ALVA's Talented Visiting Writers
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and read a delightful mix of emerging and well-known authors!
Tia Silverthorne Bach and Angela Beach Silverthorne       Betty Hampel       Kristen Henderson
   Helmy Kusuma         Kathy Reinhart        Lorna Tychostup       Carl Waldman        Nancy Means Wright
   
 

 ALVA welcomes literary submissions to 150 words and bios to 50 words for possible inclusion on the ALVA Visiting Writers' Page.

Trauma and Writing

A Blog by Novelist Nancy Means Wright

Good writing often comes out of adversity-out of trauma. My first novel back in 1973 was written in a boys' boarding school where the headmaster wouldn't allow me to teach English, my college major, because, he maintained, it was a man's subject. Writing the book was a way to cool the slow burn in me, but even so, in the end, my faculty wife-heroine slowly anesthetizes herself with Sherry. Years later, after two more books, I left a difficult marriage and went down to the mid-Hudson Valley, New York, to teach in a small liberal arts college. I missed my family and friends; I felt like a pariah in this new place. I couldn't write anything longer than a poem!

But then I invented an alter-ego called Fay, a gutsy, older woman divorcee who lives over a Video King and toughs her way through life. I wrote and published almost one hundred poems, many in her persona-poems thrive on adversity! The alter ego helped, but I still craved order in my life. I wanted to go to bed and wake up mornings knowing that all was right in my world. And it wasn't.

I read a newspaper article about an assault on two elderly dairy farmers that appalled me, and decided then and there to write a mystery with a single-mother sleuth (like myself) that would begin in chaos and end in order. I hadn't ready a mystery since fourth grade when I penned one inspired by Nancy Drew that my mother threw out. To my surprise, Mad Season was published by St. Martin's Press, five books in all before, in 2005, my dairy farmer sleuth's cows in Mad Cow Nightmarewere to be euthanized, and my editor and I jointly decided to end the series.

I had remarried, but just after the demise of my series, my husband died of cancer, and I almost quit writing altogether. But I slowly picked up the pieces of my life and went back home to Vermont. Already I had three grandchildren! Enough to live for surely, but a writer must write. I wrote two kids' mysteries - one won an Agatha Award. Yet I longed to write another adult novel.

I taught a course in Women and Literature, and rediscovered 18the century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (A Vindication of the Rights of Woman). Wollstonecraft became governess for an autocratic Anglo-Irish family - an often humiliating position like my job in that boys' school. There were cries of horror when her Vindication came out, advocating breast feeding for all, and coeducation - they called her a madwoman. And like me, feminist Mary had a dilemma: despite her insistence that marriage was little more than slavery, she liked the company of men. In Paris during the French Revolution she fell in love, got pregnant, was abandoned, and shunned by society all over again. After that she suffered myriad traumas - but a resilient woman, she kept on writing. Her novels Mary: A Fiction and The Wrongs of Womanare largely autobiographical.

I, too, after divorce and widowhood, find writing a therapy. With Wollstonecraft my protagonist, my mystery novel Midnight Fires, set in Ireland when Mary was governess, will be out in April from Perseverance Press (aptly named.). Sometimes, it seems, it's hard to distinguish real life from fiction. This fall a number of traumas affected my family, and my personal anguish has colored the psyches and events in the lives of my fictionalized Mary. Writing, I find, is not only a mediation, but a way of processing our traumas, a way to instill order and a measure of peace in our lives.

*****

Nancy Means Wright is the author of fifteen books, including five mystery novels from St. Martin's Press and a historical novel, Midnight Fires (Perseverance Press). She was an Agatha winner and nominee for two kids' mysteries, and has published stories in American Literary Review, Ellery Queen, Mystery Magazine, et al.

Website: http://nancymeanswright.com


An Excerpt from Lily White Lies

by Kathy Reinhart

 

"Meg, when this happened we all agreed the truth could never come out." Lowering her head, she continued, "I may have had a little too much to drink and chirped like a bird the last time I saw you, but I'm not so sure that telling you was for the best."

"Why? Gram, I have the right to know; besides, without knowing who my real parent's are, I have no way of knowing who I am or who else I may be related to." I hesitated. "Gram, what I'm trying to say is... I could be marrying a blood relative."

"Well for the love fo God, child, what wretched thought!" Reaching for her purse, she added, "If it'll help put your mind at ease, Brian is not relation." 

"So then you do know who did it?"

Taking a swallow straight from her flask, she looked around the room and pulled her chair in closer to me. I instinctively glanced around the room also, not sure who or what I should be looking for.

 

*****

Kathy Reinhart is the winner of the 2009 Brighid's Fiction Manuscript contest for Lily White Lies. Reinhart conducts weekly interviews with fellow authors at Ink Drop Interviews on WordPress while working on her latest novel, The Red Strokes, due out next year.

Lily White Lies on Amzaon!

An Excerpt from Streetscape: A Jake Soho Mystery

By Carl Waldman

He walked the neighborhood to work off restlessness. Along Bleecker Street he stopped in front of a window with three mannequins. They seemed to look at him with contempt. Women out of his past frozen behind glass. Best to revisit them when dreaming, not awake.

