Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In The Fray Seeking Articles

Every one of us has had a rival at one point in our lives: siblings,
classmates, coworkers, even strangers. At a national level, we've just
witnessed a bitterly fought U.S. presidential election, but some of
the most iconic rivalries have little to do with politics. Yankees and
Red Sox. Microsoft and Apple. Vampires and werewolves. Leno and

This month, In The Fray wants your stories of rivalries. Tell us about
the spirit of competition and how these experiences led to an
unexpected revelation. Show us the ways that rivalries make people
better -- and the ways they make people worse. As usual, we are open
to stories that deal with the topic broadly construed, and in a
variety of approaches: profiles, interviews, reportage, personal
essays, op-eds, travel writing, photo essays, artwork, videos,
multimedia projects, and review essays of books, film, music, and art.

If interested, please email with a
well-developed, one-paragraph pitch for your proposed piece as soon as
possible — along with three links to your previous work — NO LATER
THAN DECEMBER 15, 2012. All contributors are urged to review our
submissions guidelines at

We are also looking for artists, photographers, and writers who can
take care of specific assignments, including book and film reviews,
interviews, and accompanying photos and artwork. If interested, please
follow the instructions at the bottom of
to join our contributors’ mailing list.

We look forward to hearing from you.

The Editors of In The Fray Magazine

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dec. 2 Book Talk at The Manassas Museum: Yes’m’ by J.M. Duke

Manassas native J. M. Duke will introduce her new segregation-era historical novel Yes’m’ during a Manassas Museum Book Talk on Dec. 2.

Although the work is fictional, Duke describes a 1950s inter-racial relationship that may have been inspired by her experiences growing up in the Manassas area.

Yes’m’ takes readers to a small segregated town in Virginia during the 1950s. The main characters are Pearl, the black hired help for an upper middle class white family and her charge, young Samantha Lee. Samantha chronicles, in first person narrative, the early years and experiences she and Pearl share in a town racially divided by both railroad tracks and philosophy.

As Sammie matures through the tumultuous 1960s, she continues to record the challenges, influences and local impact she and Pearl witness when the state enforces the integration of public schools and the nation struggles to achieve civil and women’s rights.  By 1969, having lived through two decades and diverse experiences, Sammie and Pearl find themselves still in the same small town, but in a very different place from where their epic began.

Duke says her desire in writing the book was to capture a time familiar to many who lived in the south at that time. “Yes’m’ records a period of time and a way of life that has been overlooked,” Duke says. “It is a different take on the struggle for equal rights.”

Duke was also one of the authors of the recent book, Manassas, The Times They Were a Changin', a "collective memoir" authored by members of the Osbourn High School class of 1969. The book was compiled to preserve and present a small part of one generation in Manassas from 1950 through 1969.

The Dec. 2 Book Talk at the Manassas Museum is free and begins at 2 p.m. Both Yes’m’ and The Times They Were a Changin' are available at Echoes, The Manassas Museum Store.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Thanksgiving Poem

The Thanksgivings
by Harriet Maxwell Converse

Translated from a traditional Iroquois prayer

We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we

are here to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created men and women,

and ordered that these beings shall always be

living to multiply the earth.

We thank Him for making the earth and giving these

beings its products to live on.
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth

and runs for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have

fluids coming from them for us all.
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow

shadows for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west,

the thunder and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest

brother, the sun that works for our good.
We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees

and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests,

and thank all its trees.
We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and

for the kind Being of the darkness that gives us light,

the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give

us signs, the stars.
We give Him thanks for our supporters, who had charge

of our harvests.

We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can

still be heard through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.

We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of

this pleasant occasion.
We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit's music, and hope they will be privileged to

continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who

perform the ceremonies on this occasion.

In September of 1891, Converse became the first white woman ever condoled as a Six Nations Chief.

