Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #428: Another (Blank)

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Another Child

For how could she miss her,
miss him?
How could she miss not the one that got away,
but the one that never was?
How could she miss these pre-mortal beings
she called Michael and Madelyn?
How could she miss this creation of her desire and imagination,
but not of her body,
of his?
How could she miss the little stranger
who would never nestle in her womb,
who would never feel the barkless branches
of the cradle nest of her arms?



Influences on my early writing

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It has been at least fifteen years since I’d read My Sweet Audrina.

I’ve always considered V.C. Andrews novels a guilty pleasure (like the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella). They are easy reads, and, considering I do most of my reading in bed at night before I go to sleep, it’s what I need.

I was afraid of reading Audrina—afraid that it wouldn’t be as good as I remembered—but even though V.C.’s novels aren’t considered literature, Audrina touches on a variety of important topics: self-hypnosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, brittle bone disease, autism, and how parental favoritism can destroy the favored child.

What is haunting about V.C.’s Southern Gothic horror novels is their timelessness. Reading this book made me nostalgic for that time when I was getting into more “adult” novels.


The first time I came across a V.C. Andrews novel was at a “Friends of the Library” sale (https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfWFPL). It was Dawn—the first book in the Cutler family series—a crisp, hardcover edition sheathed in a dust jacket with a haunting family photo on the cover. I was immediately intrigued, and of course, I had to read everything she wrote after that.

When I was a teenager, I wrote part of a sequel about the Lamar Rensdale character in Audrina, bringing him back from the dead. I wanted Audrina to ditch Arden and marry Lamar instead—a man who helped her—even as Arden had failed her the first time, a second, a third…

I think my juvenile attempt to write a sequel to My Sweet Audrina was my way of living in that crazy Whitefern world just a little longer.

What’s more, I’ve always wanted to give characters happy endings—just like I wanted to give a happy glimpse of Ginger (from Black Beauty) in the afterlife.


Audrina is unputdownable, for it drew me into this strange, Whitefern world. Coming from a caring, but odd and somewhat dysfunctional family (a neighbor of ours, I found out, once referred to us as the Addams family), I related, however distantly, to the Whiteferns/Adares, for they live in an old house where things don’t always work and consider themselves outliers in the community. (My parents don’t even watch the local news.)


I think, when we read a book, we either like to be taken away or see ourselves in someone else’s work, to feel less alone—Audrina was both. It was also well-edited, unlike some of V.C.’s other books, where last names are spelled two different ways and middle names were changed altogether.


I don’t recommend any V.C. books after the Logan series, because the quality tanked and they all started to sound the same. I have no plans on reading Whitefern, the sequel to Audrina that Neiderman wrote, though I will try the televised version of Audrina. (The original flick, Flowers in the Attic, though not a masterpiece, had a haunting quality about it the TV movie lacked.)


V.C. Andrews had one hell of an imagination, and it’s too bad she passed away before she got to write more books. She was an influence on me in my early writing (who doesn’t love dark family secrets?), just as the breezy, Shopaholic series lightened what V.C. darkened.


Even though I read many novels by different authors, I think series books will always have a place in my heart, because I fall in love with the characters, and don’t want to let them go. I think that’s why I’ve always preferred novels over short stories, and short stories over poetry. It’s always been about the characters for me. Even the poetry I write is often about characters (many of them wacky).

Plots may keep you reading, but characters will keep you rereading.


Books: A part of my childhood, a part of my adulthood


My earliest memory of reading was when my dad read nursery rhymes to me. I vaguely remember him running me through the one about “the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker–just to get me to say “three foul balls in a tub” at the end, which my uncle got a real kick out of. (They’d have my cousin Jeremy go through the alphabet just to watch him put a finger to his chin when he came to “W.” The things adults make kids do for our amusement!)

Mom and I read the Encyclopedia Brown series together, often in the car when my parents sold lamps and lampshades at an outdoor flea market in Summerdale, Alabama. Books were my salvation from boredom.  If I didn’t have a new book, I’d reread an old one.  I think I read Mom, You’re Fired! several times one summer.

Many Moons was (and still is) my all-time favorite children’s book, but I also loved the Wayside School set and The Face on the Milk Carton series.

I guess you could say I’ve always been a series girl—The Baby-Sitters Club in elementary, Sweet Valley High in middle, and V.C. Andrews in high school—the last of which I stopped reading when Andrew Neiderman (Andrews’ ghostwriter) turned out to be a hack.

I read many a Harlequin romance in my early twenties, which I deemed as research. (I wanted to write for them.) In my late twenties and early thirties, I fell in love with Linda Hall novels—Christian fiction that didn’t resort to caricatures (as a lot of Christian fiction does). I reread her books every so often, but LaVyrle Spencer’s Small Town Girl will always be my favorite. I loved that the heroine was a country music star who had the courage to leave home at eighteen and made it on her own (a la Mary Richards).

If I had to choose three classic novels that top all the others I’ve read thus far, it would be Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. (Ironically, the films that were adapted from these fine works were flawless.)

Sometimes I wonder if it weren’t the heroines of these novels that make them so beloved—a feisty Southern belle who toughened up when push came to push back (ten times harder), and two precocious girls (one of them a writer).

Though television programming has become portable with the advent of cell phones, back then, reading was the perfect portable form of entertainment. At night, when I could no longer see (no Kindles in the late eighties and early nineties), I’d make up stories in my head.

And it all started with an appreciation for poetry, whether it was read or sung to me.  What’s more, writing it has helped me appreciate it more.

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book


Leann was Snow White,
the fairest of the least;
Kath was a black beauty
in love with a beast,
& I,
Princess Aurora,
who was only now waking up
from what had once been
a charming, princely dream.

Brad was joining the Catholic priesthood,
which would take him away from me,
even as the Mormon priesthood would prepare
Elder Roberts for me.

Tony wanted me for his wife,
Kath for his lover,
& their baby for our very own.
She would keep his heart,
& I would keep my soul.

My mother lived in sin,
even as I lived with it.
She was but one covenant
away from hell,
& I,
one man’s touch away
from heaven.

Leann was the pretty one,
Kath, the black one,
& I, the pure one.
I would be the changeling
of our feminine triad—
the last light on a match.


Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #427: Valentine


Looking for Love in all the Wrong Sections

Violynne Bowe—
a rather wooden member of the String family—
was always pulling things to get ahead,
whereas Little Miss Tambourine (complete with bells on),
was always in the mood to be banged.

They fought ivory tooth & nail
for a piece of Piano Man,
who couldn’t decide which family he should marry into.

Clarinette was a member of the stiff & longwinded Woodwinds
& a breath of hot air who
wiled away her hours getting blown.
She also knew his secret—
that he was of a different persuasion.

When she outed him onstage,
he went for Trumpet,
who was always blowing his own horn.