Grrrls Night: An interview with host, Jess Meoni

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Times-Tribune article (2018), which revisited the  Grrrls Night

In a brief statement, what is Grrrls Night about?

Grrrls Night is about celebrating local women in variety of performance arts such as music, poetry, spoken word, comedy, and theater. The name is taken from the phrase riot grrrl.

What is your main goal/message for Grrrls Night?

My main goal for Grrrls Night is to provide women with a platform for their creativity and expression. I want the performers to find comfort and relativity in the support and community of this event, but most of all, I want these women to showcase their talents at regular open mic nights to demonstrate they can perform anywhere.

How long have you been hosting Grrrls Night and how has it evolved over time?

Grrrls Night started in 2015 at Ale Mary’s as a sporadic yearly event feature. Sometimes we did it consecutively, sometimes not. I wanted to keep people on their toes and not make it super predictable. I always enjoyed and encouraged new performers, although we still have a substantial veteran base to the event. Grrrls Night started as a response to a personal puzzle in my mind as to why men always outnumbered women at regular open mic nights. I couldn’t figure out why there were not more women out there playing bass, singing, writing jokes, or reciting poetry. I knew they were out there, I just did not understand why they weren’t on the stage. The format of the event has essentially remained the same, with only slight variation in the timing. Sometimes, this was the first space where a girl performed and she was encouraged to move onto other events. Some nights I had up to 20 girls perform, other times only 10 or so, but every time was a cathartic experience.

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Grrrls Night, Photo credit:  Daring Damsel (2016)

How do you think Grrrls Night has provided a safe space for local NEPA female performers, such as writers and musicians?

Although I do believe Grrrls Night creates a space where women feel liberated with their thoughts and musings, I never intended to establish a space where women are patronized or coddled. I wanted Grrrl Night to be a base that women can build from, take that confidence, and showcase their talents anywhere possible. I think these women have proven they are bold with their words and actions, and they impress me every single time. So many come back time and time again and you can see their craft grow before your eyes.

Are there any future plans for Grrrls Night?

I have wanted to make a more comprehensive mixed CD or Spotify playlist of their work to promote.

For this Grrrls Night, the featured performers will be the following:

Mandalyn Rose
Monica Noelle
Angelia Petrillo
Kenna Carey
Amanda Rogan
Ali Pica
Lucy Katherine
Alex Kijek
Isabel Anderson
Stephanie Marie Santore
Algid Leah
Jami Kali

This Grrrls Night will take place this Friday, September 21, 2018 at Bart and Urby’s located at 119 S Main St, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 18701 from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

For more info, check out the Grrrls Night Facebook event:  https://www.facebook.com/events/236032480382130/

“One August Morning”: A Horror Story by Marnie Azzarelli

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Photography by Ali Pica

Today’s featured story is called “One August Morning” written by TTW’s own Marnie Azzarelli. 

“I’m writing to let you know that I have killed myself.” Mr. Carlson’s already buggy eyes bulged out even more from his dark face. Of all the things to expect in your mailbox on a clear Monday morning, a suicide note wasn’t one of them. Down the street of his picturesque suburban block, Mr. Carlson heard sprinklers going off, a man saying goodbye to his wife as he walked in his business suit to his compact vehicle (the minivan left in the garage when the wife took the kids to school), and in the distance he heard a large dog bark so people would know for a fact that she existed and that where she was barking was indeed her property.

From the cacophony of an early Summer morning, Mr. Carlson walked outside to pick up his usual stack of bills, junk mail, and magazines he forgot to unsubscribe from, when he saw the postcard. The postcard itself was strange as it showed a picture of a winter cottage getting ready for Christmas. It was probably a print of a Thomas Kincaid painting, or one of his many copy cats, that were usually re-posted multiple times by little old ladies on Facebook, covered in inane glitter stickers and calls for “PRAYERS DURING THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON.”  A postcard like that wouldn’t usually make Mr. Carlson pause, but the fact that it was the middle of August when he received it did. Not only that but a return address was nowhere to be found.

