Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Gazing Grain Press Chapbook Contest

Gazing Grain Press, an independent publisher founded by alumni of George Mason University’s MFA creative writing program and sponsored by Fall for the Book, is currently accepting submissions for its second annual chapbook contest. Gazing Grain seeks poetry and hybrid manuscripts that explore “ideas of identities as connected to gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity, culture, and ability,” according to the press’s website. “This contest is open to feminists of all genders and sexualities and is meant to promote socially conscious poetry and hybrid writing to a wide audience. We adhere to no one ‘definition’ of feminism—we encourage a broad and diverse range of approaches. Challenge us!”

Manuscripts should be 15-25 pages, and the winner receives publication, contributor’s copies, and an invitation to read at the upcoming Fall for the Book Festival, September 22-27, 2013 (airfare and accommodations included). Deadline for submission is June 1, and the winner will be announced in July. Full guidelines can be found here.

The judge for this year’s contest is acclaimed poet Cathy Park Hong, who appeared at last year’s Fall for the Book and whose own books include Translating Mo’um, Dance Dance Revolution, and most recently, Engine Empire.

For more information on Gazing Grain Press, visit the website here or check out recent articles on the press in Poets & Writers and in The Writer’s Chronicle. And don’t miss The Busy Life by Laura Neuman, selected by poet Brian Teare for Gazing Grain’s first chapbook contest and available for purchase here.

A Poetic Meditation

by Patricia Daly-Lipe

On this earth, there is oneness.
A rhythmic flow, a great symphony that is life.
Trees with roots, stems and leaves
Shells, fins, furs and wings, all living things.
Each has a purpose and to each, an end
And then . . .a new beginning.

Let us recapture the imagination of a child
See once more the mystery, beauty and joy of God
Playing within and behind, beyond and above.
Unite with the intimacy of commitment.
Trust takes time
But the gift is there . . .waiting.

Friday, May 24, 2013


by Leigh Giza



Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Way it Was

by Patricia Daly-Lipe

The  realization or recognition of old age kicks in when conversation turns to social norms. Why? Imagine what it was like in the 1940s and '50s for a child (me) in Washington, DC.
Every year, my mother and I flew from California to Washington to visit my grandmother.  She was an invalid, so often Hans, the chauffeur, would drive us to visit people and places. When in the city, I had to be properly attired. This meant  a dress, coat, and gloves. When my mother and grandmother wanted to speak privately, Hans would drive me to Haynes Point to roller skate under his supervision. Otherwise, they would converse in French (la langue diplomatique). So I learned the language by listening.

At the dinner table, I was not allowed to speak unless questioned directly. And one had to sit up. Never lean back in your chair.  

Many stories. A lost era.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Concert

by Lianne Best

My daughter was in fifth grade. The last year of elementary school, and the first year of band. She was learning to play the baritone – an instrument choice that baffles me to this day; it doesn’t carry the melody, baritones are placed way in the back of the stage, and it was huge, a case as big as my skinny little girl, and we had to buy a wheeled luggage cart for her to carry it back and forth to school.

So it’s fifth grade, springtime, and the final band concert of the year. I’m sure it started at 7 p.m., all school events do, and we parents sauntered into the school multi-purpose room and arrayed ourselves on the folding chairs facing the stage. It wasn’t the first concert, so nobody was too concerned about being on time. And we were all dressed in our standard post-workday attire: dads in khakis and polos, moms in dark-wash jeans.

We chatted to each other as we waited for the program to begin. We parents had all known each other for years; this was just one more mandatory school event, the general weeknight inconvenience further complicated by the need to iron white shirts and the inevitable discovery that the black pants had been outgrown. It was all very anti-climactic and casual, just moms and dads looking at their watches and applauding politely.

Until the beginning of the second number. A new dad rushed in, worriedly late. Wearing a dirty baseball cap, torn canvas jacket, and paint-stained work pants, the Latino planted himself firmly in the aisle between the two sections of folding chairs. Deliberately he set a shopping bag at his feet, reached in and pulled out a shiny silver videocamera. He turned it on and trained it a dark-haired girl earnestly playing her clarinet. From my seat I watched his viewscreen, and he zoomed in and never strayed from what was obviously his daughter.

As the parents jostled and jiggled impatiently around him, the day-laborer dad never moved. He taped every remaining minute of the performance, never sitting, never shifting, never slouching. When finally the kids ended – did they play five, six numbers? I don’t recall, it was an unexceptional concert – he carefully turned off and put down his camera and, beaming, clapped and clapped.

His daughter saw him, looked down, bit her lip, and once she stepped down off the stage she rushed into her father’s arms.

I looked at all the khaki-clad bored parents around me and I was ashamed. I had just witnessed the American Dream in progress, and nobody else had even noticed.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


by Katherine Gotthardt

You can tell
the new ones:
they look the same,
one, long level
smelling like floor wax
and carpet and pride,
trophy cases
piercing the eye
with a shine
that never reaches
the three-story
schools with scuff
marks and nicks, dull
lighting, rough desks
with graffiti
and memories.