This poem is in the public domain. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Meet Melvin, Shopper from Hell

    Melvin’s Big Shopping Adventure
            By WbtR Member Ron Glaser
Today is Sunday, June 14, a day of adventure for me because my wife is out of town for a few days, I have exhausted the food she left for me, and I need to do the grocery shopping.  Why will grocery shopping be an adventure?  Although a little embarrassing, the truth is this will be only the second time in ten years that I have undertaken this particular activity on my own.  It might sound crazy but my wife and I have a very, very old fashion marriage, where Betsy does the shopping and I check the cars’ tire pressure and change the light bulbs.  I know this is not a fair trade-off, but who wants to ride on flat tires and live in a dark house!
Anyway, after my normal morning breakfast (which I am capable of preparing) and a short bike ride to burn off the calories I have been gluing onto my body (tv dinners, hot dogs, pasta, ice cream, chips, cotton candy), I decide it is time to bite the bullet and head to the store.  But which one?  I know we have at least six grocery stores within 5 miles of our house because Betsy tells me this, but I do not want to throw caution to the wind – I will go to the closest store because that way I make sure I can find my way back home.  Also, my internet search reveals that not only is Giant Food the closest grocery store, it also has a built-in Starbucks where I can get a sugary drink to give me energy for my big shopping experience.  A close-by Giant with a built-in Starbucks.  Everything is fitting right into place!
So I drive over to the Giant and walk to the corner of the store where Starbucks is.  One of the things Starbucks sells that I like is this cold vanilla milk-like drink.  They call it a frappuccino I think, although you say it with a “ch” like frappucchino.  Anyway I am always afraid of ordering it by name because frappuccino sounds like it has coffee in it, which I do not want in my drink, so I always tell the drink person, “I want to get one of those cold, icy drinks that has vanilla in it and nothing else, no coffee in it or anything that isn’t vanilla.” 
The person who is going to serve me today is named “Mindy” because that is the name on her little tag (unless she has put on someone else’s name tag in an attempt to disguise her true identity, but this seems unlikely to me).  The conversation goes like this:
Me:  “Hi.  I want one of those vanilla drinks”
Mindy: “You want a vanilla frappuccino.”
Me:  “Do I?”
Mindy: “That’s what you just said you wanted.”
Me:  “I did?”
Mindy: “Yes.”
Me:  “The spelling always confuses me.”
Mindy:  (Silence)
Me:  “Is it just vanilla and no coffee?”
Mindy:  “Yes.”
Me:  “It’s mixed with ice, right?  It’s not hot?”
Mindy:  “No”
Me:  “No it’s not mixed with ice?”
Mindy:  “Yes.  No it is mixed with ice.  It’s cold.”
Me:  “Ok, that’s what I want.”
Mindy:  “What size?”
Me: “A medium size cup, but an extra tall top so you can put extra whipped cream on top.”
Mindy:  “All the tops are the same size.”
Me:  “Well, how do I get extra whipped cream?”
Mindy:  “Sir, we have a standard way of putting the whipped cream on.”
Me:  “Can you give me an extra cup of whipped cream?”
Mindy:  (silence)
Me:  “Okay, I’m sorry.  Forget it.”
           I am simply too exhausted from my anticipated shopping and this uncertainty of whether I will get the right drink, so I decide I will skip the Starbucks; it is time to start grocery shopping.
           First things first, I need a cart.  They are at the very front of the store in that little lobby-like area before you go through the glass double-doors into the actual store.   There are about 100 carts lined up there but it takes me at least 20 minutes to find a good one.  How can that be?  Well, I test 23 carts before I find one that goes straight ahead when I push it and let go.  I sense some of the store clerks are not happy with me because they watch me go get a cart, come into the store’s second set of double glass doors, and then give the cart my “straight away” test.  So when they see over 20 carts just strewn around the apple bin, end caps, corn bins, registers, and other places, their faces tell me they are not happy.  But it’s not my fault they keep buying carts that don’t go straight.  Why should I have to put all those carts back in line?
          Having found a respectable cart, I start shopping and things are going pretty well until I decide to put my first item of food into the shopping cart.  I am going to buy a peach.  I don’t like peaches that much but I think a little fruit will do me some good given they are healthy and all that.  This is a problem.  Peaches are sold by the pound, not by the piece, and I really do not want even one pound of peaches – I just want one, peach.  I ask a clerk who is watering some type of vegetables if she can help.  I explain the problem very clearly but she gives me an extremely convoluted answer, which I still cannot figure out, even after asking to use her pen and pad and drawing diagrams to show her my predicament.  I won’t belabor the rest of the discussion with her, but we come to a solution.  I agree I will go to aisle 7 later in my trip and buy a can of peaches, which is less that a pound.  And this has one other benefit.  I will not have to peel the skin.  (I’m really not that skilled when it comes to taking the skin off fruit.)  I chalk up my first purchase as a success even though I have not yet bought anything and have to wait until I get to aisle 7 for the peaches.
              Before I leave the fruits and vegetables section, I decide to buy some bananas.  Well, really just one.  I look over at the bin and I see they are all in bunches.  I do not want to go through the peaches thing again and I have learned my lesson, so I will hit my issue head on.  I see a gentleman unpacking more boxes of bananas.  Good timing!  His name is John.
Me:   “Excuse me.  Can you tell me what the protocol is in buying bananas?
