Posts Tagged ‘Bloomington Writers Guild’
This was a first, the Players Pub Spoken Word Series (see January 29), premiered Thursday night from 6 to 9 by the Bloomington Writers Guild in conjunction with local bar and music venue Players Pub in off-downtown Bloomington. This will continue on second Thursdays every month, combining musical interludes with readings of various sorts. This time, for instance, the readings were prose, with the musical guests the group Urban Deer, while next month’s will most likely feature poetry and, from out of town, the group Shakespeare’s Monkey. The name of the series is not necessarily fixed yet either, but a flavor is already being established, more freewheeling and possibly “adult” in nature than, say, the more formal First Sunday Prose and Last Sunday Poetry programs.
That said, the first reading ever for this was by . . . me. The piece read was my story “River Red” from THE TEARS OF ISIS, but with a brief introduction from TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH (“River Red” being set in the “Tombs” universe, even if not in the latter book) to help set the mood. And also . . . well, maybe . . . as a sort of commercial to push both titles. This was followed by Shayne Laughter, who we’ve met on several occasions before, with a tale called “Incident at Grandmother’s Cottage,” a part of a fiction work in progress; Arbutus Cunningham (a.k.a. Hester), a Saturday morning radio star on local WFHB with four brief and mostly funny (the exception, the third called “After the War,” combining survival and sadness) semi-fictionalized, off-the-wall reflections; and playwright and comedy performance artist Stevie Jay with longer excerpts from a newer work, “Falling Through the Cracks: a homeopathic remedy for the New Millennium in one dose.” The audience totaled some 15 to 18 people (not counting bar personnel), most of whom seemed to stay for the whole nearly three-hour period, and once warmed up seemed quite enthusiastic.
Then another note on new goth kitten Triana, who has momentarily held still and in the light long enough for a new photo portrait, this amongst the jumble and clutter of the printer corner of the computer cave. But the thing is, missing from all other pictures thus far, she has lovely golden-brownish eyes, now seen here for the first time!
Back for 2017, this afternoon saw the new year’s first “Last Sunday Poetry Reading & Open Mic” (see November 28, et al.), co-sponsored by the Bloomington Writers Guild and the Monroe County Convention Center. Featured poets this time were Lisa Low, in her final year in the MFA program at Indiana University, whose reading covered such subjects as grocery stores, ghosts, and gold, ending with a group of poems from a work in progress about a girl named Ruby; and Stephen Hopkins, “born in Texas but raised in the Midwest, [and] moved all over Ohio, often,” an IU PhD candidate who read works from his recent chapbook HYMNS OF PERPETUAL MOTION. This was followed by snacks and an open mike session in which I was last of six participants, with five short, relatively light poems about vampires, “The Vampire’s Reflection,” “An Unsuitable Kiss for the New Year,” “Something New,” “Nothing Better,” and “The Vampiress’s Embarrassment.”
Also announced was a new Writers Guild “Second Thursdays” evening series to be held each month at Bloomington’s Players Pub, beginning February 9. While programs will vary, the premiere offering will highlight prose readings, including a short tale by me from THE TEARS OF ISIS, “River Red,” set in the same universe as my upcoming TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH.
MEET CUTE (cf. November 23), the flash fiction anthology of unexpected, eccentric, or just unusual meetings of couples, has had a few changes in scope, according to Editor Kara Landhuis. An immediate one is a change in pre-publication funding from Kickstarter to Indiegogo, deemed a better fit for a smaller publication’s actual needs. For other news, publication is tentatively planned for January for distribution in February; the funding project itself will close December 31.
As Ms. Landhuis explains, MEET CUTE was born out of a love for several things, most notably: Storytelling and connection. I wanted to create a book that celebrates human connection, and I thought there was no better way than to invite writers and illustrators to collaborate. MEET CUTE will include around 20 short stories (very short — fewer than 1000 words each) written by writers from around the world. There will also be 10-15 black and white illustrations that enrich the stories. My own entry in this is “Butterfly,” a saga of forests and fairytales — or was that insects and axes? To find out more, one will just have to buy the book, or for an inside track, check out the Indygogo crowdfunder by clicking here.
