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My Moment with Toni Morrison

Yesterday came the news the legendary author, Toni Morrison, passed away. With so many tributes pouring in, from people who knew her far better than me, I won’t rehash what she did for literature, or America. If you want to know her impact, pay attention to those who speak and write memorials about her.

I didn’t know her at all, but I did meet her once a few years ago. It was at the National Book Festival in DC. I remember standing in line for a couple of hours to get her to sign one of my books. A couple of teenagers stood behind me. They couldn’t have been more than sixteen. Their teacher assigned Beloved as a reading book and both of them decided to spend their Saturday at the books festival.

Morrison did speak, but it was right before the signing, so if you wanted to have a chance of signed book, you had to skip the talk. (I think it was put up on-line later.) It was a hot, sunny day and my feet ached after the first hour. The line grew and grew. I was right in the middle. Maybe I would make it, maybe not.

Finally the line started to move foreword. She was signing one book, that was all. (Not unusual. it keeps the line moving quickly and ensures that most people get something signed.) As I got closer, my feet stopped hurting and my excitement started to build.

Sure enough, when I stepped up for my turn, her assistant said, “Okay, this is the last one.”

I said softly, “Lucky me.” She looked up at me and winked. (Side note: The two kids behind me did get their books signed. She couldn’t turn down teenagers who were holding her book.)

So that was my brief moment. Forgettable to her, but memorable to me. As a young writer, having that brief moment with your heroes is fun. A story you tell when people ask how you got your book signed. She was a legend and I’m glad a got a brief moment with her.

RIP Ms. Morrison.


Happy Easter 2019



If you don’t celebrate Easter — Have a Happy Sunday Too!

Dear Robot Reading

Dear Robot Anthology Reading

Wednesday — January 13, 2016 at 7-8:30pm


Upshur Street Books

827 Upshur Street NW

Washington, DC 20011

Join us for a reading with editor Kelly Ann Jacobson and six readers who contributed to Dear Robot, an anthology of nineteen science fiction short stories told in a variety of epistolary styles. Letters, scientific notes, manuals, and emails all tell different stories about the future.

From a behavioral contract for interstellar exchange students to a transmission from an astronaut in space, these sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking stories all use their structure to amplify their message-especially when that message is that a band of deadly robots are chipping away at the door.

Editor Kelly Ann Jacobson is the author of several novels, including Cairo in White and The Troublemakers. Under her pen name, Annabelle Jay, she writes YA fantasy such as The Sun Dragon Series and The Knight Perry. Kelly’s previous anthologies include Answers I’ll Accept: True Accounts of Online Dating and Magical: An Anthology of Fantasy, Fairy Tales, and Other Magical Fiction for Adults.

Tara Campbell
Christina Keller
Marlena Chertock
Diana Bolton
Johnna Schmidt
Jacquelyn Bengfort

Small Update Because I’m Writing

This is just a quick post to say I know I skipped my mid-month update on the challenge. I dove right in to a new story and forgot to update. I haven’t had a chance to do much, but I did make a mistake last month. I still have two stories out at market, not one.

So everything hasn’t ground to a halt. By the end of May, there should me a nice healthy amount of stories out. Maybe even some more new material written. I haven’t forgotten that goal.

The funny thing is how some things have changed and some have stayed the same since I graduated. After years of writing on my lunch hour and after work, I realize I am not a morning writer. Those writers who get up at 4am to write? Yeah, I’m not one of them. My alarm goes off at six (on weekends I get up about 6:30 or so naturally) and I have no inclination to write. Instead I found out I like getting my workout in morning.

I’m an evening writer. At 7pm, I have no problem dashing off a few pages. Heck, I’m writing this post at night now. So far so good. I know I can’t do this schedule everyday. Even the best routines get disrupted for life event. But most days should follow this routine.



The Need for Fear

There is a lot of scary stuff going on in the world right now. In some ways, Halloween seems silly. Why would any one want to be scared on purpose? Why would we want to celebrate this day? There is real horror in the world and no scary movie about a serial killer, or ghost, or other deadly creature is going to capture the real horrors of this world. I believe it was H.P. Lovecraft who said, “The oldest and deepest emotion humans have is fear. The oldest and deepest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

We fear what we don’t know or understand.

I do agree that horror provides a safe environment for us to be scared. Heck, my last post was all about horrific stories and how much I loved them. I can read the story and think, Man that is messed up. But then I close the book and the story stays there in the fictional world. I may think about it, but all the while I know it is not real. Same with movies. I can watch a scary movie and when it is over it stays in the fictional world.

Most of the time.

Every now and then, something will stick with me and I can’t get it out of my head. I have a near photographic memory, so when I remember something, it never goes away. (Blessing and a curse, people.) I can watch hours and hours of Criminal Minds on reruns, but I have never seen one episode of The Walking Dead. I just can’t do zombie stuff. Probably the only zombie movie I liked was Shaun of the Dead, because it was funny. But I didn’t watch it all the way through. I even watched World War Z, but they weren’t really zombies, so I didn’t feel the same. Even so, I watched through my fingers.