John:  “Protocol?”
Me:     “I mean, is there a rule on how many you have to buy, cause I really want just one, and I don’t want to have to buy canned bananas.”
John:  “Sure, you can buy just one.”
Me:    “Great!  Does it matter which one I get cause I have to pull one from a bunch.”
John:  “Whichever you want.  Just go ahead and grab one.”
              This guy John is really terrific.  He suggests I might want to buy two, one that’s yellow and fully ripe and one a little greener, so it will be ripe in a couple of days.  He is clearly an expert on bananas so I gladly follow his advice.  I pick a yellow one from one bunch and a green from another.  I may not be an experienced shopper, but I am smart enough to follow good advice!
              You might think the rest of my trip goes like the first part but I am proud to say, it is even better!  I do not knock over any stands.  I do not drop anything on the floor.  I do not open a box of cookies to taste one to make sure they are fresh.  However, there is one challenging moment when I am in aisle 2 and looking for an item (I can’t even remember what it is, perhaps sardines, or something else very important at the time) and a woman of some rather large proportion is blocking the very part of the shelf where I want to do my searching. 
               I have a momentary vision of this being like climbing Mt. Everest and you are trying to decide whether you take the northeast ridge or the southeast ridge.  But in my case, both are blocked.  I am staring at the rear of the mountain.  I wait a minute and she is still there.  I clear my throat.  Nothing.  Finally, my patience wearing a little thin after the Starbucks and peaches episodes, I push my cart not so subtly into hers.  Thank goodness for my shopping cart test because my aim is straight as an arrow and I do feel some satisfaction as I watch her cart ricochet down the aisle and right into some shelves because, surprise, her cart wheels don’t go straight!  As the woman chases after her cart, I yell in a loud voice, “Oh, I am so sorry.  I got one of those carts with no brakes!”  I think this statement will somehow excuse my not-so-nice behavior and I am wrong.  When the lady retrieves her cart, she turns and gives me the evil eye.  I shrug my shoulders in a gesture of  “I’m sorry” as the lady thankfully proceeds to the end of the aisle and turns out of sight.
              My successful strategy enables me to freely take up the position where she had been, staking my claim to that shelf space.  I still can’t remember exactly what I am looking for and now that I think about it, it is not sardines, but I do think it is an important food staple.  However, I know it is not olives, which is what fills those shelves I am staring at.  I continue my way down the aisle.
            It is three o’clock in the afternoon and I am already halfway through the aisles.  I pat myself on the back - good progress!  I am in aisle number 8 to be exact, the pet food aisle.  We do not own any pets and I could easily skip this aisle, but not being familiar with the store I am afraid that I might miss something I need.  So I proceed along as if I do have a pet.  (Also, just in case anyone is watching me, I do not want him to think I am an amateur).   I am a little surprised when I get to the end of the aisle that there really is nothing there I need.  I will have to start taking the signs seriously.
             The frozen food aisle presents one of my biggest challenges and fears.  There are so many things behind the refrigerator doors that I do not even know where to begin.  I do not want to make a mistake.   A nice young lady is stocking the shelves with a bunch of tv dinners and I decide to seek her expert advice.  She has no nametag, so I just call her “Miss.”
Me:  “Excuse me Miss; I’m wondering if you can help me. I don’t know much about these dinners but do they taste like the real thing?”
Miss:  “Well, they’re frozen.”
Me:  “Yes, I know that.  But when they thaw out, do they taste like they would taste like if they were original?”
Miss:  “Sir.  Ummm, I don’t think they are quite like if you made it from scratch. This meatloaf dinner here, it’s not like it’s homemade.  You know, it’s a frozen tv dinner.  You’ve eaten them before haven’t you?”
Me:  “Not too many.  My wife does the cooking so we don’t have frozen dinners, unless they are leftovers that she freezes.  But those were once original dinners, if you know what I mean.”
              My conversation with “Miss” goes really well.  She is so helpful and really patient that after a little more talking she offers to open one of the frozen tv dinners I am considering buying, going into the employee lunch room, and cooking it in the microwave to see if I would like it.  But I tell her that it is not necessary.  Perhaps next time.
              I have only a few aisles left to go when I hear a really annoying squealing sound, just piercing my ears like someone running their fingers on a chalkboard.  I push my cart another foot and immediately see that the noise is coming from the cart.  I test it to be sure.  Just stand there and push it back and forth.  It’s the wheels.  How did this happen?  I don’t even have that many groceries in the cart.  Maybe fourteen or fifteen items.  But the noise is unbearable!  I can’t continue on my shopping trip with squeaky wheels! 
              Maybe I can see if one of the clerks has some oil, but I can’t leave my cart there unattended.  And if I have to bring my cart with me, I might as well go back to the front lobby and get another cart.  So that’s what I decide to do.  As I head back to the front of the store, cart half full and wheels squeaking loudly, I notice employees and customers are staring in my direction.
              Now I have to figure out in addition to my “straight away” test, how am I going to test for carts that start squealing six hours into a shopping trip?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Write by the Rails - November 15 Meeting Notes