In other action, The Bloomington Writers Guild’s December business meeting and end-of-year party was Saturday afternoon. As in previous years, it ended with an open reading for about a dozen participants, my contribution (in lieu of a story which I suggested I’d save for February’s First Sunday Prose, as being perhaps a bit long for this session) was three Santa Claus poems, posing the question — especially in the case of the first two, which also appear in my collection VAMPS — do we really need Krampus?
So a member of my writers group, presumably planning to write a “Krampus” story herself but declining to actually go to the local parade right here in town on Saturday night, made me this request: You might describe to me the sights, smells, sounds, etc. of the local parade. I imagine kids shrieking, music, smells of food for sale, etc. Who is it that hands out candy; was it “angels?” And the Krampuses have switches? (I read that the traditional Krampus does. I know he’s Austrian. He has relatives like Klaubeuf.) Sensing an attempt to get me to write part of her story for her, or at least do her research, and possibly in a cynical mood, I replied (after a brief snark that, re. “smells,” there would be crowds and undoubtedly body odor but it would be too cold to smell it) thusly:
I’m jaded myself, I remember the first one when you could march along the route with the Angels and Krampi yourself. But a quick rundown (oh wait, I copied the stuff from Facebook for you in my other email, it’ll tell you what to expect!), based on last year’s which would seem to be pretty much what will happen this year too, were you to go at 5, you’d probably mill around with people in the area behind the Showers Bldg (City Hall), you’d probably find a stand or a person giving out the “Naughty” and “Nice” stickers and choose the one you want to paste on your jacket (Hint: it’s considered bush league to paste on both). There may also be some food stands (or trucks, since those are “in” these days, the trucks probably parked on the street) Also some game-type things to help keep the kiddies quiet, though, half-frozen, most won’t be too noisy. As 6 p.m. works around, it’ll have gotten rather dark and someone will announce the parade will be starting and suggest you head south along Madison St. to watch it. You do, then you stand with others in the cold for awhile, then see some kind of lighted stuff (majorettes with light-up batons? Who knows) way in the distance to the south. In what seems like ages, it will finally get to where you are and move on past, Angels (giving out candy to the “nice”), Bishop Nick, maybe in the parade proper they’ll have the cart with the cage with a couple of “naughty” kids in it, maybe some other stuff, plus guys in Krampus suits. These last may or may not be holding switches or sticks but I doubt they’ll actually hit anyone — lawsuits, you know, not to mention possible criminal charges. But they will run toward children near the parade route with “Naughty” stickers yelling “Rowrrr!” And quite quickly, considering how long it seemed to take for it to get to you, it will be passed. Madison Street will seem deserted, the wind whistling, perhaps a piece or two of trash blowing along the now-empty expanse, and you’ll look around at other people looking as puzzled as you. Is that all there is? you’ll think. Then you remember what you’d read on Facebook, that there may be a sort of after thing, maybe an hour or more later, when some of the Krampuses will go around to the local bars, possibly go inside and yell “Rowrrr!” but you won’t stay around that long to find out. Nor will anyone you know remember having done so in previous years, but if you really want my experience, I usually continue south to Krogers to see if anything’s on sale (one gala year, I stopped in at the Wendy’s to use the rest room), then go home. Another year, another Krampus parade.
Now that it’s over, I can add that it’s really more fun than that, though (as sort of a one-trick pony) it’s still rather short. I only got downtown in time for the parade itself so I can’t report on pre-parade activities, but I can better define “the lighted stuff . . . way in the distance” as lighted hula hoops followed by some guys holding torches (“fire stuff” as a security guard called it, using that a means to get the audience back to the sides of the road where they belonged — clever, I call it) and, while the rustic cart of caged children of years past wasn’t there (though the parade ended with a motorized mini-vehicle with one child), the first krampuses were “forcing” chained kids to trudge behind them. Also, if anyone asks, I wore a “Nice” sticker because, as I’ve explained in the past (see December 9 2012; also December 6 2015) Nice gets you free candy (only one package this time though — maybe the angels were tightening their celestial belts) while “Naughty” gets you harassment. And anyway if you’re truly naughty who’d tell the truth?
