Carhartt Brown published at Ghost Parachute

Illustration by Brett J Barr

My latest CNF Flash story, Carhartt Brown is up today at Ghost Parachute. If you get a chance, give it a read!

http://ghostparachute.com/issue/july-2021-issue/carhartt-brown/

Thanks to Brett J Barr for his amazing illustration.

ARTIST CREDIT:

Brett J Barr is an artist/ tattooist, born in Easton Pennsylvania. He grew up in Daytona Beach, moved to Orlando FL in 1997 and now resides in Chuluota, FL. Aside from tattooing at Built 4 Speed Tattoo in Orlando, Brett enjoys many different art forms such as graphite, charcoal, paint, pen and ink, mixed media/ graphic design, woodworking miniatures and studies classical guitar.

Contacts:
brettjbarr@yahoo.com
Facebook/ Brett J Barr
Instagram/ brettjbarrtattoos
Shop Insta/ built4speedtattoos
built4speedtattoos.com/brettjbarr

It Doesn’t Get Easier, You Just Get Stronger: Thoughts on Writing

Note: This craft article was originally published at The Review Review. This is the second in a series of throw-back articles. This one is dedicated to my friend Becky: runner, writer, mom, teacher – sometimes jerk in text messages.

As a runner, I am unimpressive. Slow. Not middle of the pack slow – back of the pack. I shuffle and wheeze. When I picked it back up as an adult, I couldn’t run a full mile. I was inconsistent and sloppy. I was embarrassed at how out of shape I was. I didn’t even want my runner friends to know I was trying.

            But I kept with it and years later, I’ve done three half marathons, too many 5Ks and fun runs to count but most importantly, I’m still running.

            That same voice that urges me to run also urges me to write. Running and writing both require mental toughness and discipline. They demand practice and dedication. They can be unforgiving. Something inside me has always told me to go, to run, to write.

            When I’m at a low point in my writing – say I’ve hit a 26-rejection hot streak, not that that has ever happened! – or I feel overwhelmed by a project that once excited me, I run. When a story isn’t coming together, I hit the road. When my internal editor decides to get a little nasty and all I hear is, “You can’t do this. No one can possibly do this,” I remind myself that I do hard things every time I go running.

            Runners Run – The only qualification you need to be a runner is that you must run. Likewise, if you want to be a writer, just write. Publications, awards, connections – none of those things matter. Call yourself what you are. Define yourself.

            Run the Mile You Are In – When I start running, if I think, “Ok, five more miles to go,” I don’t think I’d bother to start. So, I break the run down into smaller, more manageable pieces. I run that first mile, live within that first mile. I don’t anticipate future pain or the enormity of what is before more. Then, I do the next.

            Writers think big, it’s our nature. Big ideas get us excited. And, then, those big ideas can start to feel impossible. But what if we just run the mile we’re in? Write the first the line or first scene. Runners and writers are at our best when we let our goals build organically, muscles pumping at a steady tempo. That first line leads to the second and then the third. The first scene blends into another and another until you are home.

            You Don’t Have to Go Fast, You Just Have to Go – When I start a run, I usually go a little too fast because I’m excited or too ambitious or, let’s face it, over-caffeinated. I have to tell myself to relax. Find the rhythm. Let go. If I don’t relax, I tire myself out. I might get hurt or discouraged. If I thought I was in a race with every other runner, I just wouldn’t run.

            I don’t have to be the fastest runner. I don’t have to be the best writer every single time, either. What does that ever mean? My writing feels the most successful when I focus on my own internal rhythm and relax into it. I remind myself that not every run is a race and not every single thing I write will be published. I trust the maintenance runs to keep my muscles strong and writing is no different. Excellence doesn’t just show up, we have to practice. Even on days we don’t want to. Even when it’s hard. Especially on those days.

Reaching the Magic Mile – If you write every day, chances are good that most of what you write will not be wonderful. But, that’s normal. That’s what revision is for. Nine times out of ten, the things I write come painfully and slow – similar to my runs. Growing is a painful process but we don’t grow as writers unless we put in the maintenance.

Here’s a secret you may already know: something amazing happens on that tenth time – we reach the magic mile. You know what I mean. That day when all your efforts align with the right circumstances. Your internal elements match the external elements and everything just works?