Write by the Rails had its first official monthly meeting Nov. 15, 7-9 pm at Trinity Episcopal Church.  In attendance were: Prince William County - Carol Covin, June Forte, Leigh Giza, Katherine Gotthardt, Linda Johnston; City of Manassas - Cindy Brookshire, John Budesky, Dan Verner; City of Manassas Park - Val Wallace

Election of officers (temporary):
Cindy Brookshire – President/Treasurer
Linda Johnston – Projects Manager/Liaison to Virginia Writers Club
Katherine Gotthardt – Liaison to the Prince William County Arts Council
Carol Keily – Keeper of the Membership List

Virginia Writers Club news:  We have our charter!  Write by the Rails is now the Prince William Chapter of the VWC.  The next VWC event is the Board of Governors meeting, a quarterly gathering of VWC officers and chapter representatives in February 2013 in Northern Virginia.  Linda Johnston will represent us at that meeting which rotates to different chapters – our chapter will eventually host it.

Old Business:  Members of Write by the Rails participated in these events: Book Sales at Winery at La Grange Oct 13, Marketing for Arts Council Groups on Oct 27, National Novel Writing Month in Nov, National Young Readers Day on Nov 13, Meetup at Panera Westgate Nov 13, Arts Council Meeting Nov 13.

Reports from individual writers:  John Budesky is writing a leadership book and is looking for a writer/editor to help him bring the book to completion by Spring 2013…June Forte pointed out that many jurisdictions have poets or writers in residence; the Prince William area does not, and perhaps that is a future goal to consider…Carol Covin recommends as an economical resource for writers who need small projects completed from illustrators to book cover designs and more….Linda Johnston’s book Hope Amid Hardship: Pioneer Voices from Kansas Territory is now listed on for presales.  The book, which Linda is writing and illustrating, is due out in August 2013…Dan Verner is getting many more hits on his blog since he started blogging for Brookshire encouraged all members to contact the Prince William County arts group of your choice and volunteer to help them get the word out in the media about their activities.  Specifically, Sally Lay with the Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory would like a volunteer to write blog posts for their organization.

New Business:  The chapter made its first decision – all present voted to purchase a domain name that will move us from blogspot to website.  Katherine is handling the purchase.  Write by the Rails is applying to become a group member of the Prince William Arts Council in January 2013.  The New Departures anthology is DONE, but a glitch on CreateSpace is preventing orders; as soon as that is resolved, Cindy Brookshire will send out an email to all contributors with instructions on how to order the book wholesale, an email to all members directing them to the retail site; as well as a press release to the media.  Dan Peacock, spouse of author Barbara Peacock, has produced a video book trailer on YouTube, and that link will also go out to everyone.  Cindy was able to order 20 preview copies, which she will sell exclusively at the Write by the Rails table at the City of Manassas Neighborhood Conference on Sat. Nov. 17 from 9 am to 3:30 pm at the Manassas Boys & Girls Club.  Stuart Schadt invites all writers to sell books at Trinity Episcopal Church, 9325 West Street, Manassas, from 9 am to noon on Dec. 2.  Please begin thinking about what you think our presence should be at Arts Alive! 2013 in mid April at the Hylton Performing Arts Center.  The arts council would really like to see us connect with youth this time; that may require work in the months leading up to the event.