Which brings us to Sunday and 2016’s final Bloomington Writers Guild “First Sunday Prose Reading and Open Mic” (cf. November 7, et al.), co-sponsored and venued by Boxcar Books. Featured readers this time were Annette Oppenlander, who we’ve met before, with a talk on how her young adult ESCAPE FROM THE PAST novel trilogy was first conceived followed by an excerpt from the third volume, published just last week; award-winning documentary filmmaker, eco-journalist, etc., Kalynn Huffman Brower with an excerpt from an “ages ten and up” science fiction novel in progress plus a part of an autobiographical essay; and Andrew Hubbard who continued a non-fiction piece begun two months back on Nebraska’s Chimney Rock and its surrounding area. Then when open mike time came, with an audience still thirteen people strong (including the man asleep on the couch in back), I read fourth in a field of five (that is, followed by MC Joan Hawkins and thus, technically, not quite ending the session) with a near-future Thanksgiving set 500-word story, written for a call by THE STONESLIDE CORRECTIVE shortly after a recent election, for stories on the subject of “aftermath.”
Time will tell if it gets accepted (or comes true) and, in the meantime, since next month starts on a Sunday with Boxcar Books closed for New Year’s Day, that’s the last of the First Sunday Prose Reading series until February 5, 2017.
The end of November is getting exciting! Books received, TOMBS early-listed on Amazon, freebies for EVERYDAY STORIES II, a new story accepted, and now another. And this by a higher paying market! The word came Sunday morning, sneaking vampire-like in with the mist at 12:17 a.m., “Thanks for sending ‘The Candle and the Flame’ to DARKFUSE. I have finished my review and have decided to accept it and offer you a contract.” In fact the contract had arrived a few minutes before Editor Shane Staley’s email, but that’s the way the internet goes sometimes. Suffice to say I opened the contract later that day, signed it, and now it is back in DARKFUSE MAGAZINE’s clutches.
“The Candle and the Flame” is a steampunky, fairytaleish story of a little girl at Christmas time selling not matches, but candles. But nevertheless coming to grief in a friendless, ultra-capitalistic Victorian England. As for DARKFUSE, to go to the guidelines: Here’s what we’re looking for . . . Horror, thriller, suspense, crime, sci-fi, bizarre — anything with a dark slant. 500-2K words paid. They go on to say they will take longer stories, but the emphasis in on the short, with “The Candle and the Flame,” for instance, coming in at about 1700 words. And one more note, publication is scheduled for January 13 2017 to help start off a happy new year!
Then Sunday afternoon brought the Bloomington Writers Guild’s “Last Sunday Poetry Reading & Open Mic” (cf. September 25 et al.), co-sponsored by the Monroe County Convention Center. Featured poets were Indiana University Education PhD candidate Julia Heimer Dadds with, to paraphrase, perilous poems for perilous times among others, followed by first generation Sierra Leonean-American poet and MFA candidate Yalie Kamara. No, neither read poems about vampires, and in fact the only such ones were read by me, one of eight walk-ons at open mike time in a well-attended session. But both that I read were about vampires: “Her First Time” from BLOODBOND, which we just met (see November 27, 7, et al.), and a just-written poem for the coming season, “The Vampire Before Christmas.”
Sunday, the second day of a cold snap that’s finally brought November temperatures to November, also brought the Bloomington Writers Guild’s Third Sunday “prompt” session (cf. September 19). This is kind of fun mostly, a group of us around a table writing like mad to prompts the facilitator(s) offer, completing an essay or story or poem within a fixed time. There are usually three of these, the first yesterday involving description/analysis of a recurring dream, the second a poetry prompt from an outside source, and the third. . . .
Well, a moment on that. The third, for which we had only five minutes (the first two were fifteen minutes each), was to write a “thank you” letter. But my mind wasn’t entirely on this. It seems the cave cat Wednesday (more on whom, here depicted in kittenhood some twelve and a half years back, can be found under her name on “PAGES” at the far right) had her annual visit to the vet last week and the news wasn’t all good. She had been losing weight and, tests coming back, the reason appears to be hyperthyroidism. The good news is she can have the condition treated by eating a special *expensive* cat food, a bag of which is now on order in hopes she will like it. The bad for her is that she must eat it exclusively, which means no more cat treats (her favorite: Friskies’ “Beachside Crunch”). So anyway what came up was a cat-related “thank you” to a hypothetical sister, for the gift of a hypothetical book, with the hypothetical cat “Fluffy” standing in for Wednesday — and which, as a tip of the hat for her, I offer as a lagniappe:
Dear Sister. Thank you very much for the book you sent, 101 THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR CAT. Fluffy thanks you too, though she thought numbers 18 and 36 were a little rough. Her favorite, though, seems to be number 52, the one that involves catnip. I would have one complaint, however — or perhaps a warning you might include if you give copies to people in the future — for numbers 48, 77, and 82, I would strongly recommend wearing thick gloves. (Your Loving Brother)
Then back to business for Monday, today’s email included a proof copy of Popcorn Press’s LUPINE LUNES, including my Rhysling-nominated poem “Beware of the Dog” (see October 29, et al.), returned with no problems found this afternoon. “Beware of the Dog” was originally published in GRIEVOUS ANGEL, September 11 2014.
