Joe Weil is a poet, musician, and activist, whose work has appeared in National Labor Forum, Boston Review, Saranac Review, On PBS, and Verse Daily among many other publications. Joe is a featured reader in the upcoming Writers’ Showcase: Spring Edition.
Joe’s featured poem is called, “A Litany of Questions.”
A Litany of Questions
Whose house are you?
How many days have you
rolled up the scroll of your being?
And if the hour should come,
come like a procession of
dignitaries, like a parade of
paupers, like something set
loose upon the grain fields at twilight,
what will you say to each room?
Will you say I was a house but
for whom I do not know?
Could you smell the scent of dirt
on the night’s cracked hands?
Was jasmine your concern?
Did the peepers singing in the wet marsh
receive you? How many years more
did you hear them? Were you
my house? Did I walk beyond
the lintel of your doorway, and sit in the near
dark, listening to the susurrus of
wind through your walls? And how did those
whispers accompany the first feint stars?
Was that a fox in the field or only the last
light scratching its back against the stones?
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.
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.
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:
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.
A Pennsylvania native, Jerry Wemple writes frequently about the people and places of the Susquehanna Valley. His work includes three poetry collections: You Can See It from Here, selected by Pulitzer Prize-winner Yusef Komunyakaa for the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award, The Civil War in Baltimore, and most recently The Artemas Poems. His poetry and essays have been published in numerous journals and anthologies including internationally in Ireland and Chile. He is the recipient of several awards for writing and teaching including a Fellowship in Literature from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Word Journal chapbook prize. He is a Professor of English at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.
Jerry’s featured poems for “The Obsequious Pen,” are the following: “Nickel Rides,” “Bridge,” and “Tapies.”
Back in the days when your grandfather’s father,
maybe his father, was a young man down at the shore
amusement piers or the scruffy city lots over near
the wrong side of town, they used to call them nickel rides.
Steel boxes jacking up and down, bucking around,
make your back feel like it was worked over with crowbar,
your hips like they was smacked with a plank.
Back in my day, word was out about those nickel rides
on the Philly streets. I was in from the country, hard
down by the river and the woods, but even
I knew what was what. Saw clear enough that one day
while stretching my legs near the 30th Street station
waiting in between long-run trains, when the paddy wagon
pulled up and four cops jumped out, jumped a man I hardly
noticed, whacking him good with long sticks. I figured soon
enough that I needed to take a left, cross the street,
head up another, act like never saw nothing, especially
a side-vision glance of him being cuffed and dumped
in the back of the wagon for a nickel ride. That unit
screech-lurching down the street like the driver wanted
to bust the brakes and run out all the gas all at once.
First off, the war on drugs is a concept. There ain’t a war on drugs;
there’s a war on people. All wars have casualties, atrocities.
All wars have losers. Only some wars have winners. Tonight
I see Charm City up in flames. Orange tongues of fire taunt
us from brick buildings. The old people say it’s just as it was
back as the King riot, nearly fifty years ago. They say
the neighborhood ain’t changed much since those days.
We had one good store. Now it’s burnt. Kids too young to remember
Tupac let alone Reverend King dodge in and out of focus,
like they were spun off their own nickel rides, dazed from the experience.
Philly, Baltimore, D.C. – I’m not much for cities. But a twist of fate,
a change of luck, and I could’ve been. Missed being born in Baltimore,
city of my conception, by a few weeks or a month. I got a parcel of kin
buried in the German saint’s cemetery in the Manayunk section of Philly.
Generation or two before them it isn’t hard to fathom other blood kin,
all those years removed, being sold in an auction lot in swampy D.C.
Of course, there’s a war on despair, too, though not official
and having no spokesperson. It’s often erratic, explosive even,
but is long-going like the rest. Likewise, despair too is a concept,
and so needs a people enemy. And sometimes it’s them, but in the end it’s us.
Me, I avoid the nickel rides. I watch on my TV what’s happening
one hundred fifty miles downriver in slacked-jawed sorrow.
he says, I'll go to sleep and not wake up.
You tell him no.
-- Richard Hugo
Tuesday night and I’m driving over the river bridge
that connects the old highway to the village.
The bridge is long, and low, and lighted.
Rain water drips from the rounded steel side railings.
No other traffic is on the bridge, and I think
how easy it would be to pull to the side,
slip from the car, and slide into the darkness below.
It’s been raining for days: the water is fast and cold.
It would only be a moment.
Tonight firefighters and volunteers search
for a seventy-something woman who disappeared
in another village ten miles downriver. In two days
they’ll find her washed up a bit farther down,
jammed against a log on the north end of Packer’s Island.