Next Meeting:  Write by the Rails meets Thurs., Dec. 20 at 7 pm at Trinity. Plans are in the works to make this a potluck celebration in honor of our charter and a Book Launch Party for our anthology, New Departures. Look for details on that and any informal meetups around the Prince William area on the Facebook group.

For more information email   There is no charge to join Write by the Rails, but everyone is encouraged to join the Virginia Writers Club to amplify your efforts on the state level – first year membership is $15 and includes a listing on the state website at 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dan Verner Sparks Some Thoughts

WbtR member Dan Verner suggested I post my response to his blog post.  Apparently, Dan thought my commentary was meaningful (which is very flattering, though I confess, I don't understand why).  Perhaps you will agree with Dan.  If not, I at least would encourage you to explore your own impulses and what motivates them.  Cheers!

--Katherine Gotthardt


Oh don't let your impulses pass, Dan, if you can afford to explore them!! Do whatever your ADHD heart inspires you to do, even if it's weird.

As for the outdoors, I used to spend a lot more time hiking than I do now. I think it's partly because I get bored now--I don't know why. Must be that I can't see as much when I walk because I walk slowly. In better weather, I started biking trails, and I really enjoyed the change. The breeze and chance to stop and look at new places was wonderful. But it's not bike riding weather, and when we have had those odd days of warmth, I felt I owed it to my dog to give her a longer walk.

I used to tent camp a LOT when I was younger. I've done it in the pouring rain, in extreme heat and in nice weather. I've done it in the mountains, near the ocean, in national forests and in back yards. Now, it hurts to try to sleep on anything hard and my sinuses kill me, so we wimp out in cabins, but it's a different kind of nice, and certainly more comfortable.

Personally, flying around the world without getting off the plane sounds like my idea of hell. But if you want to do it just to say you did it, well then, go for it.

If we ever get time and money, I want to travel. El Salvador, India and Rome are at the top of my list. And I'd like to go back to Bar Harbor. Hubby is NOT interested in Central America or India, but he seems to like the idea of Rome and Bar Harbor, as well as Australia and San Diego. I'm not particularly interested in those areas, though I know I would love the chance to see them once I was there with him. Some alone time with him on a tropical island also would be awesome, and that is something we've both talked about.

For my solo, educational travel, I would prefer being with real people so I could understand the culture and get to know our international brothers and sisters more. It might be uncomfortable (heat and diet being my biggest challenges) but it would be worth it. I also want to learn Spanish.

Hubby and I recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary at Cove Haven resort in PA. I talked his ear off for three hours on the way up! LOL! It's so rare that we have time and money to do stuff like that. Maybe on spring break we will get to use his timeshare. We also spent a weekend on Tangier Island this summer. What a great adventure it was!

My point is, if you can do it, DO IT! There is so much to see, and you can't get it all virtually. We seem to do so much by computer because the stress and demands of the world keep us anchored and exhausted. Set yourself free, Dan!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

We're Now an Official Chapter of the VA Writers Club!

Write by the Rails has been officially chartered as the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club (VWC), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.  Congratulations to all our hard working members who helped make this happen!  Read the full story here.

Remember, there are no dues to join Write by the Rails, but if you want to be a member of the Virginia Writers Club as well, dues are $30 a year.  VWC membership has benefits of its own. 

Learn more about what's happening at our monthly meeting this Thursday, November 15, at 7pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, 9325 West Street, Manassas.

For more information, email us at 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Remembering Our Veterans, POWs and MIAs: A Persona Poem

The fictitious narrator of this poem is a former prisoner of war.  The thoughts and emotions leading to the larger question of what keeps us alive in times of terror are those of the soldier, survivor and hero.  This poem first appeared in Poems from the Battlefield by WbtR author Katherine Gotthardt and is dedicated to those who have suffered for the sake of our freedom.   
The Prison Camp Survivors
I must have lived on a memory,
because there was nothing in that camp
but hiding, confining, despising,
guarded wood that hedged us in,
thick talk of bombastic fear,
bragging that kept us breathing.

I’d stare you down on any day,
hold my thin patch of ground, refuse
to walk away, my stubborn fury feeding
starving resolve, the relentless rush of self
preservation, and the need to protect a nation.

What is it that kept us alive so long
when cages held us fast?  Was it hope or will
or stupidity? Competitive pride or vanity?

Or was it the raven circling our minds,
daring our dare to survive?
copyright 2009, Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
used with permission