I had had to skip the open mike part of last week’s Last Sunday Poetry due to getting ready for early check-in for my “Raising the Dead” reading at that evening’s Ryder Film Festival (see October 31). This week, however, all was on schedule for November’s “First Sunday Prose Reading and Open Mic” (cf. October 3, et al.) with local short fiction writer Tom Bitters and a tale of young love nearly torpedoed by an inflatable doll named Mistress Ping; poetry and prose performer Gabriel Peoples with the rambling and funny quasi-historical “The Story of Jack Daniels,” including audience participation; and First Sundays MC and co-sponsor (with host venue Boxcar Books) Bloomington Writers Guild member Joan Hawkins with more of young love, the “Ballad of Renee and Buzz,” and the start of a second piece, both examples of creative nonfiction.
The crowd was reasonably large at the start although, as sometimes happens, it thinned down to about half its size during the break, after which two people read at the open mike session, me and local poet and essayist and sometimes short fiction writer Tonia Matthews. My piece this time was of young love also,”Smashing Pumpkins,” that of the vampires Aloysius and Vendetta in an adventure of Halloween, ice-blood (or is it “bloodcream”) cones, and rampaging clowns, all ending up with a trip to the polls on Election Day.
But let us start Thursday with something I was not in, but attended. Thursday night offered an, as it were, otherworldly start to the Halloween weekend with a 100-year commemoration of Cabaret Voltaire. Say what? In the sponsors’ words: On 5 February 1916, in the back room of a small bar in Zurich, a group of artists launched a nightclub which changed the course of modern art. Cabaret Voltaire was the home of Dada, a movement that revolutionized European culture and led to seismic global shifts in art, literature, music, film. Like Punk, Dada survives as an attitude, a rejection of aesthetic convention and authority. A hundred years later, The Burroughs Century Ltd. and the Wounded Galaxies Festival are creating a one-night-only homage: a feast of the senseless. This was at a local Bloomington nightclub and included, yes, movies as a sort of background/ accompaniment, some old, some just filmed, but all experimental. Added were musical and spoken word performances, as well as costumes — some quite creative — worn by onlookers (mine, less creative, was of a Zurich bourgeois who has come for an evening of entertainment). Odd and fun, the event was also a fundraiser for Wounded Galaxies Festival to help with more presentations in the future.
Then Friday came the reading performance of Act I of D. L. Mabbott’s play THE UNFINISHED (cf. October 19), with two readers who also performed the night before, Joan Hawkins and Anthony Brewer, and two who didn’t, Shayne Laughter and me. Or, quoting Shayne, [f]ree, tonight, at The Back Door! I’m reading with Joan Hawkins — we are two lovely ladies in the organ harvesting biz, Tony Brewer is the burglar who sees too much, and James Dorr is the Inspector who . . . well. We could call this a 21st-century “Arsenic and Old Lace,” with more sex and stabbing. This also was at a local nightclub, sponsored by the Bloomington Writers Guild, and while underattended (in this case perhaps because it was early, before many patrons had arrived, but more to the point before we’d be displaced by the night’s headlined band*), quite a bit of fun.
Then, Saturday having been a day off of sorts, Sunday night brought back the Ryder Film Festival (see October 27, 24, 17), this time with two films at local tavern Bear’s Place, 1958’s Hammer production HORROR OF DRACULA and new Korean ghost movie THE WAILING (the latter also screened last Sunday at the Buskirk-Chumley theatre), including my rescheduled reading of “Raising the Dead.” As originally planned for last week, it preceded THE WAILING, scheduled at 7:30 but, because that’s the way things seem to work, actually starting about ten minutes late. Like Friday’s play-reading the “crowd” was sparse (maybe the big kids were out trick-or-treating too) although at all times it outnumbered the players (me), even picking up a bit about half-way through. Such is the way of the oral presenter. “Raising the Dead,” billed by the Ryder as a tale of necromancy, dark fantasy, airships, and doomed love, is a story/chapter to be included in my forthcoming novel TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, due out from Elder Signs Press in spring-summer next year, and concerns an attempt to reunite a deceased man’s soul to his body by raising the latter up into the air, where souls congregate, during an impending storm.