Before he even began to read the card, he was already dumbfounded by the whole experience. But when he found the words, written in rounded feminine letters, his stomach that only contained a sip of his favorite morning brew, dropped to his clean porch.

“I’m writing to let you know that I have killed myself,” was the only thing written on the postcard, and the only words that would roll around Mr. Carlson’s head for the rest of the day. He would later call the police and would later let them handle the situation. But as he walked into his home, with the pink siding and white trim, all he could dwell on was the fact that his perfect morning was ruined by someone who wanted to die.

 

Do you want to be featured in our column, The Obsequious Pen? Fill out the form below with your writing or e-mail adawnpica.ttw@gmail.com. Check out the submission page for more details.

 

 

The Obsequious Pen: Siobhan Casey

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NEPA based writer, Siobhan Casey

Siobhan Casey is a writer originally from NEPA. She wrote the following about herself and her work:

Siobhan Casey completed her Master’s in Fine Arts at Chatham University in 2011 where she studied Poetry and Creative Nonfiction. She worked as an assistant editor on the graduate publication, The Fourth River: A Journal of Nature and Place Based Writing as well as Assistant Poetry editor for Weave Magazine. Siobhan also spent time as a creative intern on Creative Nonfiction. Her work has been published in Blood Orange Review, Caper Literary Journal, Rougarou, Monongahela Review, and Coal Hill Review. She published a chapbook of poetry, Three Fourths of a Dream in 2016 and presented her work at the Scranton First Friday Arts Festival. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her cat, Zooey.

Siobhan included the following poems: That Time I Met Buddha, Story, Mary Oliver Way, and Ode to Objects that Hold.

That Time I Met Buddha

The stones, they
were hands pressed
hard along my vertebrae. Hot,
they formed straight
lines, rows of fires along my legs.

The woman,
who didn’t claim to be a healer
said that she was born in Hong Kong
and that she was Buddha
that she was a man with power
and wives
in her previous life.

−and when I opened my eyes
I was not the same.

I was pure light, weightless.
The dark was not so dark
and the boats were not so far.

 

Story

The beginning is always improbable: a good hook. You can sense
a seed blowing through the air about to land, anywhere, and turn into
peony or zinnia or, human.

The middle:
all conflict—a bar fight, communal
shunning, disease, or storm after storm on a broken raft.
If the story is good, the conflict
is so much like the one you are living and yet
not so to the naked eye.

It is one you can feel in your breastbone, in your sleep,
and you mention it to your bedmate
the breath knocked out of you each time
you finish a chapter.

When the story finds its end
you are stunned or unsurprised. Either
way you would like to return
to the moment when the seedling fell from the tree

a magical thing at your feet,
and was just about to become.

 

Mary Oliver Way

The world blossoms, whether or not we are ready.

The violets and vines creep without design. The backyards purple into blue, cracked asphalt hot underfoot. To the right: a gym with graffiti-d doors. Painted ice cream cones and a man lifting a barbell, his face rendered in the peripheral. The latest addition: a swan with folded wings who floats like a snowy apparition in the winter.

It’s a short meditation, this path, before it breathes onto the boulevard.
To the left: rows of houses, unkempt gardens and stoops where the neighbors, my neighbors, exchange recipes and slumlord stories. Where grandmothers take care of the children and call them in for supper at six o’clock before mothers and fathers return home from their shifts, feet aching.

I walk this alley often. The cats follow, slinking out of garages if the sun is low enough in the sky.

I am learning, like this, to be soft and rooted. To grow whether or not you are visible, not in defiance but in awe.

 

Ode to Objects that Hold

Julia said I would hear the bagpipes
once it was warm again. And finally
they woke me, the sound clear
on a Saturday morning.

I climbed the fence.
like I would have as a child, my fingernails chipped
from so much living.
A young girl, sixteen, was playing
in Schenley park, under a grove of trees.

I’m not sure how this sound can exist,
holding the opposition
of joy and sorrow together.

Months later
metal feathers hang from my ears
and the only sound I can make out is
sleet on the horses
where the fields shiver.
I want to build
a fire. I want to make blue white sparks
so the horses and I can warm ourselves and keep ourselves safe.