Had she missed the island, gone another mile or so,
she’d have spilled over the dam at the south end of Sunbury,
churned and churned in the water until morning
when some passing trucker on the nearby bridge
phoned it in to the county dispatch.
The woman’s husband knows she always gets sad
come the short days, the long nights, that he needs
to be on guard when she says she’s going for a walk.
He knows, despite the saying, there are some things time
does not erase. Cold rain can seep deep into the hollow.
I’m no expert, but I remember from my Navy days:
a few minutes in the water this time of year and the limbs
go numb, breathing is labored, the heart is taxed then
shuts down. That’s why it’s rare. Damn near no one
walks back out of the river once they go in.
Tonight I finish my trek across the bridge,
turn right on a side street, pull into the lot
of a neighborhood grocery. Inside I say hello
To the store clerk, then search the bright
Ordered aisles for the things I need.
Hot summers we played ball in the carnival lot
using tapies, old baseballs, covers worn and gone,
held together by quarter rolls of electrical tape
pilfered out of our fathers’ garages or bought
from the discount bin in Guffey’s Hardware
with pennies and nickels earned from bottles
redeemed at Jean’s corner store. Those summers
Were hot, the nights never cool enough, still
Mornings we’d be out by eight, the air already
heavy, sky filled with a haze that would remain
until the evening rains. We’d pound the ball all
summer, using wooden bats too long or too short,
too heavy for our arms. With tapies, even the kids
without mitts could catch a fly ball, though we usually
had enough gloves to go around if we picked sides carefully
and shared. Those days our fathers, or worse,
our stepfathers, laid off from the mill would drink
cheap drafts from noontime on down at Shaffer’s Tavern,
watching the Phillies lose again on an old-style set
with rabbit ears and adjustable dials, mounted
sturdily on a corner shelf next to the Schmidt’s
beer clock. The men would grouse about the heat,
about the snow last winter, about maybe moving
to Florida, someplace where there was no need
for the expense of winter coats and winter tires.
And sometimes in the fall a kid would be missing:
Bobby, or Timmy Mathis who lived a few blocks over
past the Spruce Street cemetery and who none of us
much liked anyway. Still, he was good for another
outfielder, willing to play catcher, and now he was gone,
disappeared. Our fathers would sweat as they walked
the afternoon blocks home, just in time to cut the backyard
before supper. We’d scuttle home too, dusty, scraped,
our shirts and hair matted wet. After supper, our fathers
might take a call on the kitchen phone from a cousin
who says they’re hiring drivers up at the bread plant.
But more than likely they’d go out on the back porch
with one more bottle of F&S beer and think about how
two years ago, when the mine shut down in the town
over the mountain, six hundred union jobs just disappeared.
And we’d drift back over to the carnie lot for a few more
innings, play a few minutes past when it was too dark
to see the ball. Fireflies would be blinking in the deep
outfield. And when it was our turn to bat, we’d swing
with all our might, smack that crinkled cover of the make-do ball,
hoping to make it safely home.
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.
Dan Pape is a mysterious fellow. When we first met at the NEPA Creative Writers Group, I’ll be honest—I was intimidated. His writing was visceral and powerful in a way I could only dream of mine being. I know I need to share his works with you.
A fan of Ghostbusters, beer, and hanging out with friends, Dan has countless facets to him. Getting a start in middle school as a writer, he’s dabbled with many genres: lyrics, novels, short stories, and poems (his main squeeze for now). Having recently entered the blogosphere, too, it’s certain his time to shine past the bounds of this region is nigh.
Dan’s enigmatic appeal is not only in his writing but in talking with him. One thing that is not obscured is his emotion captured in his works through his words. His allusions run from classical to modern, and even if you’re not sure of their references, you still feel what he wants to get across. And he challenges you to want to find out more.
Dan started writing recently on The Game Chateau’s blog, Rolling the Dice. A different approach to blogging, the site takes topics that all contributors for that quarter write to. Dan’s contribution, “Rapture,” is bittersweet and magnificent. His first piece of magical realism ready for the masses (in the vein of some of his favorite writers including Marquez and Borges) pulls the reader into the narrator’s raw, heart-rending world. The seeming brief romance of two young women ended abruptly from intolerance punches deep—and leaves you willingly wounded. He talks about this piece humbly, as he does about most of his writing, saying that he was concerned about taking a chance on writing from a woman’s perspective, and from another sexual identity’s perspective as well, but that in the end he wanted to do the characters justice. He went on to add that he hoped his piece would, “[help] to put [a sensitive topic] out there by a voice you don’t expect it from,” and that hopefully his sincere treatment of the trauma involved in the story would help others see people who are “different” as not so different from the rest of us.