What he found for sleeping this night was a first for him - scaffolding in front of the corner empty building at King and MacDougal. It had been poorly assembled, like something out of a shantytown. Missing pieces left a convenient hole within the overhang though which he could wiggle to find refuge on top.

Jake dreamed of his hometown upstate - not New York City.

Hiding in that big tree house.

Jake! Jake! Little sis Caitlin was calling him. 

But Jake ignored her.

Carl Waldman is the author of a number of reference books on history and popular culture, including Atlas of the North American Indian. He also has co-written several screenplays, including an episode of Miami Vice for NBC and The Legend of Two Path, a drama about the Native American side of Raleigh's Lost Colony, shown at Festival Park in North Carolina. Streetscape: A Jake Soho Mystery  may be found at ALVA Press, Inc.

                                             Marathon Dance

                                   Remembering the Dance Pavilion

                         at Woodcliff Park, Poughkeepsie, New York

                                     Betty Hampel

I was just about to chuck my dreams of a life lived in front of klieg lights,

                  When I saw a sign on a dancehall wall that read, “Marathon Dance Tonight.”

Though I wasn’t sure of my tango and my thrift shop shoes were too tight,

            I managed to find me a partner named ‘Sal’ and we waltzed all through that first night.

 

The tempo increased come morning, but the steps Sal and I knew by heart,

                  So we skimmed our way ‘round that dance floor, as fresh as we’d been at the start.

 

     The folks in charge of the contest, said a hundred bucks would be the first prize,

                  And since we were both completely broke, we could sure use a sum of such size!

      Even split half and half with my partner, those greenbacks would keep me in style,

                  Pay past due rent to the landlord . . . give me peace of mind for a while.

 

The following night was a doozy, most dancers half-dead on their feet,

                  But my partner, Sal, let me drag him around to a lonely drummer’s beat.

Next morning arrived the dance fans, to cheer on what couples remained . . .

                  Shuffling slowly about the scuffed oak floor while their muscles and joints complained.

 

Then contestants began to totter . . . those not in best physical form . . .

                  They crawled to the sidelines exhausted, in numbers that seemed about norm.

 

With only three couples remaining, upright on that scarred dancehall floor,

                  Sal and I had a good chance of winning . . . if we could just last twelve hours more!

 Hang on for that one more night needed to win the mad marathon Dance . . .

                  Take home a sum seemed like a fortune; give my dreams of success one more chance.

      But I broke both high heels while hauling my limp partner ‘Sal’ ‘round the floor,

And I had to pry my shoes from my feet before I could dance one step more.

Barefoot, my silk stockings in tatters and a terrible migraine to boot,

            My chutzpah had just about had it when somebody started to hoot!

 

That sound quite incited my moxie, and I gazed dazedly at the crowd . . .

            Saw a gang of young hoodlums come jeering . . . booing and laughing out loud.

Some ruffians were ‘dancing’ to mimic those still on the floor . . .

            Prancing and giggling and ‘singing’ until they were thrown out the door.

 

The other folks started applauding . . . those fans who’d been there since the start,

            And THEY were the people I danced for . . .  the ones who had stolen my heart.

 

The prize had retreated to nowhere, and my partner just didn’t exist . . .

            All I knew was the sweet, sweet sound of applause . . . a sound I could never resist.

 

I woke to find myself lying flat out on a hospital bed,

            With every inch of me hurting, from my bloodied toes to my head.

My partner, it seemed, had fared better, come out of the dance on his feet . . .

            Able to scoop up the hundred we’d won before beating a hasty retreat.

 

I never did know where he went to, and nobody knew his last name,

            But ‘Sal’ took me straight to the cleaners . . . playing his chiseler’s game.

He’d grabbed every cent of our winnings, half of which were quite rightfully mine;

            But he wasn’t really the winner, which is why I have written this rhyme.

 

For my story appeared in the papers . . . News, Mirror, and Herald Tribune,                       

            Then roses arrived from Bus Berkley with a contract to dance to HIS tune!

 

So I’m not going back to Peoria or to sleep in a fleabag hotel,

            Nor being fed soup at some mission where they preach such a lot about hell.

No, I’m living the life most girls dream of . . . as a star on the bright Broadway stage,

            As the critics decided to crown me, “NEW YORK’S MUSICAL COMEDY RAGE!”

 

 

Elizabeth Doolittle Hampel is a longtime resident humorist, novelist, and artist of Middlebury, VT. Born in New York State, Betty, as she prefers to be known, writes for the pure pleasure of it. The widow of prominent Vermont artist Harrison Hampel, a number of her short stories have appeared in national magazines, as have many of her commissioned portraits and landscapes been reproduced on magazine covers. Prolific in any medium, Betty Hampel writes in many voices, in many styles, of many eras. Among her published works are Mirror Image and Gumshoe, Xlibris, 2009, from which this biographical information is quoted.

 

 

 

On Writing and Trauma

Products of the Tree

by Kristen Henderson

There's a pressure

at all hours of the day

only a poem can assuage.