Zombies hit upon a real fear of mine. The idea that we are all mindless beings destined to consume. We are all monsters underneath the veil of civilization. Yeah, it gets to me. I know they are not real. I know in all reality civilization is going to last a good long time. But I still can’t put it in the “fiction” part of my brain. There was a really bad Will Smith movie a few years ago, I am Legend. Remember? There is this moment in the movie that I just can’t forget. It’s not the monsters chasing him, or when the dog died (so sad!). The part that sticks with me is early on in the movie. Smith’s character is putting his wife and daughter on a helicopter to get out of the city. Standing in line is a woman begging him to let her go too. She says, “Please. I’m not sick. I’m not sick.” But she is sick and a thin line of blood drips down her face as she begs him.

That denial. That is what scares me.

There could be a monster within us all, and we are in denial about it. So, no zombies for me. Although recently I tried to write through this fear. I tried writing a story that was a post apocalyptic with zombies and everything.

And I failed miserably.

I just can’t do it yet. I’m not sure why, but it’s not in me. I liked the story that came out. It’s a funny, somewhat sad, and a little dark, story set in LA. But society is not gone. People are not gone. Life is different, but the world keeps turning. I hope to sell it one day, but not to a zombie market.

I’ve been in plenty of scary situations. There was that time it was raining and I was going way too fast on the highway. I took one of the most dangerous exits and damn near flipped my car over. (Thank God, they have changed that exit a few years ago.) Or there was the time when I was on campus as an undergrad and a rattlesnake jumped out in front of me. And then there was the time my car battery died in the parking lot after I got out of class… Hey, I’m okay. I made it through all these scary moments.

My point is that fear in real life is okay too. It is a natural emotion and I don’t think ignoring it is healthy. Halloween can be used to sharpen that emotion in a safe way. After all, the world is still turning and there are plenty of things to fear. Screaming your head off in a movie can be cathartic for some. I know reading creepy stories is for me.

So Happy Halloween folks.

And on November 1st, let’s try and make the world a little better.

The Day I Sold My Childhood Violin

Sheet Music


Today, I put my childhood violin up for consignment. Since the early 00’s, I’ve been lugging it from apartment to apartment. Once in a while I would open the case to make sure it wasn’t broken. I didn’t play it, but it was a part of me. The feelings were the same as the ones I held for my old pointe shoes. Both were such a part of my childhood that getting rid of them seemed unthinkable. Why would I get rid of a part of my childhood?

Then a few weeks ago, I was digging through my cedar chest looking for a purse, when I realized that I still had my violin, hadn’t played it, and wouldn’t miss it if I got rid of it. Truthfully, I even felt a little guilty because it was a beautiful instrument, probably Japanese made, that was at least fifty years old. And it just sat in my storage chest, collecting dust. I thought the violin deserved to be with someone who would use it, enjoy it, as I had.

I started playing when I was ten. I remember asking my mom, if I could start lessons, and she encouraged me. She had played as a kid and so had her father. My dad wasn’t musically inclined, but he like the idea of his daughter playing the “fiddle”. So, for the next ten years I played.

In school, I didn’t work on the newspaper or hang out with the theater kids. I was a music girl. I played in orchestra and was a flag girl for the marching band. Violin, along with dance (mostly ballet), was my creative outlet. I did write stories, but that was in secret. My writing was a private affair. But music became a wonderful outlet too. I knew I would never be a famous concert violinist, but being a part of a creative community was very fulfilling. We would laugh and joke in class. I hummed classical music, along with the pop songs of the day. I can’t really explain it, but there was something magical about drawing my bow against the strings and hearing a wonderful melody of a song. It was fun and became an area that I could focus myself. (And yeah, it saddens me that music programs are being cut. They add so much to a school experience.)

As I got older, my interest in playing waned. I took a few classes in college, but once I got deeper in my English major, the violin went into storage and floundered there for the next 17 years. Until I took it to the shop today. The same shop my parents went to and bought it for me. The owner even had the original receipt, which he kindly photocopied so I could show my mother. As I filled out the paperwork to consign the violin, one of the shop workers teased me.

Are you sure you want to sell?” Her voice was soft, like she was asking me if I wanted to end an intimate relationship.

Yes,” I said firmly. “I want it to go to someone who will love it and play it.”

Perhaps one day, in another 17 years, I will want to play again. I still set aside one pre-programmed button in my car for the classical station. I flip over every now and then when I want to get my Beethoven on. I still love live concerts and wish I went to more of them. But for now, I am content to be a listener, not a player.

I didn’t feel any sadness leaving my violin in the store. If there is one emotion I could pinpoint, it would be nostalgia. I even took a drive by my childhood home, just because I was in the neighborhood. But there was no regret, no pang of wanting my instrument back. I had loved it and let it go. Now it was time for someone else to love this violin. Maybe they will find a group of odd misfits that love Mozart, or maybe it will be a senior citizen who played as a child and wants to rekindle that love. Who ever gets it will be lucky. I think the violin is filled with positive energy. I should know. It’s from me.