The Roadrunner published at Okay Donkey

“Holly lays in bed, one leg bent over the edge, the other bare foot resting on the cool creased pillow. Pink toes. Avon Pink Minx. She idles the morning away, watching cartoons and smoking cigarette after cigarette. Charlie would not approve but Charlie is not here.

Holly throws an arm behind her head and stares at the television. Sly coyote – he’s painting a road on a desert floor that leads to a stone wall. He adds trees and a guard rail. Leaves no detail undone. He waits behind a dusty boulder for the Roadrunner to hit the wall. But the Roadrunner has a secret: she can turn paint into pavement, pavement into horizon, horizon into escape.”

Read the rest at Okay Donkey…

Photo Attributes:

Interviewed by Eric Scot Tryon

Eric Scot Tryon, writer and editor of Flash Frog interviewed me about my story Carhartt Brown (published in their July 2021 issue of Ghost Parachute) for his FLASH on the FIVE series.

“Ultimately, I wrote it with one goal: to find the truth of my reaction to a certain subgroup of men of whom I am intimately familiar.”

Check out the full interview here: https://www.ericscottryon.com/post/carhartt-brown

Related Reading:

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.

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!

Chasing The Cracks Nominated for a Pushcart Prize

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My short story, Chasing The Cracks, has been nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize. This story was published in 94 Creations #6 in October.

From 94 Creation’s website:

“94 Creations nominates the works of four outstanding contributors for The Pushcart Prize, a prestigious American literary prize by Pushcart Press that honors the best poetry, short fiction, and essays published in small presses over the previous year. “

Thank you to the wonderful editors at 94 Creations for this honor!

To read this story, check out 94 Creations #6. It is a great edition with a lot of stellar reads and it would make a great Christmas present! Just sayin’!

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New Story, “Chasing The Cracks”, published at 94 Creations

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I am so proud to have a new short story, “Chasing The Cracks” published at 94 Creations Issue 6.

This edition is available through amazon.com.

http://goo.gl/MwRxPp

According to their website, “94 Creations is a literary journal that publishes an eclectic assortment of outstanding fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, drama, and art by both emerging and established writers and artists.”

Get 35% off Spark Volume IV and win a new friend!

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Get 35% off Spark: A Creative Anthology Volume IV

featuring my short story

Quicksilver

by going here: Spark: A Creative Anthology Volume IV

and using this coupon code: KOHL-FRIENDS.

If you do, we really will be friends. 

And, you can never have enough friends, am I right?

Offer ends on January 31, 2014. 

***

I mean, the discount ends on January 31. If you are nice, I’ll still be your friend. 

Probably.

Unless you are weird. 

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Don’t be weird. People don’t like that. 

Crack The Spine Fall 2013 Now Available on Amazon!

The (ahem) highly anticipated Crack The Spine Fall 2013 Anthology is now available at Imageamazon.com

Official Release: http://www.crackthespine.com/2013/11/fall-2013-anthology.html

My Pushcart Prize-nominated story Burn, Baby, Burn is featured in the depths of some pretty outstanding literary fiction – all compiled into one fantastic anthology. I’m honored to be amongst them. 

If you are looking for a Christmas present for someone….or, if you really love great fiction….or, if you are one of my family members who have a biological imperative to support my artistic endeavors then I proudly suggest purchasing a copy!

I’d like to also send out a special shout out to Crack The Spine’s editor, Kerri Farrell Foley – perhaps the hardest working and most dedicated editor I’ve worked with to date. It has been an absolute pleasure working with her. Her support has been invaluable! 

If you find yourself reading through the pages and thinking, “Wow. These writers DO.NOT.SUCK” please consider leaving feedback on amazon’s page. So often, I’ve found myself loving something I’ve read and keeping those thoughts to myself. But, the success of these kinds of publications rely on reader’s feedback. Writers supporting other writers is a great way to increase your publishing karma (says me) and to support an industry we all want to see succeed. 

And, if you read it and think, “Wow. These writers SURE.DO.SUCK” then you could maybe go ahead and keep that to yourself. I won’t mind. 

Amazon Description: Crack the Spine. Bend a fresh book until your hands meet beneath its stressed strings. Feel the weight of words snap free. This anthology includes the best poetry and prose from Crack the Spine Literary Magazine’s weekly publications. Authors: Glen Armstrong, Sally Burnette, Jay Carson, Tobi Cogswell, Daniel DiFranco, Megan Dobkin, Melanie Faith, Janelle Fine, Christina Marie Glessner, Matt Hall, Brian Hobbs, Tim Kahl, Brianne M. Kohl, Priscilla Mainardi, Robert Marshall, David McAleavey, Sean Padraic McCarthy, Shaun Anthony McMichael, Greg Moglia, Annelle Neel, Jos O’Connell, Jeffrey Park, Eliot Parker, Laura Pendell, Jim Richards, Marilyn Ringer, Jason Ryberg, Carla Sarett, Rochelle Jewel Shapiro, Michael Dwayne Smith, Angela Maria Williams, Kirby Wright

Featured Writer At Crack The Spine

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I have been selected as Crack The Spine‘s Featured Writer for the month of August!

I could not be more thrilled! 

http://www.crackthespine.com/2013/08/featured-writer-of-month.html

I was chosen based on the reactions my story “Burn, Baby Burn” received when it was released in Issue 74 last month. Thanks to everyone that read it and spoke out in their comments and Facebook page. If you haven’t read my story, please take a moment to head over to their site! You can read my story and their interview where I sound brilliant, self assured and amazingly attractive. Yep. 

Come on, you know you are bored at work anyways!