Instead, I walk home
and take comfort from solid names
like shelf and bed and tea-kettle
the things that hold
and do not cave.

 

Would you like your written work to be featured in the The Obsequious Pen? Fill out the form below:

 

The Obsequious Pen: Daniel Rosler

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Local NEPA writer and musician, Daniel Rosler

Daniel Rosler is a local NEPA writer and musician. He writes and performs with his bands, “Esta Coda” and “A Fire With Friends.” He has published a short story, “Dog Whistle,” in the Jawline Review, and a non-fiction piece, “Technology and the Death of the Individual: Chaplin’s Critique of Modern Times” for Moviejawn. He enjoys literary criticism and theory, particularly psychoanalysis and Marxist criticism, as well as continental philosophy. He is a graduate of Penn State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English, a minor in psychology and received the 2016 Academic Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in English. He currently works at the Scranton Times-Tribune and is debating whether he can afford pursuing his Ph.D at Binghamton University. He’s the loving father of daughter, Nora Kate, his dog, “Dobby” and grateful for his girlfriend, Ashley Farrow.

Daniel Rosler’s excerpt from a longer fiction piece is called, “Remembering Jane.”

Remembering Jane

“There’s nothing funny about the situation,” she would say matter-of-factly.

“As a matter of fact,” was something she also said a lot.

I met Jane in the summer. She wore a sundress that I thought was strange but later found out was a supposed rare, vintage outfit she picked up at a thrift store in her hometown. Either way, I told her then, and still believe now, that her shoes were stupid.

We ran into each other again at a mutual friend’s house shortly after. This time, and maybe it was the wine, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. The summer was nearing end, but it was still hot as hell. I watched her wipe sweat from her forehead near our friend’s pool. She refused to go in because she was afraid of public pools. I explained to her that a pool in someone’s backyard was hardly public.

“That doesn’t mean I know who’s been in here,” she said.

“Who cares who’s been in here?”

That’s when she pushed me in the pool. Everyone laughed. As soon as I came up for air, I laughed too. She had a huge smile. I hadn’t noticed it before.

“Now, I’m definitely not getting in there,” she said.

Later that night, she joined me in the back of my car, and there was hardly any time to come up for air.

We started dating. Became a serious thing I guess. We moved into a small, upstairs apartment. Jane would sit on the floor and listen to her records. Said she could feel the music better there. I told her she was crazy and would pour myself a small glass of Scotch and watch her. She would keep her eyes shut and stay there for hours. I remember her saying she could hear eternity like that but could never explain what that meant.

“Can you flip it for me?” She would ask every so often.

There were a lot of nights like that. Even though I thought she was nuts, I never minded.

She told me that when she was younger people would ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she’d tell them, “myself.” The grown-ups got a kick out of that. They’d laugh, always noting that “kids say the funniest things.” They stopped laughing when she turned eighteen and her answer didn’t change.

“Just being yourself is hard enough,” she would whisper to me in bed. We liked to lay under the sheets and talk. I thought it was strange, but she said she felt safe like that.

I worked for a local garage and she stayed home working on her paintings. I guess she was pretty good at it, too. I wouldn’t know. Sometimes, she’d tell me in great detail of what she was trying to say in her art. A lot of it was political. A lot of it was about environment. And war. And peace. And people. And religion. And the economy.

It just looked like colors to me.

One day, I came home from a long day and Jane wasn’t home. I passed out early. When I woke up the next morning, Jane still wasn’t there. I started to worry, pacing around our living room. That’s when I finally noticed her newest painting. It was a portrait of me. She never painted me before. There was a note underneath it that said:

“You are the kindest, most gentle, and loving thing that’s ever happened to me. And yet, for some reason, I’m still not happy. I can no longer accept how unfair that is to the both of us. One day, you will hear from me again. I promise.

With all the love I can muster,

Jane.”

I spent the day sulking, had a little too much to drink and decided to drive around town to see if I would find her anywhere. I knew it was pointless. But people used to tell me love was pointless, and every single one of them still tried.

I tried for hours that night.