Born at the bottom

of a margin, fringe in a brood

beat for generations

and desolate at the root

of the family oak like the rest

of my nuclear crew,

I could not lay the seeds

for my own progeny, i.e., tomes,

unless I learned to write myself out

of the paper bag self-esteem I had

been living in, too.

So, at midnight or noon

I can look into the opaque mirror

of a blank page

and make a new legacy

of my personal estate, pen

my ancestors back

with words yet too modern

for their graves

and simultaneously heal

their ghostly pain - all while tilling

my symbolic womb

should another hopeful sapling donning

my name bloom.

*****

Kristen Henderson's poems have appeared in many literary journals throughout the US. She has an MFA from University of Arizona and an MSW from University of Albany. Kristen runs the Cherry Branch Gallery in Cherry Valley, New York. Her recently published book of poetry which includes "Products of the Tree" is available at ALVA Press, Inc.

"Krista"

From Depression Cookies

by Tia Silverthorne Bach and Angela Beach Silverthorne

 

Looking through the dingy school bus window, I felt the emptiness of losing another place. I wasn't losing a home; my family knew better than to get attached to a location. It was worse than that. The persona I had created would stay behind; so in essence, I was dying. I never knew what I would have to become on the other side. The North Carolina girl was an illusion I had yet to create, and the real me was a reality I had yet to know.

Late at night, I would often think about the many characters I had created over the years. I could imagine how actors felt. They become each new role only to lose that part at each premiere. Now, through the cruelty of fate, I would lose another me. I was heading off to start a new movie, a new role.

*****

Tia Silverthorne Bach and Angela Beach Silverthorne, are the co-authors of Depression Cookies, a Finalist in the Chick Lit category of the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Depression Cookiescontrasts the perspectives of Krista, a 13 year old, and her mother. The excerpt above is by Tia - an avid reader and blogger and the mother of three girls.

Website: http://depressioncookies.com

Love Poem

Lorna Tychostup

 

The nights I sleep with you between my legs

- your absence as profound as your presence -

I dream of jungle rivers,

bloodied swimming pigs,

sunlit mountain waterfalls,

those three colorful bodies swirling facedown in the water,

cool nights and steamy days.

Sounds and smells bring you close to me...

the roar of a bus,

the Chinese takeout's kitchen emissions,

good poetry...

 

The poets here have nothing political to say.

Their tongues are caught fingering their egos

in this freedom called consumerism.

Even the best ones drink your coffee,

eat your bananas,

your piñas...

while moaning about their loves,

their meager lives,

their never enoughedness.

 

And you...

you stand there asking for freedom to live,

to grow your crops,

to work your land,

to live with without the corporate prostitution of your people

and the army that would kill them all for a few barrels of oil.

 

There was a time here when the people fought,

took out their pens and carved pages leading others to freedom.

That was before the sedatives arrived...

T.V., alcohol, sex and other opiates.

 

What drives me to write are others that do

            but say nothing

Academic hooha, playing with forms, iambs, tercets...

killing all emotion.

 

And there is so much to say.

 

And what began as a love poem has eroded to this...

You ask me from your mountainous perch so far away,

- your soul well hidden from those who would stop your breath -

Am I angry?

And I would answer yes -

at your absence from my life,

which makes it all the more meager

at the vision of a moon I watch alone wondering if you can see it as I do...

 

And I would prefer to stand within your heat,

to smell the salt of your ocean,

to wrap myself around the howlers shrieking

through the moon's full night.

And I would prefer to love you openly,

bring you here to my home,

eating tortillas con huevos.

 

I think to travel to other places

where there are less cracks to fall into,

less hazards,

less love to finger...

 

But it is always you I come back to,

listing at your irreplaceable shore.

 

                                                                                                March 5, 2000

 

Lorna Tychostup is an international journalist, photographer, and communications consultant. When Senior Editor of Chronogram Magazine, her reporting took her to Mexico, Morocco, and the Middle East, with a long-term focus on Iraq. She has BA in Cultural Studies from Empire State College SUNY and a MS from NYU's Center for Global Affairs. Her poems may be found in Poet's Gallery anthologies and publications; Dyed-in-the-Wool, a Hudson River Poetry Anthology; and her book of poetry, Tales from the Revolution. ALVA Press, Inc.  

As I Watch You Sleeping 

Helmy Kusuma
 
It was minutes before the dawn
 
When bunnies were meandering the lawn,
 
And the cock was preparing to adorn
 
The morning that was yet to born.
 
The misty cold wind gushed swiftly
 
Yet you were steady,
 
Unmoved by the notion,
 
Undisturbed by the supplication.
 
You are innocent,
 
Peaceful,
 
Beautiful,
 
As I watch you, sleeping.
 
****
Helmy Kusuma makes his home in Jakarta Utara, Indonesia. Indonesia is the fourth most populace nation in the world. There Kusuma writes in both English and Indonesian. Kusuma has published two novellas: Mementoes of Mai and Cinta 3 Sisi; a thriller short story, 'There is Hope', and a collection of flash fictions, A Flash of Inspiration. He can be found at http://www.helmykusuma.com.

   

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