You’d think we
were more than
one county,
the way the “city”
kids dress—
more cleavage
and obvious boxers
compared to
the suburban rest—
the way trailers stack
up out back,
taking in overflow,
the way the meetings go:
Why do they get
to plan a pool,
but we don’t?

The new schools, yes,
they’ve got cash–
Smart Boards and art clubs
and fresh team garbs,
PTOs (of moms and dads),
demanding new soccer balls
and grass.

Meanwhile, somewhere
in a loud hall, some
teen carves his name
on a fifty-year-old wall,
then pens himself
a new tattoo.
You can bet
it’s not the school mascot.

copyright May 18, 2013, Katherine M. Gotthardt

Friday, May 17, 2013

Beware of Cat

by Leigh Giza

A dog will bark at you
And maybe he’ll bite
But a cat will hiss
And fill you with fright

A dog will jump up
And slobber on you
A cat will attack your ankles
And leave you black and blue

A dog will be lonely
When you go away
A cat will rejoice
And shed all over your duvet

A dog will play fetch
For hours and hours
A cat will make you fetch
Something for him to devour

A dog will be protect you
In the face of danger
A cat, however,
Will treat you like a stranger

Now, don’t get me wrong
I don’t dislike cats
After all, you can count on them
To catch and eat nasty rats

And although they rarely
Come when you call
And they don’t often run
When you toss a ball

A cat is just perfect
For someone like me
Who doesn’t want a pet
That has to go outside to pee

So here’s to cats!
Bless their furry little hearts!
Just be careful not to startle them
Or they might tear you apart

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Judges for First Tier of Golden Nib Contest Announced; Deadline is July 15

Write by the Rails, the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club (VWC) announces the call for submissions for the first tier of VWC’s Golden Nib Writing Contest.

Fiction, non-fiction and poetry entries are due July 15 and will be judged by a first-tier panel that includes Lillian Orlich, Osbourn Park High School guidance counselor who is completing 60 years of service in Prince William County Public Schools; Kari Pugh, Editor, Prince William Today, Northern Virginia Media Services; and Sofia Starnes, current Poet Laureate of Virginia.

About the VWC Golden Nib Writing Contest
The Golden Nib is a two-tier writing competition. Entries are submitted and judged at the VWC chapter level first. Each chapter submits only its first-place winning entries for VWC statewide judging (second tier). Entrants who live within the jurisdiction of a VWC chapter must enter the first tier of the competition through that chapter. Residents living in an area where no chapter exists must submit their entries to the chapter located closest to them. First-place chapter winners must either be a current member of the VWC or must join the VWC to advance to the state-level competition – a membership application and payment of $15 first year dues must accompany the entry.

Write by the Rails Contest Rules

Write by the Rails’ first tier contest rules mirror the VWC contest requirements – further information on the state-level process is available at: www.virginiawritersclub.org.  Entries will be accepted in the categories of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Write by the Rails will recognize 1st, 2nd & 3rd place winners in each category.

1. Manuscripts must be the original, unpublished work of the entrant, and must not have won a prize at any level in any other competition. Submissions can come from entries published in your personal blogs. Writing published in blogs other than your own or on social network sites or in an online publication are ineligible and should not be submitted.

2. Entrants may submit one entry per category of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Fiction and non-fiction entries must be no longer than 3,500 words. Poetry entries must be no longer than 50 lines.

3. Format: Submissions not in accord with this format and other rules will be disqualified:

      a. Detachable cover sheet including author’s name, address, telephone number, email address (if available), category (fiction, non-fiction, poetry), title of entry and word count.

      b. All other pages must show contest category, title and page number in the header. If the author’s name appears on any other page of the manuscript, the entry will be disqualified.

      c. Prose (fiction and non-fiction) manuscripts must be printed in a plain and legible font, such as Times New Roman in 12-to 14- pitch. Manuscripts must be printed on 8 ½ by 11-inch white paper, double-spaced, with one-inch margins top, bottom and left, and a ragged right margin.

      d. Poetry manuscripts must be printed in a plain, legible font, such as Times New Roman in 12- to 13-pitch, Manuscripts must be printed on 8 ½ by 11-inch white paper with 1-inch margins top and bottom.

4. Submissions must include an original and one copy of the manuscript.

5. VWC state-level awards are 1st Place, $100; 2nd Place, $50; and 3rd Place, $25. State winning entries in each category will be published in Portable Data File (*.pdf) format, on the VWC Web site. All other rights remain the property of the author.
There are ten VWC chapters in the state. Only first-place winners from the chapters will be eligible for the state contest. That means only 30 entries will be forwarded for the State competition – 10 entries total per category (fiction, non-fiction, poetry) – by the state deadline of Sept. 3. Winners of State VWC Contest will be announced and awards presented at the State VWC Annual Meeting on November 2.
Deadline for the first tier of the competition is July 15, 2013.  Send entries to: 2013 VWC Golden Nib Contest, c/o June Forte, 12702 Valleywood Drive, Woodbridge, VA 22192.  No electronic entries will be accepted.

