by the City of
Rockville, the Share Fund, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference,
Inc., a non-profit corporation, has for 18 years held this one-day event, which
seeks to honor the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald and those of prominent American
literary artists; and to support, encourage, and assist aspiring and emerging
writers and students interested in the literary arts.
The centerpiece of the Literary Festival is the presentation of
the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Achievement in American Literature to a
prominent American writer, who is present and gives a reading and a master
class. Over the years, many of the most distinguished American literary figures
of the last half century have been honored. The 2014 recipient is James Salter.
The day’s activities include writing workshops designed for both
emerging and established fiction, poetry, and non-fiction writers held both in
the morning and the afternoon; and literary discussions, panels, and performances
designed for book lovers who are not themselves writers, also held in both the
morning and afternoon.
In 2014, the Festival will be held on October 18th in the
Auditorium of Montgomery County Executive Office Building, Rockville, MD and
the Rockville Memorial Library in partnership with the Writer’s Center in
Bethesda, Maryland, and the Friends of the Library, Montgomery County,
Maryland. It will have as its theme “Literature and War” and will include a
Literary Luncheon on Thursday afternoon, October 16th, at the Mansion at
Strathmore in Bethesda, Maryland; and, on Friday evening, October 17th, the
Writer’s Center will host “Writing the War Experience,” featuring a panel of
distinguished writer-veterans reading from and commenting on their work.
Hmm…I’m not sure how the New
York Times Magazine’s Ethicist columnist would feel about an editor
publishing her own work in her literary journal. But apparently I don’t care because I’m doing
I found out this weekend that one of my essays was listed in
the “100 Notable Essays” section in the back of the new edition of Best American Essays (thanks for telling
me, Anna Leahy!). So, yay for that, and yay that I hold the
incredibly powerful position of editor/founder of Redux, the online journal that features previously published work
not found elsewhere on the internet, allowing me to jump right into it and post
the essay today.
I’d like to add a shout-out to the literary journal that
originally published this piece, PMS: Poem
Memoir Story, which features work by women writers. I bought a copy while at AWP and after
reading it, knew that I wanted my work to appear in those pages. I’m so happy to bring some more attention to
that fine journal.
Here’s the opening to the essay, “Joy to the World”:
It’s mid-December, a morning of doing errands, a day like
any other day, except that everything is going remarkably well: I find a great parking spot. The post office isn’t crowded when I arrive
to mail my packages, though the man behind the counter tells me there’s been a
line all morning, “until right about now.”
Find another great parking spot.
Stumble across the perfect Christmas gift for my hard-to-buy-for friend
at a locally-owned boutique. And so on.
Last stop, the grocery store, where my luck continues, and
the guy working produce locates in the back the last bag of parsnips in the
building. Parsnips are a key ingredient
in the velvety-lush root vegetable soup I want to make for dinner tonight. “Bet you’ve never seen anyone get so excited
about parsnips,” I joke to him, and he laughs pleasantly.
So things are moving along, and I’ve committed to a
check-out aisle, unloading my cart onto the conveyer belt, doing my usual tidy
job of it: heavy stuff up front; frozen
foods, meat, and milk grouped together; produce in one section, poisonous
cleaners in another; fragile things at the end.
I’m daydreaming about the array of Christmas cookies on the covers of
the food magazines, so I don’t notice the person in line ahead of me until she
snaps, “I told you I can’t lift more than five pounds! Those bags are too heavy!” ...
I’ll be offering a class at Politics & Prose soon: Right Brain Writing. I’ve taught it before and (if I do say so!)
it’s been both fun and successful, in that everyone goes home with the start of
some excellent pieces. We laugh, we cry,
we write up a storm!
Explore your creative side at this afternoon of guided
writing exercises designed to get you energized and your ideas flowing. No
writing experience necessary! This is a great class for beginners and for
fiction writers and/or memoirists with experience but who might be stuck in
their current project and are looking for a jolt of inspiration. The goal is to
have fun in a supportive, nurturing environment and to go home with several
promising pieces to work on further. Please bring lots of paper and pen/pencil
or a fully charged computer.
Read more, including registration details here:
Feeling discouraged about writing? Let me recommend this essay by poet Karen
Craigo, which should rouse your spirit and remind you that what we do as writers is important.
…Two nights ago, I was driving up National Avenue in
Springfield, Missouri, and off to my right I saw an unusual thing. There was a
man trudging up the block and he carried a homemade walking stick. He had
fashioned it from a long, stout branch that was made smooth, perhaps through
sanding or long use, and to its base, affixed with duct tape, he had affixed a
baby’s pink sneaker for traction….
When presented with a great gift like that man with the
homemade walking stick, a poet has almost no choice but to tell you about
him—to try to make him as real on the page as he was on that street. We would
try to find some sort of purchase in his story, some overlap between his
apparent experience and our own—and everyone’s. You should not expect a factual
accounting from a poet. (I admit it—I’m not sure the baby shoe was pink. It was
late and I was driving.) You can, however, expect an attempt at truth,
something beyond fact. My spirit recognized that man, although I didn’t have a
chance to meet him, and I need to tell you about him on the page.
Is there any impulse more human than that?
DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.