I stopped in a local pub, and the bartender Bobby told me I looked like I had seen better days.

I feared I had already seen the best.

Years and years passed before I finally heard from Jane.

It happened yesterday. A neighbor of hers called me. She told me she didn’t know of Jane having any family or friends. Told me she would check in on her when she could. After Jane died, her neighbor helped clear some of the stuff from Jane’s house. That’s when she found a photo of Jane and me. It was taken many years ago outside of an art show Jane had one Friday evening. The photo made it into the paper and had our names beneath it. Her neighbor told me she looked me up and decided to call me, thinking maybe Jane and I stayed in touch. She seemed disappointed to tell me the funeral had already happened. I told her not to worry about it, and she told me Jane passed peacefully. I’ve always thought that was a weird expression, but I thanked her. I couldn’t help but feel a little numb to the news.

I spent that night nursing a Scotch. I set up an old record player and put a Sam Cooke album on. Jane loved Sam. I used to hear her humming “You Send Me” while she painted. I flipped Sam Cooke records over more than any other.

That’s when I remembered something Jane told me once, that she could never be content with just “trying.” She said she had one life to live and that it didn’t mean anything unless she left something behind to feel proud of. She was full of passion, but I disagreed with her and still do now. I used to tell her to at least try meant everything. Made a world of difference. I wonder if she ever learned to agree with me. Or if, even better, she felt she had reached whatever goal she had set for herself. The kind of goal you can’t really explain to another person.

“Maybe those kind of goals are unattainable,” I would tell her.

“Nothing in this world is unattainable,” she would tell me.

She painted her whole god damn life away, and all I ever saw were the colors.

“The Obsequious Pen”: Janine P. Dubik

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Today’s featured writer is NEPA based writer, Janine Dubik. Janine writes about herself in the following:

Janine P. Dubik caught the writing bug in elementary school. In the years since, she has done radio copywriting, newspaper reporting and editing, as well as technical writing and editing.

She placed third in the fiction competition at the 2016 Pennsylvania Writers Conference. Her six-line poems were selected in 2016 and 2017 for Poetry in Transit, a joint project of Wilkes University and the Luzerne County Transportation Authority.

Janine received her Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Wilkes University in 2017 and is pursuing her MFA at Wilkes.

She resides in Northeastern, Pennsylvania.

Janine submitted three poems: DICHOTOMY, FOCUS, and SNAPSHOT.

DICHOTOMY

Day brings desires
to laugh with you,
to hear your voice
vibrant, loving, alive.

Night, meanwhile, brings
images distant, untouchable
and leaves a black hole
in my heart.

FOCUS

One step.
Right then left.
Repeat.

Take a chance.
See the world.
Don’t look back.

Stop hiding behind your fears,
your insecurities,
your list of should nots, could nots.
Find your dreams.
Challenge your heart.

Believe it’s possible.
Yes, even for you.

SNAPSHOT

The gentle embrace
as we swayed
slowly to King Harvest.

The soft flutter
of his lips on my cheek.

A geeky girl’s dream
unexpectedly
answered.

Interested in submitting to “The Obsequious Pen?” E-mail Ali at adawnpica.ttw@gmail.com or fill out this form below:

 

The Obsequious Pen: Kristin Ivey

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Kristin Ivey, writer

Kristin Ivey is a PA based writer and educator. She writes about herself in the following:

Kristin Ivey is a Pennsylvania writer, English teacher, and a graduate student at Wilkes University. Her essay, Life: What Writer and Teacher Can Tell You about Craft, was featured in Craft section of the May 2017 issue of Hippocampus Magazine. She earned a Writing Fellowship with the National Writing Project in 2000, an organization for which she has served as an Advisory Board member and teacher-consultant. When she’s not grading papers or running her two boxer dogs around agility courses, she’s participating in local writing groups in the Lehigh Valley area.

Ivey’s story is called, Flooded 40.91.