Monday, May 13, 2013

"God Bless Us, Every One"

by Dan Verner

As a cold Detroit wind swept around the corner, John Frederick huddled again the chilly brick wall of First Bank. He begged there because people came out with cash and sometimes threw a few dollars his way. He didn’t need much. In the past four years, he had learned how to dumpster dive, to find a warm place to sleep and how to stay safe. But man, it was cold today and people coming out of the bank, far from being in a Christmas spirit, were rushed and preoccupied. They were well-dressed and, judging from the additional pounds they packed, well-fed.

He smiled as he held out his hand. For each person who ignored him, he called, “Bless you! Merry Christmas!” and then muttered under his breath, “Asshole!”

He ought to relocate to Florida. His sister lived there, although she had been estranged from him for a long time. She was pissed because he never paid back the money she “loaned” him. NO need to get her knickers in a knot. He’d pay her back when he got back on his feet. It would just take a while.

Maybe he could somehow get to Tampa and look her up. It would be like that movie—what was it?—the one with Dustin Hoffman and the pretty cowboy guy. Anyhow, it showed them riding a bus to Florida at the end. “Goin’ where the sun keeps shinin’ through the pourin’ rain.” But the guy died in the movie. “Everybody’s talkin’.” That was the name of the song.

Well, no one was talking to him. He moved down the block to get away from the worst effects of the wind, pulled his dirty Tigers hat low over his face and stood by the liquor store. Maybe someone would buy him a drink, ha, ha. Maybe he would grow wings and fly to Florida. “Skipping o’er the ocean like a stone…” He’d like to be stoned about now. That would ease the pain.

A businessman in an expensive gray topcoat started toward the door. John lifted his cap. “Merry Christmas, sir. I don’t suppose you could spare—“The man made a face as if he smelled something bad and quickly pushed through the door. John muttered, “Up yours, Santa Claus.” He slid down the wall and sat there. The store manager would shoo him away if he stayed too long. He would call the cops if John didn’t move when he told him to. Hey, maybe he should get arrested and spend Christmas in jail. He bet the food was better there.

He dimly remembered a short story he read in school a long time ago, about a bum who kept trying to get arrested so he could have a nice warm, dry bed and three meals a day for Christmas. But he couldn’t get arrested. Finally he got a ticket to Florida but was arrested for loitering and ended up in jail. It was ironic.

Mr. Businessman bustled out of the store carrying a bag. John knew what was in it. Fat chance he’d be invited to have a drink of that. Just then Mr. B.M.’s phone rang. He answered it and set the bag down. Involved in his conversation, he walked off leaving the bag. He strolled down the sidewalk and turned the corner. John thought, I could be a real good guy and chase after Mr. Generosity. Or I can go over and see what’s in the bottle. He crawled over and found a big beautiful bottle of Jim Beam. Well, here’s to me, he congratulated himself. He scurried around the corner with his prize, twisted open the cap, and took a long, satisfying pull of the rich amber liquid. He raised the bottle and said aloud, “Here’s to you, merry gentlemen! And here’s to me!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Michael F. Mercurio Releases WbtR Promotional Recordings

The following are audio-visual recordings produced by Michael F. Mercurio.  Michael is reading work by authors who are members of Write by the Rails.  In addition, he writes and performs the background music.  (If interested in this very reasonably priced service, email katherine.gotthardt@gmail.com.)

Here's to teamwork!  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dan Verner Reviews "The Poison Planters"

The Poison Planters

by Charles Sutherland and Jonathan Slevin

We might be poisoning ourselves.

No, not by drinking water contaminated by some terrorist group.

Nor by unseen drones spraying toxic chemicals over populated areas.

Rather, there’s good evidence that we are doing great harm to ourselves, our children, our livestock and our environment because of the food we eat.

That’s the sobering and compelling message of The Poison Planters (A Reality Novel) by local authors Charles Sutherland and Jonathan Slevin, who trace the history of chemical companies’ movement from chemical to agricultural products, chiefly through GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms). The story is couched in a modern day parable following the fortunes (and misfortunes) of Laura Brett, a young PhD biologist who becomes involved in a seminar on GMO’s at the University of Virginia led by former CIA Director Michael Riley after her nephew is diagnosed with cancer which is likely tied to the food he has consumed. Together Brett and Riley investigate the political, social and health ramifications of agribusinesses’ involvement in places as far afield as Africa, Mexico and China as the novel comes to a close with a climax worthy of any technothriller. Indeed, this might be a new form that could be called an “agrothriller.”

While a work of fiction, The Poison Planters is loaded with references to scientific studies questioning the safety of GMO crops. It uses incidents from current events, including giant seed companies suing farmers for replanting seed from crops grown from modified seeds. If the farmers do not pay for the “re-seeds,” they are often ruined financially and their farms sold to agrobusinesses.

I am not a biologist or a scientist, but I found the arguments in this book compelling. Of course organisms have been modified genetically for centuries through cross-breeding, but manipulation of genes is a different matter altogether. I certainly don’t discount the many marvels of science, but I think we do have to be careful. Our lives are at stake.

I came away from this book with a resolve to educate myself further about this matter, and to move to organic foods. The best advice I can give all of us when it comes to food (and other commodities) is to buy local. There are numerous farmers’ markets in the area which deserve our support. It’s best for them and best for us.