Those days, running comes easy. I can go on for miles and miles and never feel pain. I don’t get tired. The weather is glorious. My legs are strong. My form is suddenly, miraculously, perfect.

In writing, reaching the magic mile feels like your muse has returned. Something foreign is born within you. You write something new and wonderful and it feels like you are a vessel that is being filled by something else. Someone else.

This muse is not supernatural. She isn’t some magical deity. She is you. She is all your hard work and maintenance and all those external elements finally working together. She is the result of your writing muscles knitting themselves into stronger tissue.

It Doesn’t Get Easier, You Just Get Stronger – Remember, not every time you write will feel like the Magic Mile. But over time, the more you practice, the stronger and faster you will feel. But the work never gets easier. When I run the same hill for the sixth week in a row but suddenly feel strong enough to tackle it, it isn’t because the hill has gotten smaller.

The more you write, the more likely it is that you’ll reach that Magic Mile. But as a bonus, you’ll see improvements and gains in your daily maintenance writing. Editing gets easier. You won’t worry about cutting stuff that isn’t working. You’ll feel more confident. Creativity comes quicker. You’ll start submitting more and publishing more. You’ll find yourself moving from the middle of the pack to the front where you belong.

Up the Dizzy Hill: How Submitting Your Work Can Make You Feel Like Barfing

Note: This craft article was originally published at The Review Review. This is the first in a series of throw-back articles.

When my siblings and I were little, our father would drive us over the Dizzy Hill. Of course, it isn’t really called that. It’s just a hill on a country road on the way into town but we loved it. It has a steep climb with a sudden peak that tips seemingly into nothing. As we’d crest the hill, the road disappeared for just a moment. It doesn’t have any white lines where the pavement meets gravel and berm so it takes a careful driver to stay on the road or to not over-correct and veer into oncoming traffic.

            At the base of the hill, our dad would call out, “Close your eyes!”

            I’d grab my sister’s hand and wait, counting off the seconds in my head, trying in vain to predict the exact moment we’d careen over and the butterflies would fly up into our bellies.                       I’d wait to fool gravity for just a half a second as we’d come up off the bench seat of my father’s old blue pick-up. I’d wait to feel the fall of it in my stomach, that greasy feeling of nearly being sick.

            Our dad was a good driver. Even when he couldn’t see the road, he kept the truck steady until we came down the other side. We laughed and clapped and begged him to go again but the road leveled out and we carried on into town.

            When I submit stories for publication, I think about the Dizzy Hill. It’s a scary thing, opening yourself and your writing up for that kind of consideration. It takes a steady hand. It’s a tedious wait full of anticipation punctuated by a near-sick suspension of gravity.  

            Know the Road before you go – If you’re going to drive over the Dizzy Hill, I’d caution you to study the road a bit. Want to publish your work? Be mindful of the places you submit. Read those journals. Follow their submission guidelines.

            A lot of smaller journals with high acceptance rates typically cannot pay. Check their social media presence: do they promote their writers? Is their site professional and error-free? Do they demand a submission fee and ask you not to simultaneously submit your work elsewhere?

A lot of highly respected journals cannot pay writers but, in turn, will promote you and your work – this is a kind of currency that holds a lot of value because they have a reputation for publishing excellent work. Others can and do pay well in addition to promoting the writers they publish. Find those journals, follow them, submit to them. Support them.

Climb the hill to get to the other side – Be persistent in the face of nearly constant rejection. Rejections are tough, I know. Who wants to drive off the road? But unlike actually driving, there is no real danger here. You don’t lose control of the wheel. Give yourself a little time to recover and then start right back up that hill.

Rejection is not failure in writing. It is an absolute certainty. If you know this at the base of the hill and you trust yourself, you will be prepared for it. Then, when you finally make it to the top, and that acceptance comes, you’ll get to experience that wonderful dizzying feeling.

Grab someone’s hand – Writers need community. Other writers are not your competition, they are your support. They’ll hold your hand as you climb the hill together. They’ll squeeze it, almost unconsciously, at the exact moment gravity takes your breath away.

Be ready to wait – I’ve had days when I’ve checked my email a dozen times. I check my submission statistics on Duotrope and try to game the system. Has my story been out longer than a journal’s average? They love it! Or, they hate it? I don’t know!