*40.91 – the number of feet of floodwater that washed through Wilkes-Barre during Hurricane Agnes

Earth’s sovereign star settled in the uppermost branches of April’s bare oaks. Brown squirrels and slate-belt pigeons fiddled through a pile of cracked corn the dog walker had tossed between two of Public Square’s park benches. Spring snowflakes at dawn had given way to cerulean skies by midday. As the day’s temperature rose, so too did the city’s residents. By one o’clock, Terrance’s fourteen-story apartment building cast a pencil-shaped shadow across Public Square Park and sliced through the remnants of Maiden Kankakee’s pedestal — her fountain long silenced. Terrance studied the patch of birdseed from the other side of the crosswalk as he waited for the cross-traffic to quiet. She won’t come, he thought for the thousandth time.

As the light changed and Terrance rolled into the intersection, he turned his attention to the little girl in the orange sweatshirt who skipped ahead of him, her hand firmly knotted within a woman’s whose hair was straight and white. The rumble of an idling vintage mustang revved and crescendoed at the main intersection off to his left. The sound scared the pigeons and startled the little girl, but didn’t seem to bother the squirrels none.

Terrance noted the moment the little girl’s Velcroed sneaker hit the park island’s curb. How she broke free from her parental knot and ran with an unabashed joy no grown-up has ever been able to muster. He nearly laughed when she flung herself onto the jungle gym sculpture nearest the park’s entrance. And by the time his wheels scraped the sloped curb leading into the park, the little girl was halfway up the eight-rung steel tower and well on her way to touching the trapped metal sphere at its center.

Terrance gave the wheels of his chair four hard pumps so he could build up momentum for the transition from concrete to brick pavers. His army green messenger bag, its winking stitched owl logo facing outward, bounced off one of his wheels like a palm on a bongo. He felt the subtle shift in speed the bag caused, and compensated. The menagerie of items he carried on the tray he’d clamped to his wheelchair jangled and danced as he buzzed over the bricks. He followed the spiraling pathway towards Kankakee’s defunct font at the park’s center. The trail reminded him of the outline of his own Momma’s ear — subtly curving in on itself until the center sunk into the subterranean. Of course, his Momma was long-gone now. Perhaps it was the anniversary of her passing that resurrected the residual ghost of the storm.

Can’t believe it’s been almost forty-five years since Agnes. That storm. She puked up so much water and mud all over the place. Must’ve been tearin’ it up in heaven for at least a century a’forehand. Smelled like it anyway. The night before Agnes hit, Momma said not to bother none with the evacuation. She said we were too far inland to worry about any trouble from the Susquehanna. “We’re underground people, not river people. Always have been,” she said. Well, until June 23, 1972, that is.

Terrance rubbed his thighs through his stained cargo shorts, but only felt his palms as they warmed. It had been decades since he’d registered any direct news from his nether parts. Twenty-eight trillion gallons of rainwater fell with Agnes and with it, she floated one brand new Buick from a Market Street showroom in Wilkes-Barre to Kingston and Momma’s station wagon. Mamma kept her wood-paneled wagon parked snug against the curb in front of their former two-story Cape. Until the flood, their house had been located at the backend of Kingston, eight-miles from the river’s edge.

He thought about taking out the scrappy article, but really, he didn’t need to read the faded clipping to remember its contents. We huddled in the wagon, wet and shivering despite the warm, swampy air after Momma finally caved about the evacuation orders. But by then we all knew she was too late. “Momma told me to hunker down on the passenger floor and ordered my little sister, Dotty, to lay flat across the back seat,” Terrance had told the reporter who interviewed him at Geisinger the day after he learned he had lost the use of both legs. “The rain was comin’ down so hard it was difficult to hear, but I did what she said. I stayed put, even though we all felt a bunch of debris hittin’ the car and trying to push us down the street. But when that Buick hit us– boy, it was louder than all the rest. Then, the front of Momma’s car crumpled and pinned me.” He remembered how the reporter had kept eye contact with him, even as the balding writer sketched his funny-looking notes in one of those flip-pad notebooks.

