#Fiction Friday: #Novelines from the Book

Mormoni

It had always been David who had made our house the kind of home the Church said a home should be—the second most sacred space, next to the temple.

“For where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst of them,” Jesus had said, & so, the Mormon missionaries paired off like Noah’s Ark, except in a sexless, same-sex fashion.

His faith had been proven—his sacrifice hadn’t required the forsaking of his own life—only the forsaking of a chance at a life with me.

David appreciated the natural world as much as Mother & Caitlin did the spiritual, whereas I was caught somewhere between the two.

Man had been given dominion over all earthly creations (rather than God, who had dominion over all the heavenly ones).

Though we were surrounded by people, we were the only two people in our world—in the world, but not of it.

I sensed a change in my & David’s relationship, but I could not define it. It had matured. I was no longer his stepdaughter—I was his equal.

Christmas in the Deep South was twinkling lights for snowflakes, spray-on snow on windowpanes, & the Hallmark yule log flickering on a screen.

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Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #448: Chore

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Hymn of Motherhood

(for all the “Tullies” out there)

For Mama Mia,
motherhood was a never-ending spin cycle—
of scraping dried spaghetti off plates
or off the floor,
wiping spit-up from faces,
throw-up out of sheets,
& sometimes poop or pee,
& even poopy pee.
It was poop in the bathtub.
It was cooking hamburger casseroles for dinner
& baking cupcakes for play-dates.
It was cold cereal & spilt milk
& crying for no reason
& laughing for the same.
It was yelling for a multitude of reasons.
It was vacuuming the rugs
for the creeping crawlies in onesies
& the toddling twos in their missing left socks.
It was reading the same stories over & over—
like binge-watching Groundhog Day
limiting her own screen time to set an example,
& sharing her chocolate to show that sharing was good.
It was hiding in the bathroom to check her e-mail or
in the closet to nosh on a frozen white chocolate KitKat
& not feeling guilty for saying no when she needed a dose of
I Love Lucy to unwind.
It was letting them see her read books,
so they would know she did it for herself
& not just for them.
It was giving them what they needed,
but not always what they wanted.
It was making time to play with them
& knowing when to leave them to their own (non-electronic) devices.
It was saying thousands of “I love yous” before
getting even one back.
It was sticky hands & dirty feet & boogies God knew where.
It was one dish left of a set.
It was showing them the world
but not showing the world, them.
It was teaching them about Heaven &
the God who created it in a way
they could
understand.
It was trying to keep their memories alive
of those who’d loved them,
but they would never remember.
It was putting locks on doors, cabinets, cupboards.
It was trying to remember so much &
having to be so aware.
It was a life sentence of worry.
It was not believing in spanking,
& yet,
promising never to spank again.
It was comforting after disciplining.
It was, when Daddy pissed her the hell off,
letting her temper freeze over when it wanted to boil over.
It was forgiving Daddy for pissing her the hell off.
It was remembering the day when she used to look at harried mothers,
feeling sorry for them,
& knowing now that she had become what she had once vowed
she would never become.
It was a constant unscrambling of the brain.
when interrupted because of the need for attention.
It was a distracted drive through life &
staying up far too late to get some alone time.
It was yearning for her pre-baby body in her post-baby life,
wondering why the silhouette in the mirror disappointed her,
for she’d been running,
it seemed,
since the day they were born.
It was everything she had ever wanted &
more work than she had ever thought it would be.
It was teaching them all the things they really needed to know
before they ever got to kindergarten;
it was learning to know when to ask for help
so that she could care for herself as well
as she cared for all of them.

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http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-448

Book Review: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

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I had expected a charming anthology of personal narratives, but instead, what I got was one of the worst books I’ve ever tried to finish (I made it to page 120; I tried to skim after that, but felt my time, and my brain, wasting away). What’s more, the title had nothing to do with the book. The author simply used it to get people to buy it—a classic “bait-and-switch.”

The first thing I read (after the synopsis) when I open a book is the copyright, no matter the genre; the first printing of this was in 1986.

I can’t imagine it was any better then.

*

I remember this man’s list from grade school years ago, printed on a poster and taped to a cinderblock, public school wall. I’d thought it cute then, but even though it was memorable in a benign sort of way, I find parts of it problematic now.

Now rather than regurgitate/retype the list, as other reviewers have done, I will just point out a few things: Share everything. Immediately, I was thinking, um, no. You don’t share your spouse, your prescription medications, or unsolicited advice.

As for take naps, the clarifier should have been as needed. If I lie down for a nap, it’s at least four hours gone. Better to go to bed early and get all your rest that way because in the real world working a full-time job, you don’t get nap breaks (you’re lucky to get a coffee/smoke break), and power naps have always made me feel worse. Time spent outside, even if the weather is lousy, is what rejuvenates me. (And going to sleep—not just to bed—early enough to get at least eight hours.)

Wash your hands before you eat. (That should be every time you go to the bathroom, before and after cooking, et cetera, et cetera; otherwise, you’re only washing your hands three times a day.)

Of course, I can think of many more, such as Keep your hands to yourself. That goes beyond just don’t hit people.

But, that’s just one example.

What’s more, I’m not sure what the author meant when he said the biggest word of all is look, as I could think of better ones, like imagine. This is a classic case of when the author knows what he’s talking about but cannot convey that to the reader.

