Writers’ Showcase, Spring Edition: Lynn Braz

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Lynn Braz

Lynn Braz’s work has been published in Philadelphia and Cosmopolitan magazines, The Dallas Morning News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and USA Today. Lynn is an adjunct writing instructor at Lackawanna College and an M.A. Creative Writing candidate at Wilkes University. She is a flying trapeze artist and instructor whose book, Flying Free: Life Lessons Learned on the Flying Trapeze, details how an acrophobic middle-aged woman turned her fears into thrills through embracing a natural high. Lynn is a featured writer in the in the upcoming Writers’ Showcase: Spring Edition.

Lynn contributed a teaser to her essay, titled, “Kashmir.”

Kashmir

Imagine being a goddess. Don’t think about the adoration and the power. Try not to let the glamour of being the source of constant attention and fascination seduce you. Imagine what being a goddess is like in reality. The enervating pressure. The enormous responsibility. The stress of maintaining grace and dignity in speech and behavior, every day, all day, even when you’re hungry. Imagine having no friends, no peers, no one who doesn’t want something from you. Imagine the loneliness of being a goddess.

I was a goddess in Kashmir for exactly nine days.

It was January 2007, pre-iPhone, when travelers still went places for the experiences rather than to snap and post selfies. I’d been backpacking around the Indian Himalayas, mesmerized by the majestic snowy peaks, when I was overtaken by a powerful urge to ski. Never mind that I’m a terrible skier. I’d heard the Kashmiri ski village, Gulmarg, had some of the best powder on the planet and was the perfect resort in which to learn how to ski. Lift tickets cost five bucks. Private ski instruction was seven dollars a day. And due to recent terrorist activity, the lone luxury hotel was holding a fire sale. As a canny budget traveler, a bargain trumps everything, especially common sense.

My enthusiasm for a bargain did not fade even after receiving the ominous email from my ski guide: “Despite what you’ve heard, Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists live together in harmony here. You will probably not die.”

Come hear the odyssey of an American Goddess in the center of the conflict in Kashmir at the The Writers’ Showcase. The Writers’ Showcase is an event that features readings of poetry and prose from Pennsylvania based writers. The Writers’ Showcase: Spring Edition will take place on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at the Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W Market St. Scranton, PA from 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Admission is $4 at the door.

Love Bites: “That One Time” by Ali Pica

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Photo by Connor Wells on Unsplash

Today’s contributor for “The Obsequious Pen” is our own columnist and creator of Thirty-Third Wheel, Ali Pica. Her poem is titled, “That One Time.” She will be reading her works alongside other local writers at this Friday night’s “Love Bites: Writer’s Circle” reading at the Game Chateau in Wilkes, Barre, 7:30 p.m. and at the Writers’ Showcase, next Saturday at 7:00 p.m. This poem was inspired by the song “Two Blue Lights” from Songs: Ohia on his album Didn’t It Rain.

That One Time

I think of you
That one time
You held my hand—
For sentimental reasons
I rejected the possibility of stars
Being born
In this universe.

I saw you smile
That one time
Through the haze of your smoke
And self-deprecating humor
Intertwined in the binding
Of literary analysis,
You lit up a ring of laughter
Underneath the flood lights.

We joked
That one time
I thought you were into her and
I was invisible as an auditory hallucination,
Now,
When I listen to your voice,
I know you know I am real.

You listened
Every time,
That one time
I thought I loved you
And still do—
Don’t know what to do
That one time
I will have to.

Ali along with other local talented writers will be reading their love-scorned works at the “Love Bites, Writers Circle” reading, Friday, February 23, 7:30 p.m. at the Game Chateau, located 1112-PA 315 Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702. The cover is $5 at the door.

Want to be featured in our column? E-mail us: adawnpica.ttw@gmail.com

Don’t forget to check out our playlist! You can find it here and on Spotify: thirtythirdwheel

An Illustration of Loneliness

Photo by Christian Gertenbach on Unsplash

Today’s song is “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)” by Courtney Barnett, from her album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit.

It’s that time of year again, the Hallmark of b.s. holidays we fall for every time we see it, like a horrible ex, who was great in bed: Happy Valentine’s Day! We spend money on wilted flowers, sparkly mushy cards with professions of love that read like a word salad, lard churned drug-store Whitman’s Sampler chocolates, and overpriced-under portioned dinners at restaurants where we are sardined in a can, hoping to get something in return.

I may be a little jaded, but I would rather take it all back. I would rather drink with my friends on Galentine’s Day. Or any day, really.

Consequently, Valentine’s Day has a way of nagging away my painfully single human existence, just a little bit. It’s only painful if I cared. Then, I reminisced lately about the past as if it were something great, someone great. The thoughts would ebb and flow as I zoned out to whatever I have been binge watching all week.