The more you climb the Dizzy Hill, the better you’ll think you are getting at predicting when you’re about to hit the top. But you just have to be patient. And, remember:

You always lose the road at the most critical point – You’ve written something amazing. You’ve done everything you were supposed to do. You’ve submitted to the perfect journals (notice I said “journals” and not “journal” – I’m a big fan of simultaneous submissions). Now, prepare yourself for the unknown.

You can’t actually game the system because it’s out of your hands. Now is when you close your eyes and wait to come up out of your seat. I’ll be honest: sometimes it takes a really long time to get up the Dizzy Hill. But when you do, you’ll get that acceptance and you’ll beg to go again. Keep moving. The road is long, the next climb is just as steep so keep writing.

The Sun and Moon

The sun and the moon were at equal space in the horizon this morning. Star crossed lovers.

There is an old African folktale told by the Efik people of Nigeria that says the sun and moon were once best friends on earth. Sometimes husband and wife. But the sun invited the earth’s water to his home. The water surged, bringing all the sea creatures and flooding the sun’s home. The sun and moon escaped into the sky where they remain to this day.

The 2020 pandemic has forced us all into isolation. I feel like I am the moon and all my friends and family are the sun. We can see one another but its not time to be together. We’ve all been flooded by the world’s water.

Hay Fields – Second Place Win at Atticus Review

I’m excited to say that my CNF Flash Hay Fields was awarded second place at the Atticus Review 2020 Flash CNF Contest.

Congratulations to the first place winner Rachel Sudbeck for her essay “The Walls Here” and Charity Gingerich for winning third place!

I’ve read Rachel’s CNF and it is gorgeous. Do yourself a favor and click the link above! I’m looking forward to reading Charity’s when it is published! Thanks to the judge and a special shout out to CNF editor Chauna Craig for being delightful to work with.

Official Announcement: ANNOUNCING THE 2020 ATTICUS REVIEW FLASH CNF CONTEST WINNERS!

5 Flash that Will Break You & 5 Flash that Will Repair You: FracturedLit

Veronica Klash wrote an awesome review of Flash Fiction over at FracturedLit called

5 Flash that Will Break You & 5 Flash that Will Repair You

Girls of the Arboretum was in the Top 5 Stories that will Repair you. Check the review out at FracturedLit or read the full story at XRAY:

Girls of the Arboretum

 

Related Reading:

  1. Ordering Fries at Happy Hour by Christopher Gonzalez at OkayDonkey
  2. Between the Liking and the Pretending by Cathy Ulrich at Ghost Parachute
  3. Dark Woods by Harris Lahti in XRAY

 

 

Bri’s Apocalyptic Pop-tail

Like many, I’ve been struggling to find a way to be creative lately. Today I wrote for the first time in a month and it felt wonderful. The words didn’t matter, they weren’t great but they were a beginning of something. It was prompted by listening to the new Fiona Apple album, “Fetch The Bolt Cutters”.

In college, I’d fall asleep listening to Fiona on my beat up portable CD player. She was angry and so was I although I couldn’t always say why. I’m angry now, too. It feels good to connect my feelings to music in a way that feels healthy.

So, I made a mixed tape. If you have Amazon Prime, you are welcome to use it:

Bri’s Apcalyptic Pop-tail

327 songs. Over 22 hours of music. On Shuffle All, here is a sample:

  1. Annihilation – A Perfect Circle
  2. Hardest of Hearts – Florence and The Machine
  3. Flesh and Bone – Johnny Cash
  4. Little Wing – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  5. This is What Makes Us Girls – Lana del Rey
  6. Nara – Alt J
  7. Rock-n-Roll Suicide – David Bowie
  8. Mississippi Goddam (Live at Carnegie Hall 1964) – Nina Simone
  9. Criminal – Fiona Apple
  10. Michigan – The Milk Cart Kids
  11. Oh! You Pretty Things – David Bowie
  12. Operator – Jim Croce
  13. Cocoa Hooves – Glass Animals
  14. The First Taste – Fiona Apple
  15. Under The Table – Fiona Apple
  16. Cornflake Girl – Tori Amos
  17. It Was A Good Day – Ice Cube
  18. Cannonball – The Breeders
  19. Broadripple is Burning – Margot and The Nuclear So & Sos
  20. Hospital Beds – The Cold War Kids
  21. Down With The Sickness – Disturbed
  22. Its Oh So Quiet – Bjork
  23. Buddy Holly – Weezer
  24. This is How We Do It – Montell Jordan
  25. Die Eier Von Satan – Tool
  26. Every Day is Exactly The Same – Nine Inch Nails
  27. Manic Depression – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  28. London Calling – The Clash
  29. Space Dog – Tori Amos
  30. Here Comes The Sun – Nina Simone
  31. Heads Will Roll – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  32. Juice – Lizzo
  33. Should I Stay or Should I Go – The Clash
  34. Closer – Nine Inch Nails
  35. God – Tori Amos
  36. The Nurse Who Loved Me – A Perfect Circle
  37. O’Sailor – Fiona Apple
  38. The Man Who Sold The World – David Bowie
  39. Crucify – Tori Amos
  40. Fetch The Bolt Cutters – Fiona Apple

 

Headphones Photo by Malte Wingen on Unsplash

You Are What You Listen To Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

Mixed Tape Photo by Namroud Gorguis on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

Emergency Escape Plan selected for Bending Genres Anthology

My short story, “Emergency Escape Plan” (originally published February 9, 2018 at Bending Genres) has been selected for the 2018 | 2019 Bending Genres Anthology edited by Robert Vaughan. This volume is a collection of 100 amazing authors (or…like…99 and then also me) and 250 pages of hybrid creative nonfiction, flash fiction and poetry.

It is available for purchase at Bending Genres Press: The Bending Genres Anthology 2018 – 2019: $19.95 (ships in Mid-March) 

BG-Anthology-Front

Featuring:

Abby Burns and Ade Toke and Alina Stefanescu and Andrew Hahn and Andrew Stancek and Anne Summerfield and Babak Lakghomi and Ben Kline and Benjamin Niespodziany and Brad Rose and Brett Pribble and Brianne Kohl and Cameron Morse and Cathy Ulrich and Chad Lutz and Christine Baerbock and Christopher Bowen and Claire Polders and Constance Malloy and D.S. Maolalai and David Spicer and E. Kristin Anderson and Emily Bertholf and Emily Hoover and Eric Lewis and Erin Anderson and Francine Witte and Freda Epum and Gail Gauthier and Gale Acuff and Gay Degani and Gaynor Jones and Genia Blum and Georgiana Nelsen and Hanna Barry Black and Hannah Cohen and Heidi Neff and Hillary Leftwich and Howie Good and J. Marasa and J. Tarwood and Jacqueline Doyle and Jalayna Carter and James McAdams and Jan Saenz and Jane-Rebecca Cannarella and Jayne Martin and Jeff Porter and Jen Todhunter and Jenn Lee and Jennifer Vanderheyden and Jill Talbot and John Brantingham and John Gray and Jonathan Riccio and Jose Aseguero and Joshua Baker and Jules Archer and Kaj Tanaka and Karen Schauber and Kate Murfett and Katherine Gleason and Kathryn de Lancellotti and Kathryn Kulpa and Kim Magowan and Kirsten Kaschock and BG-Anthology-BackKristen Havens and Kristin Tenor and Kristina Ten and L. Mari Harris and Laura Heckel and Lauren Busser and Lee Patterson and Len Kuntz and Lucinda Kempe and Lucy Zhang and Luke Johnson and Martha Kaplan and Mary Thompson and Matthew Dexter and Meg Pokrass and Michael Grant Smith and Michelle Ko and Michelle Ross and Nancy Iannucci and Nancy Mitchell and Nancy Stohlman and Pique Allens and Rachel Laverdiere and Rachel Tanner and Riham Adly and Robert Scotellaro and Rogan Kelly and Ruth Ticktin and Ryan Skaryd and S. Leavesly and Sam Rasnake and Samina Hadi-Tabassum and Sara Comito and Sara Kuntsler and Sherre Vernon and Shome Dasgupta and Shoshauna Shy and Steven John and Suvi Mahonen and Tara Campbell and Thomas Ferriello and Timothy Liu and Tom Block and Tommy Dean and Vox Populi and Wendy Chirikos and Wendy Oleson and William Soldan and Woody Woodger