Dan doesn’t mind a bit of pain himself it would seem though. I had heard through mutual friends about his monstrous Master’s thesis pursuit of James Joyce. Having tried to read several of the author’s works (Finnegan’s Wake? Come on. That’s just jibberish…), I felt compelled to find out why Dan had chosen such a great, and complex author for his topic.
“I thought if I could pick it apart, maybe I can learn something about the craft [of writing]” he confesses. And what a pursuit it sounded like he was on. It involved a whole section of the library and special access to Joyce’s notes on his masterpiece Ulysses. Dan insists that the novel is “the most human thing I’ve ever read” and he appreciates its commentary on loss and the randomness of its topics just adds to its beauty.
The Joyce influence is clear in Pape’s works, whether it’s a story or his poetry. We discussed poetry as a genre while we were talking, too, and Dan had some spot-on insights. He feels it’s time for poetry to make a comeback—that it is a way for writers to attack all of the “poisonous stuff out there” though he admits that online rights are sketchy and unclear as to who owns what, and that that can be a downfall of fighting the powers that be with the written word. Still, he knows that if poetry can be taught well to younger generations—and not as some unreachable and opaque genre that no one can penetrate—that poems can push our culture forward and out of its seeming recent complacency.
“Anyone can try poetry and with practice [they] can get pretty good at it,” he goes on to say, and his hope is mine: that the intimacy and directness of poetry can get people to take notice.
Some Sage Advice
Not only poetry is accessible to all the would-be writers out there. Dan says writers should find a group to share their work with, and give feedback on others’ works in return. And then, he put it even more simply—in a list!
Read great writers.
Join groups to hone your craft.
Meet other writers.
Just get out there and do what you have to do, in other words. And like Dan Pape says, “You’ll find something about it that’s lifelong. Don’t be afraid.”
And for the record, he wore the black cap long before Jim Halpert from The Office did.
This article was written by one of the writers featured in our column, “The Writer’s Edge,” Alex Lotorto. In Alex’s article, he writes about the interview he had with our talented columnist for the “The Writer’s Edge,” Marcie Riebe. Alex writes:
Classical writers used inkwells to replenish their quills, but in our area, many writers turn to Marcie Riebe to refresh and refine their craft.
A local university professor, poet, caseworker, union maid, and actress, Riebe is a well of inspiration for Northeast Pennsylvanians making the most of our transitioning region. During the school year, Riebe is an adjunct writing professor at Wilkes University.
When asked to list the three most important lessons of her Academic Writing class this semester, Marcie replied, “First, writing is an ongoing process and it doesn’t stop. Second, some international students come from countries that don’t value writing as intellectual property. In some Arabic speaking countries, it can be an homage to a person to use their words. So, I emphasize the importance of research and sources. “For the third lesson, she paused then added, “The more you read, the better you can write.”
Riebe shares her talents of writing and critique at local writers groups. You can find her at Northeast Pennsylvania Creative Writers every other Wednesday night at the Taylor Community Library. Once a month on Saturday afternoons, catch her at The Game Chateau’s writers group in Wilkes-Barre.
“I love it at The Game Chateau. It’s an oasis of creativity in NEPA. They offer writing workshops, art, writers’ groups…you should check them out!” she said.
Her work can also be found on topic-focused blogs including Project Wednesday (a positivity blog), here at the Thirty-Third Wheel (local arts and culture), and The Game Chateau’s upcoming feature blog, Rolling the Dice.
As a young person, Riebe started writing as a hobby while working as a tutor in the writing center at Wilkes.
“I realized I was talented and tried to help other people,” she said.
Riebe pursued genres of writing including dramatic writing, short stories, screenwriting, poetry, and essays. Some of Riebe’s early works included a one act called Have that was published in the Wilkes Manuscript literary magazine.
When asked to describe the plot, Riebe blushed, as every writer does when asked about their early work.
“A guy and a girl who knew each other in high school were the ones that got away from each other. The play was set up as a confession of how they felt later, divulging feelings. Like a confession booth. It was never performed.”
Riebe said she enjoys writing poetry the most.
“I can get something out and see a result, something that feels finished, in a relatively short amount of time. It is gratification for me. Lately, I have been writing a lot about women as subjects and their experiences,” she explained.
About a year and a half ago, Riebe brought a friend along to see a show at the Scranton Cultural Center. While waiting on line for a while, Riebe observed her friend’s fragrance, which inspired her poem “No Scents.”
A woman at work
Wears the perfume
I avoid her.
If I smell it–
For the rest of the day.