I recollected my past relationships and romantic encounters as if I were trying to remember what to buy at the grocery store.

I got a text last night, which read, “I was thinking of you and just wanted to say hey.”

“I’m thinkin’ of you too…”

I didn’t actually text that in response. I said something like, “same here” as to be slightly vague and sarcastic. He knew what I meant. We both stay in touch randomly, which I suspect is to ease his singledom. It doesn’t matter to me.

His random text made me think about how a few years ago I had a different life. I would have dates booked back-to-back on weekends, and went to upscale restaurants, roof-top bars, and concerts. I was always surrounded by people, but somehow felt even more lonely? Did I not appreciate it?

As I shift back to the present, I think I would rather bury myself in my hoodie and watch Rick and Morty than deal with the constant search, the mind-numbing dry-wall conversations, the awkward good-byes. Rinse and repeat.

But what’s the point of the mundane every day? I make it sound as if I am as lonely as a microwavable dinner, but I am lucky for what I have. It’s not all bad. I enjoy loving myself and others in my life, even if it’s not the romantic love of partner. I love my spending time with my family. I love having close gatherings with friends. I can talk to anyone if I feel like it or choose to simply be. I love making people happy even if it’s just cracking a joke to make my students laugh, because they had a bad day or listening to a stranger’s problems, because I “seem like I am a good listener and won’t judge. ”

No matter how alone we feel at times, we must remind ourselves of how we fit into the universe and that there are people in that universe, too. Our actions can have a ripple effect on others, good or bad. True happiness comes with self-acceptance in numerous ways. I accept that although I will be single on Valentine’s Day, I am not alone. You are not alone either. And sometimes if you are physically alone, it can be a good thing. Take some time for yourself and enjoy your place. Remember: “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV.” It may not be a life-changing quote, but it can get us from the present to the future. It may not be a great place where we are, but remember, there is a possibility it can change for the better, tomorrow.

Truly yours,

A. Dawn

Check out our playlist! You can find it here and on Spotify: thirtythirdwheel

The Obsequious Pen: Monica Noelle Simon

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Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

Today’s featured contributor is local writer, artist, and activist, Monica Noelle Simon. Monica wrote the following about herself and her work:  

Monica Noelle Simon is a poet and visual artist residing in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She explores the world through written word, spoken word poetry, acrylic paint and ink and paper sketches. In 2014, she created #BeKindScranton, a grassroots campaign to bring more compassion and kindness to Northeastern Pennsylvania. Her writing has been published on Elite Daily, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Burningwood Literary Journal, Commonline Journal, Poets of NEPA, and HelloGiggles. Her work can be found at: http://www.poetrybymnoelle.tumblr.com.

 

Here is her poetry:

 

Alligators

Alligators are no joke
They will jump out of the swamp
While a horse peacefully drinks water
And take his whole life under
It seems the horses are just naïve
Almost blind to it
And I guess in the end
The alligator isn’t hungry anymore
But ask me any day of the week
And I’d still rather be the horse

 

Storms

all you need to be a scientist is yourself
and maybe a theory
and maybe a way to test it
to be clear: i never asked for the storm
but i wanted to learn
to test its power, its strength
match it up against my own
so while they all hid in basements,
shouting their warnings from tiny windows
begging me to come inside
i sat still and watched,
a lonely endeavor,
stubbornness masked by science
i am here to learn
maybe it would’ve been better if he reverted back to sea
or if i’d just let the rain suffocate the side of the house
while i sat inside, warm, drinking tea
instead i became the continent
with bustling cities, intricate contidictions,
and i wanted to prove that even after he came,
i would still be standing, and i was,
with a heart collapsed, brain shaken up
inability to tell right from wrong
maybe i never asked for the storm,
but why did i have to wave it on from the shoreline?
and afterwards the people, all dry and warm,
came out from their houses,
all arms with hoarded hugs,
surprised i’d survived it, unsurprised i wasn’t the same
helped me clean up, even among their resentment
i just had to experiment, i just had to observe
a scientist curious about things bigger than myself
always explaining, excusing,
“hey, i never asked for his storm”
and as we wander among the rubble
shattered glass, leveled towns
the question remains…
did i learn?