But of course, if things all worked as planned, it wouldn’t very well be horror, would it?
* The walk over, in fact, included fording a river of Halloween-costumed children and parents.
That title may be a little misleading. Okay, a lot? But it occurred to me that, as a horror writer, cults and people’s joining of cults is an area that might be worth exploring whether for story ideas, or defining characters within already written (or read) stories. Does DRACULA, for instance, with vampire-in-progress Mina psychically linked to the one who is “turning” her, actually describe a cult, with the ritual of driving a stake through the count’s heart representing an ultimate means of deprogramming? I think, myself, of my New Orleans-based “Casket Girls” (cf. August 4, March 6 this year; April 28 2015; April 17 2014; et al.) as having formed a polyamorous society of ladies with similar dining habits, but to what extent might that be cult-like too? Or, more generally thinking, how many horror tales might simply feature bands of non-supernatural zealots who, possibly, might stick together after some menace has been conquered — think torch-bearing mobs following a charismatic burgermeister to seek more Frankensteins’ castles to burn.
Then there are the real cults, as that of Charles Manson. Or in Waco Texas. But are all cults bad? Which all comes down to that, via the magic of today’s email, I ran across an interesting piece, “How Do People Become Indoctrinated Into Cults” by Derek Beres, on BIGTHINK.COM for which one may press here. Is the horror writing community in itself a cult (well, for this one no, because we all run in different directions — at least when we’re left alone — so we’re probably more like a hypothetical herd of cats. All after the mouse, yes, but. . . .)?
So, changing the subject, last night I and four others met in an old house on darkest 6th Street for a ritual of our own, a rehearsal for a reading performance of a play, to be presented on October 28 at local Bloomington pub The Back Door. Scenes from a grisly play in progress, “The Unfinished” by Donald Mabbott, will be read by Writers Guild members Shayne Laughter, Joan Hawkins, Tony Brewer, and James Dorr. Just in time for Halloween!, to quote the blurb for it. A horror-themed open mic will follow. For more on this one, one may press here.
Well, next month Halloween will be over practically a week before November’s first Sunday, so there was a little nod to the fest at this month’s “First Sunday Prose Reading & Open Mic” (cf. August 8, et al.), sponsored by the Bloomington Writers Guild and host Boxcar Books. Possibly for that reason I was given the first featured spot with a thus far unpublished tale from my upcoming novel-in-stories, TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH. The story, “The Last Dance,” will be in the book’s second section and tells of a huge storm, with many deaths, and solving a special problem brought with the demise of ghouls as well, the traditional eaters of the dead, in disposing of the corpses. In all there were perhaps eighteen there this month, a bit above the normal crowd that may have been helped by a crisp but ultimately pleasant day, and the story — accompanied with a placard showing the book’s proposed cover — seemed to go over well. (For more on TOMBS, incidentally, see July 24, 15, 9, et al.)
Local writer Margaret Squires was second up with two pieces, the first a fable about a magic sword, and why maybe you don’t want one too, followed by a “historical” introduction to “Blossom Creek County,” a sort of fantasy-analogue, “never was” Bloomington and subject of an anthology she’s piecing together with several other friends. Then rounding out the featured readers was Andy Hubbard, who we’ve met before (see “Last Sunday Poets [and a Tiny Lagniappe],” August 28), who, even though primarily a poet, has also lived in several locations and made it a habit of writing stories about each new place to share with those left behind. Thus this time we heard about Nebraska and the discovery of a peacock walking down a road, followed by a view of Chimney Rock, a Nebraska landmark on the Oregon Trail.
Snacks ensued, followed by the open mike section with six readers this time, led by Frida Westford with a list poem that also pertained to “Blossom Creek,” and also featuring three readers (and there would have been a fourth, but she couldn’t make it) harkening back to a sort of pre-Halloween theme with skeleton-inspired essays. As they pointed out, though, these weren’t the normal bony type, but the type of “skeletons” one finds in closets — and, in many cases, the scarier kind.