I’ll only think of your
Roan, curly hair–
Flitting in a July breeze
Getting caught in your sunglasses
With the tortoiseshell pattern
That almost matches them–
And the hem of your
Evergreen, gauzy dress
Tipped up, a moment,
In the same balmy breeze
With the sun on your side
My eyes squint to keep it out
But they lose for longing to look
One morning in June, Riebe woke up to the grueling heat. Tangled in her sheets and sweaty, she remembered the biweekly prompt of her Northeast Pennsylvania Writers’ group, “sleep”. She went downstairs to her notebook and penned:
I wake long before I should have to see you
The heat alerts me with a start
Caught and tied in my damp nightshirt
Restrained in moist bedsheets
The pillow I hug wetter than me.
Riebe’s favorite poem in that little notebook makes her hungry. She smiled and said, “It’s about spaghetti that I had at my friend Bernie’s house.”
Crimson sauce disperses
Forming a fiery tomato nebula
A significant galaxy within
Of beef, egg, breadcrumbs
Sausage asteroids, slippery, in transit
Past meridians of a universal plate
Studded with white dwarfs of garlic
And distant yellow suns of onion
A black hole’s gravitational pull begins
Fork spinning slowly on an axis
Guided by a spoon, a fleeting meteor
Together sounding the serenade or remote
A Parmesan supernova in perigee
The vastness smells of
When asked to name writers that inspire her, Riebe rattled off, “Locally, my favorite poet is Daryl Sznyter because she reveals raw emotion that I feel a connection to.”
“Of all time, Tennyson inspires me the most. My favorite of his is ‘In Memorium’ because I associate it with my grandfather. I read it at his funeral,” she recalled. “In the poem, Tennyson had a special connection with his friend and I’d like to write a poem that can show my connection to someone like that someday.”
Riebe added, “Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky are melancholy like I am and realistic. I find things in their characters that I can relate to, at least in part.”
Riebe has spent the last eight years as a caseworker, working with the Spanish-speaking population in Northeast Pennsylvania.
“I was a sociology major at Wilkes as an undergrad. When I worked at the writing center I got interested in English as a second language (ESL) classes and veered off the sociology track. I couldn’t find a job doing that in public schools, so I went back to school for my secondary education degree. I was teaching Composition 101 at Wilkes and I ended up working at the International Student Services office while I was teaching.”
A family connection pointed her to her current career.
“My father in law worked in social services and while he knew that I loved my job at Wilkes, he knew that my husband and I just bought a house and he encouraged me to take the civil service exam. I didn’t hear anything for almost two years and then I got a call from human resources, took the Spanish test, and started my current job,” she continued.
Riebe quickly got involved with her union.
“I grew up in a family of teachers and unions were part of my upbringing. I started getting involved in our union, taking note of workplace issues and going to our chapter meetings. Then in 2015, I ran for union shop steward on a ticket with two other women for our union election and we won,” she said.
When asked about her role as a shop steward, Riebe explained, “I believe in equity for members, which means being treated fairly according to our contract. I try to help people see how the union works for them and how, if they are involved in it, they can feel ownership.”
A woman of many parts, Riebe participates in local community theatre as well.
“Early on, I did community theater and little kid plays at day camp. I didn’t get back to it until I was in high school at Danville Area.”
In May, Riebe performed in Diva Productions’ The Smell of the Kill (Molly) at the Olde Brick Theater in North Scranton.
“I like to do comedy because I competed in speech in high school in humorous interpretation,” she explained.
In the dark comedy, Riebe played one of three wives cleaning up after a dinner party and discussing their husbands’ abuse, stalking, and microaggressions. Their husbands are playing golf in the next room shouting expletives until they suddenly go missing. The wives discover the men have locked themselves in the host husband’s meat locker downstairs and wonder aloud, would the men rescue their wives from the freezer if the tables were turned?
Riebe analyzed, “From a feminist theory perspective, the play depicted women working as a team instead of working against each other. In the beginning of the play, every time one woman leaves, the other two are talking about her, but by the end, they come together to share how they would all like to kill their awful husbands.”
Riebe combined her passion for labor unions and theatre in her most recent performance in After the Shots Were Fired as Mrs. Stephen Philips, the wife of a coal miner shot dead by William Walker Scranton’s coal company militia during the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. The play, performed at the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum’s Labor Heritage Day and Pittston Riverfest, was written by local historians Margo Azzarelli, Marnie Azzarelli, and myself.
Riebe’s character bemoans her husband’s death, “I have no money for us this week and hardly any food left. Our debt to the company is high, and if I don’t start to pay it, they will take our home from us. I must send the children to work. I could lie about young Stephen’s age so maybe he could be a laborer. I could send the three oldest girls to the mills and the youngest boy to the breaker. I could take in miners that need boarding, or I could marry again. If that’s what I need to do to keep my family alive, I will do it for us. I will do it for Stephen.”