 

Unsettlement

the unsettlement
… of reading tragic poems laced with love and ugly, the likehood of Ginsberg, Plath, Bukowski, Kerouac. All destined for death, as everyone else. All martyrs and depressants, gasoline added to hearts already on fire–

the unsettlement
… of an apartment much to quiet, air rationed and used up with panic demanding more attention than a lightening storm in February, with ghosts packed in, all faces of people I recognize but don’t know–

the unsettlement
… of the stark difference between the narrative and the reality of burning buildings, flood waters leaking pain and poison all over the goddamned place–

the unsettlement
… of waking up when you’d forgotten, forgotten all of where you’ve been, wondering if you were ever even there. men with theories on philosophy, political climates colder than poles, tricks and treats and trollies, rolling away like runaway cars–

the unsettlement
… of questions never asked, answers flashing like a lighthouse after you’ve already crashed into the shore. summer with it’s long days of playfulness, my atoms bouncing in the heat, I swear I’ve forgotten how to properly breathe. him a problem I’ve grown to love, as if being lulled to sleep by the sound of termites using their teeth, expensive repairs budding from senseless hesitation–

the unsettlement
… of cars and paint and floors speckled with the residue of tears with no label– why was I crying? of murder and suicide, the destination of death and the value of the visit. itineraries and lectures, cookies tasting of magic, secret dances on the beach throwing stones into the waves, proving anything can sink if it’s heavy enough–

the unsettlement
… of what comes next. timelines dissected with joy, happiness, and raw red pain. a blank canvas, we all just wait for life to throw paint. we all just hope it turns out pretty.

 

Monica Noelle will be reading her works alongside other powerful female writers, performers, and musicians at Grrrls Night:  The Galentine’s Edition, this Friday, 2-16-18, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Ale Mary’s, located 126 Franklin Ave. Scranton, PA 18503. There is no cover charge, but a suggested donation to the NEPA Youth Shelter

The Obsequious Pen: Marcie Herman Riebe

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Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
This week’s contribution is a poem written by our amazing columnist of “The Writer’s Edge” and “All About Drama,” Marcie Herman Riebe


Here is her poem:


A Desert


A cold desert formed between us
when neither one was watching.
Lips once lush have
turned
twisted
gnarled
with anger
and separateness.
Curves captured willingly once
now lay listless
barren
too soon to wither away.



Marcie along with other local gifted writers will be reading their love-scorned works at the “Love Bites, Writers Circle” reading, Friday, February 23, 7:30 p.m. at the Game Chateau, located 1112-PA 315 Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702. The cover is $5 at the door.

 

Poet Progressing

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Mischelle Anthony, Poet

Poet Progressing

Sometimes it’s daunting to do an interview with your boss. But when you have a talented and sweet boss like mine, it makes it easier.

Mischelle Anthony is a poet, department chair, associate professor, and Poetry in Transit creator hiding and writing in plain view. I honestly don’t know how more people in Northeastern Pennsylvania don’t know about her and the good she does for our community and its local university students.

Professor and Poet

For more than a decade now, Mischelle has been teaching in the English Department at Wilkes University. Her favorite thing to teach isn’t creative writing though—and it’s not really even a class. Her chosen subject matter is getting her students to analyze structures and to find what the piece is actually about. She also likes to have students analyze first-person plural narrators. The “we” fascinates her—and it’s even better when the narrator is unreliable because it’s, as she says, “way too true to life.”

But it’s not all unreliable. Since 2007 Mischelle’s creation, Poetry in Transit, has been a staple of Wilkes-Barre. Not familiar with it? Just hop on one of the Wilkes-Barre buses and you’ll see the fruits of her program. Poetry—short poetry—lines banners on all of the city’s buses for riders to read and enjoy. The program idea came to Mischelle when she was on the #6 bus that runs from Luzerne to Wilkes-Barre. She and the other usual riders she talked with on their commutes would read the advertisements for fast food and community groups. Often, they’d be encouraged to find a breakfast sandwich when they got off at their stop from the encouragement of said advertisements. Mischelle thought—why not give riders poems that they can read and talk about on their bus rides instead? She mentioned it to the marketing department at the university, who offered to pay for the program for the first year or so. After that, the bus company had had such good responses from their riders that they cover all of the costs of the program now (after a grant that helps out). Poems are switched out every month, and the program gives local writers the chance to submit their works for consideration each April. Submissions are chosen by English departments of five local colleges each year and in late August the launch of the new set is held in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Writers in NEPA—watch for the new theme coming this April.

She’s not only busy on the buses or in the classroom though. Mischelle is also a poet who’s been writing since her piece about her Cheer Bear Care Bear she wrote at just nine years of age. She admits she hadn’t taken creative writing too seriously until graduate school, but since then has been active in poetry and writers circles and has been published often in American Chordata and, by the poetry press Foothills among others. Much of her writing focuses on her family and growing up in Oklahoma. She feels “it’s the only thing [she] knows how to write.” She credits this progression in her writing to Sir Richard Hugo, for after having read his Triggering Town (about how writers need to find the one subject that is theirs—and then keep writing on it), she realized her days in the Midwest were what she had to tell others about in her writing. One of her poems, “Keep Your Eyes Open,” which was recently nominated for Sundress Publication’s Best of the Net Award, treats the subject of her Aunt Karen’s rape that the family avoided talking about, and only finding a voice in Mischelle’s work.