Terrance engaged the brake on his wheelchair, reached for his messenger bag and fished out his wallet. He didn’t need it, but took out the news clipping anyway. The paper had brittled and turned the color of horseradish. A feeble breeze kicked up and rattled the aged article, but Terrance held tight. He studied the grainy photograph of his Momma at its center. In it, she stood next to Terrance’s hospital gurney as she held his hand. Terrance gave the photographer a thumbs-up with the other,  but his Momma didn’t smile. Instead, she stared straight ahead, her eyes fierce — her mouth a straight-razor’s edge.

The sound of a nearby news broadcast from a suddenly unmuted cell phone made Terrance look away from his past. The white-haired mother was sitting on a bench nearby, watching a weather forecast. “Come here, darling,” she said to the orange-sweatshirt girl. “Come, look at this.”

She won’t come here again, Terrance thought. She won’t.

The Sizzle-Fingered Scribe

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NEPA-based writer, Karl Hubert

The Sizzle-Fingered Scribe

 

When I asked Karl Hubert what made him start writing, I didn’t know what to expect.  One never can with Karl.  His response was that he was very photogenic as a child, so I followed up with the question of when he started writing.  Again, I was not disappointed.  His response:  “when I laughed at the end of Pan’s Labyrinth.

And a new writer was born.

Karl is a stalwart member of our Ink Writers Group, but I’d mostly heard poems and short stories from him until he raised the idea of National Novel Writing Month (or more affectionately known as NaNoWriMo) last November.  Turns out he’s been hiding numerous novel drafts.

If you’re not sure what NaNoWriMo entails, it’s simple.  You write fifty thousand words of a novel draft in the month of November.  If you make it within that amount of time, you win.  It’s hard.

Karl’s won it six times.  He’s been doing it for the past decade or so.  Most of it is his own genre—a “fun and squicky” comedy-horror-sci-fi blend.  Some of his completed drafts include “Needlin’ the Dermis,” a story of a tattoo parlor plagued with tattoos coming to life to kill people, and this past year’s “Meme the Dream.”

Having a particular personal interest in “Meme the Dream” (for it follows Karl’s character, Benjamin James, from our Unknown Armies roleplaying game), I asked about it.  He admitted that this year’s winning draft came somewhat easily.  It was a familiar character and a chance to develop the ten years prior to the game for the character’s background.  It was a bit of Benji’s things fondly remembered and ranged to things that might have been able to happen to him.  It even had his cheerleading girlfriend from high school.

The nerds always get the best girls, right?

There are many writing benefits beyond a draft of a book though.  Karl feels that NaNoWriMo is a great experience for writers mostly because it forces you to write, whether you reach the final goal or not.  He can ease your mind about it though—“No one’s going to hurt you if you don’t write,” but a good support group of people (like the ones you can find with NaNoWriMo or a local writers group) helps you.  And you don’t have to write anything great—just write.  If it’s bad though?  Karl says if it’s bad, just cry, maybe drink, and then that’ll get you more to write about.  And that’s the point.

NaNoWriMo isn’t all fun, however, but Karl encourages us to keep trying to get past the days of falling short of your daily goal, or when you can’t get in the writing groove.  If you’re really stuck, he has the best advice that he shared with me when I had writer’s block:  “When in doubt, write porn.”

It sure helps pad that word count.

Karl is a good example to follow.  He’s been writing off and on since senior year of high school with not only novel drafts but a couple of novellas and a script about shark attack survivors on a cruise.  You can, and should, write about anything that interests you in any form you feel like playing around with.  And if you’re bored, just write.  “Just don’t post any stuff on the internet that could get you arrested.”

Karl’s full of good advice.

Karl also shared that he feels writing has been “part therapy and part giving a louder voice to the voices in my head.”  It can be easily done, and it’s pretty fun.  And as “one of the oldest forms of entertainment, it’ll let people argue about your work for years.”

Karl’s always one to get people talking.

Find his works on his Deviant Art page (he’s “wendiigo”) or on The Game Chateau’s Ink Writers Circle, “Rolling the Dice” blog. He’ll also be reading at the Ink Writers Circle event, Unexpected Landscapes, on April 20, at The Game Chateau in Plains.  Our theme is “Unexpected Landscapes.” Karl’s sure to come up with something unexpected, as usual.