Riebe, originally from Danville, asserts that she is native to central Pennsylvania, not northeastern. I argued that Danville is within the WNEP viewing area and therefore, she is from Northeast Pennsylvania, but she was adamant. Either way, she’s firmly rooted herself here in NEPA with many contributions made and many still yet to come. We should all be proud to have her to replenish our pens.
Seeing my writing friend, Sara Hubert, is like seeing a beautiful morning sunrise. Her shy, but quick smile and glow welcome and warm hearts all around. They are a beacon of the caring and creative light inside of her and her works.
Sara and I met recently to mull over many topics to do with her writing, but they all go back to her vivid imagination and her myriad talents in not only writing, but art as well.
“Weird Horror” was Sara’s response when I asked her to share what she called her writing style. It seems apropos, as the first story of hers I’d heard dealt with brownies overtaking a business (and we’re not talking desserts here, folks). She’s into writing about strange surprises that pop up when you’re expecting something completely different going in. And it keeps things interesting—not only in her written works, but in all of her artistic ventures.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s stick to the writing things first.
Sara says she began writing as a child—and that her mother has saved her early works. One she remembers writing was a tale of a camel salesman, complete with illustrations. Not really the weird horror one might see later, but it was a progression to get to that over time with scary movies and Stephen King novels working their way into her imagination.
She finds inspiration all over—in books, movies—and in her online wanderings. She keeps a folder on her computer with images and ideas for use in future works. One example she knows is in the list of possibilities in a small mouse clinging to a Queen Anne’s Lace flower. She thinks he’s ready for her to write his adventures out—and says they’ll be weird ones, too.
Her works are not only weird horror though. Many times, they take a spiritual turn. Sometimes after meditating, she’ll be calm and centered enough to just let her mind take her where it will. Sara says, “You can’t control what happens, but you can control how you react. [That] makes you mindful. There are all sorts of paths possible from one incident.” And it seems, from talking with Sara, that that’s the whole idea—the journey of seeing where things end up.
But Sara’s interests go further still. She loves animals (and has multiple, adorable pets), she’s an artist with her own Etsy shop, and she is a painter. She hasn’t incorporated her art with many of her writings since the good old camel salesman, save the story of one of her pets of yore who inspired a Yule story for Sara’s mother entitled “Olaf the Yule Rat.” She hopes to turn it into a book. That’s a children’s story to watch for, certainly.
Another Writing Form
I wanted to talk to Sara about her storytelling skills with regard to role-playing tabletop games as well, as she runs the game “Unknown Armies” that all of her players (including me) jones for when we’re not playing. Effortlessly she leads us through 2024 as teenagers recruited to work for a Raccoon Corporation/Pentex sort of conglomerate that employs magically-gifted people for artifact investigations (among other morally questionable assignments along the way). It is a dark, weird, and sometimes horrific game that Sara doesn’t ever look nervous running. I asked her how she does it so easily. Nonchalantly she smiles and shares that while she has plotlines constructed in outlines of where she wants things to go, the process is really cooperative, depending on how we, the players, decide to adventure in her world—and that’s the challenge of it that she loves. This cooperative idea is really symbolic of Sara—she obviously cares for others and values all opinions, whether they’re her own or not, and it’s obvious she takes joy in finding how others will respond to things that come up in-game. And one of her other miracles of gaming that I’m a huge fan of, and am planning on using in my own writing, was used in character creation for the game. Instead of having us write a background story, as is usually the case in games like these, instead we were instructed to come up with a five song playlist that describes our character. It’s one of the best things I’ve had to do. Talk about making you think. That’s a Sara thing, too.
Moving Forward and Sage Advice
Sara’s main writing venture coming up is participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this November. She and her husband, Karl (watch for an article on him here sometime soon), will be competing with one another to produce books from their active, exciting brains. She’s still deciding where the novel will go, but looks forward to pushing herself, which is the advice she has for all aspiring or new writers. “Move out of your comfort zone,” she says. “If you want to write about something, go experience it. You might find something you really like doing. That’s good advice for life in general.” She’s so right—and she practices what she preaches.
Sara is a featured writer at “A Halloween Execution”hosted by Ink Writers Group at the Game Chateau in October where she and other featured writers will be sharing creepy writings of the season. Look for her, too, in Elle Hammond’s upcoming blog, “Rolling the Dice” as a contributor, also starting up later this month.
Sara’s got a lot of good things to say. You don’t want to miss them.