Fertile Space and Sage Advice

Mischelle stresses that to become a better writer or a published writer, you need to gather with other writers and be a part of writing community. “This is not a world for writers—we need each other,” she says, and goes on to say that it needs to not only be writers—but it needs to be writers that you can trust showing your work to as well. Whether it’s writing groups or workshops, just try to find other writers you know that want to get together and share writing and ideas. Creating a positive environment is crucial to being able to feel confident to keep producing writing and to be able to test out the new. This “fertile space” will yield more pieces and more words and will give you a chance to figure out how to think about your writing in new ways. And that’s what it’s really about.

And here, a taste from Mischelle Anthony:

Simulacrum

Sure, we had cowboys. I knew five
men from different families
with “Bubba” worked into
their State Fair belts. But my town
was no metaphor. The dairy farmer’s
son grew up a banker with that
fieldstone walkway, every Saturday
digging irregular shapes in the clay.
His shovel tangled in chickweed,
sent up red eddies from his sloping
lawn. We all sucked our teeth
when his corner bank went under.
We worked stalks of dried grass
with our tongues, nursed porcelain
mugs at the Cafe. Some of us sympathized.
Most didn’t. That family had it coming
with their Lincolns and slacks. Mr. Morris
approached the wife’s office, belt buckle
shining over Lee denim, to show that woman
she deserved it, perched there while electric
hands swept around the dial, her buzzing
typewriter’s metal ball ready to strike.
Later we recalled a prairie woman captured
in some silver-screen Western, pale dirt rivulets
dividing her skirts, straddled
by a Seminole who made her swallow
her own jeweled chain, the necklace
stubborn as a bull snake in a well line.
I want to tell you the superintendent
sheriffed in, paunch spilling over
his trouser snaps, and defended her
from the savages. But he didn’t.
My town was no metaphor—
the secretary lived, no sticks or stones,
just a quiet dinner that night,
my father’s grim mustache
over the Swiss steak,
my mother smiling, smiling
across the dark wood expanse,
even as she choked around
the clasp and settings in her mouth.

“Love Bites”: Writers’ Showcase Featured Writer, Ali Pica

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Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

This snippet of a short story is written by one of the featured writers in the upcoming Writers’ Showcase:  Spring Edition and creator of Thirty-Third Wheel, Ali Pica.  Ali wrote this story based on the writing prompt, “Love Bites.” Enjoy!

“Love Bites”

His comment struck a chord with her body. His words felt to her as if he strummed her very essence, like a steel string, ground in between the metal entwined grooves with his jagged fingernails. This left her with a reverberating sound, his voice, which resonated in her throat as if she caught his voice and kept it as her own.

“Who gets the couch?” he asked.

She parroted to herself quietly, “Who gets the couch?”

“I guess I will take it since I paid most of the bills anyhow. It is my place after all,” he answered his own question.

“I…” she paused.

“You what?” he asked.

He had a chipper musical quality to his being that she hadn’t heard since they first moved in together. He sounded like a customer service agent who was also a morning person.

He held the neck of a bottle of craft beer in his left hand and talked with his right. Then, he reached out his left hand as a truce.

“Cheers,” he tilted his bottle towards hers. However, she didn’t reciprocate the cheer.

“What’s the matter? You know you wanted, we both wanted this for quite a while!” he bemoaned.

“It’s not the fact that it happened. It’s the way that it happened. You tried to cheat with my best friend!” she piped up with a flicker of fire, then snuffed out the flame.

“You mean she tried…” he said now with an angrier tone, spacing out his words as if he were chewing on a piece of bloody steak.

“You didn’t object if that was the case,” she mumbled.

“What was that? Oh, nothing I am sure, because you know this is all in your head. You were looking for an excuse to get rid of me,” he labored over his words as blood seemed to dribble from his mouth.

“It doesn’t matter,” she sighed as she grabbed her bag, and walked out the door.

She didn’t look back.

“To new beginnings,” she spoke to the air as she pretended to toast to an imaginary recipient, dumped her contents onto the grass, then threw her bottle in a nearby recycling bin.

She didn’t care about much, but felt there was no need to stop caring about the environment.

The Writers’ Showcase is an event that features readings of poetry and prose from Pennsylvania based writers. The Writers’ Showcase: Spring Edition will take place on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at the Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W Market St. Scranton, PA from 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Admission is $4 at the door.