There was some good advice, like Be aware of wonder and Flush. (I think “if you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie and wipe the seatie” is a good one, but this book was written by a man, after all.) Better advice would be to flush at least as many times as the job number was.

That said, this was not enough to save the book. (I did, however, share his nostalgia for the 64-pack of Crayola crayons with the built-in sharpener.)

*

A good writer can write about ordinary things in an extraordinary way, but this read like a personal journal—very random and stream of consciousness-like. None of the chapters had titles, some sentences (or fragments) were written in all caps (no need to scream, that’s what exclamation points are for), and the anecdotes were anything but anecdotal. It’s like “I saw a gum wrapper on the bus today,” and then that’s it.

He tried with some metaphors (like a box of Cheer), but none of them worked.

None.

*

The author is a minister, but I got a weird vibe. He talks about teaching his toddling grandson dirty jokes. Huh?

He liked to talk about lawn care, and some of his chapters read like the information had been lifted from Google or Wikipedia (or Encyclopedia Britannica, considering when this was published). He goes into minute detail about dandelion weeds (excuse me, flowers) and beetles (or maybe it was spiders).

There wasn’t one interesting chapter.

Not.  One.

Going back through the book, there was one “rule” that made sense—The Brass Rule—which is that it’s not the thought that counts, but the gift that counts. This, to me, means giving meaningful (not expensive) gifts. I put a lot of thought into any gift I give, because I’ve been on the wrong end of an obvious regift, which are thoughtless (and which ended up as white elephant gifts for the Dirty Santa parties with my husband’s family).

Despite this miniscule glimmer, All I Really Need to Know had little to no redeeming value. Even his abysmal attempts at levity seemed to have a veiled mean-spiritedness that I found disconcerting.

Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: On Blogging

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Blogging is a fantastic way to get the word (i.e. your work) out, but it’s easy to be torn between what you should put out there for free & what you should hold dear until it finds a home (because once it’s posted, it’s considered published, & you may never be able to submit it anywhere again). This guide should help: https://sarahleastories.com/2016/10/04/15-blogging-prompts/

Twitter, for the most part, is a colossal waste of time. With Twitter, there are too many expectations of reciprocity. You should be so productive creating new content, you don’t have time to reciprocate every like or respond to every comment or thank someone for every retweet; you need actual fans—not just those who follow to get a follow back. Thus, you need readers who aren’t also writers.

Goodreads is great for posting book reviews & connecting with other readers. However, not everyone who follows your blog has a Goodreads account, so post your best reviews on your blog. Get as much mileage as you can out of everything you write. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/10/06/book-review-the-girl-on-the-train/

Don’t write for LinkedIn on a regular basis unless you write boring, businessy articles/listicles that are largely forgettable. I rarely write articles specifically for LinkedIn, but if something I’ve written is appropriate for the platform, I’ll either post it on LinkedIn Pulse or share it from my blog. There is no such thing as too much visibility. Whatever you do, don’t post part of the article on LinkedIn, & then require people to click on your blog link to read the rest. Rather, post a short bio, including a link to your blog, so that if people liked what they read, they might want to read something else you wrote. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/my-own-personal-minimalism-sarah-richards-1/?published=t

Seek out guest posting opportunities. Most of them don’t pay, but it’s extra exposure (which is helpful if your blog doesn’t have many followers). There are opportunities to write about writing, life hacks, & parenting. GetConnect Dad is a sweet site to start with, chock full of awesome content from moms & dads around the world. https://getconnectdad.com/write-with-us/

Instagram forces you to become a better photographer—to produce more original content. It’s bright, clean, & minimal—everything Twitter isn’t. https://www.instagram.com/sarahleastories/

If you’ve ever had any work published in print or online (other than your personal blog), create an online portfolio. A portfolio showcases not just what you know, but what you can do. https://sarahlearichards.journoportfolio.com/

 

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

Mormoni

When Mother married David,
it was for them.
When she would die as
the result of a lethal conception,
it was for them.
Everything she would ever do
for would be for them &
because of them.

I was in love with a boy I didn’t understand,
but the boy who understood me,
I loved as a friend &
could only love as more
in the absence of all the others.

When I was a child,
I was childlike.
When I became a woman,
I would set my child aside,
for I was still a child myself.

Snapshots were captured moments,
portraits, created moments.
The former was for families like theirs,
the latter, for a family like mine.

I had never taken a walk with Jesus,
like the Protestants.
I had never spoken to His mother,
like the Catholics.
Rather, I sought the head of the
Heavenly household:
His Father.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #447: Release

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Max Hollywood

He liked his own posts—
his favorite subject being himself—
even going so far as to
put sticky notes all over his mirror,
reminding himself of how awesome he was.
But when that face in the mirror went all Dorian Gray on him—
the mirror cracking when he smiled at it—
he was rewarded with 7 years of bad luck.
Then he had to rely on a world
that became blind to his male beauty,
but not to his bullshit.
His face,
his lucky charm,
was no longer a goldmine.
The women he’d collected like dolls,
or charms for a bracelet,
were released from his magnetic charm,
for the value of his sperm bank
had depreciated,
& so, like an aging movie star,
there were no new releases,
save the ones that he did himself.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-447