JOANNA JEANINE SCHMIDT
This poem is a snapshot of what I have been going though in my life. I have multiple sclerosis and I am very ill most of the time. I use a cane to walk and have to give myself injections every other day. Although the illness has wracked my body, it has not wracked my soul or spirit
My writings tend to be a form of stream-of-consciousness and I rely on my subconscious to guide me to further depths in my work. I dream heavily every night (dreams I fervently record in my journals) and much of my writings are written in the form of a dream state. I am fascinated by what lies below the surface of the conscious mind. It is the depths of my mind, the very innermost core of myself, that I delve into to write my work. To me, it seems the only way. It is not only form or style that makes me write, but the discovery process of the inner self.
I am a transgender woman and have lived and written in Los Angeles, California; Portland, Oregon; Fresno, California; and I am now turning a new leaf in New Orleans, Louisiana, finding the city to be my muse.
I have been published as Michael Schmidt and Michael Joseph Schmidt in a few small publications such as Conceit Magazine and Down in the Dirt (Scars Publications). Some poems from Down in the Dirt were included in a collection called Echo by Scars Publications. I have also had a few short stories published by Scars Publications and these were collected in a book called Crawling Through the Dirt. I have had a poem published in Slipstream Magazine #33 entitled “reform a wild animal”.
Image by Sarah Keitges
Rome is my city. It took me a long time to come to grips with that, since I grew up bouncing back and forth between Italy and California, and though I’ve been lucky to live in various parts of the world, all it takes is a stroll to realize that it’s true what they say: there’s no place like Rome.
Italy plays with time, the way that it passes, sometimes in long, slow swaths of sunlight and other moments in slivers, smoky and dark. You can fall in love a thousand ways throughout the day and night. Piazza della Rotonda is an alternate world in the cold blue of the morning, the Trevi Fountain newly baptized in the ocher fire of evening light. The country has disparate concepts of time also within itself, from the molasses slowness of minutes in Rome, delicious and golden, to the more European, modern Milan, and the thousand eras and places in between.
Time, perhaps, is the same for nations and humans alike, sometimes a friend to greet with open arms and then an unseen enemy, one we worry over constantly. In my head, this became Leore (Le Ore in Italian being “the hours”), a young Italian girl so worried about time in the modern age that she spends her life running from it, and from her country. I wrote Leore Worried About Time while minutes slipped away in rustles of silk, thinking of how my country personifies the passage of moments, sliding Colosseum-first into today’s world while clinging to its glorious past.
When I was wee, I wrote a story revolving around the fact that I deeply deserved to have more than one cookie for dessert after dinner, and I’ve been writing ever since (sometimes with better results, sometimes not so much). I eventually left San Francisco to make Rome my home base and to finish my master’s degree, and decided I loved gelato too much to move away again. Of course, I did move away, and today I get to country-jump a lot for work, which leaves me both excited and always slightly melancholy.
When I am back in the Eternal City I delve into writing for my city blog, younginrome.com, and have fun writing articles for various online publications (which you can check out at flaviinrome.com). In 2014, I won third place in the Memoirs/Personal Essay category of the 83rd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, and it convinced me to finally try and write down the idea in my head, a coming-of-age story about an Italian-American girl adapting to the culture of her birth when returning to Rome after her father’s death. I wanted to write about memory-making in different cultures, about people who feel more at home in an airport than they wish they did, and these days when I’m not working, traveling, or searching for the perfect espresso, I’m seeking representation for what turned out to be a book after all. You can find me on my blog’s Instagram or Twitter (@younginrome) or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The most important thing about your work is that you like it. I think being one’s own critic is key. My writing is a reflection of my personal experience, the books I’ve read, the authors I love. Lately I’ve mostly been reading poetry and non-fiction magazine pieces. My girlfriend and I live in Austin, but we do take trips to New York (her home town) every few months, mainly for the museums. Education: University of Texas, Austin; Sotheby’s Institute of Art, New York.
Image by Mary Beth Wauben.
This story was inspired by the experience of an Iranian friend. We used to swim together in Walden Pond. His account of getting lost in the water at Cape Cod led me to extrapolate in fiction, turning that real-life experience into a cascading nightmare. I wanted to explore the overlapping ideas of immigration, sexuality, and borders, both political and personal.
For some time I was a student of Middle East and Arabic, and much of my twenties I spent with Middle-Easterners. I watch with alarm and outrage and sadness as the region goes from troubled to tragic, and the relationship between the United States and the Islamic world deteriorates.
I have published fiction in the North American Review, travel writing in Travelers’ Tales Best Travel Writing, 2008/9, and a world history college textbook The Thinking Past, Oxford University Press, 2014.
Since I started writing this, my phone has rung twice. First, my friend Maria called. She was surprised that I actually picked up. Later, my friend David called and provided me with the number of another friend. David said, “He actually don’t answer the phone. Only text.” Just like me and like David too, I thought.
How many of us have decided to be phoneless? How many of us hate texting but still we continue using it? How many of us would like to shake a friend’s hand rather than maintain these endless text messages conversations?
I must say I’m not completely phoneless. Actually I have two numbers and I don’t answer either. “What the hell do you have a phone for?” my brother asks all the time.
During the summer of 2015, I wanted to give up my phone, the $100 bill, the text messages, the constant beeping, the vibration that made me jump from time to time, the times I forgot to turn off the phone at a concert. At the same time, it was a concern to maintain business, the possibility to be hired, the appearance of being as smart as the phone is.
Well, I was debating all of that when I went for lunch with you, Martha, in Woodstock. I brought you a copy of Startling Sci-Fi, Stories from the Beyond, the anthology that included my first short story ever published, The Japanese Rice Cooker. You had read the story the year before during a class.
My lunch with Martha was in the patio of a nice restaurant, the weather was so pleasant and the umbrella provided a comfortable shadow. Between the bits of Portabella sandwich, I mentioned what my friends were saying. “You need internet to find an address, don’t you?” “Where are you going to check Facebook?” “You need a phone with a camera, in case of emergency.”
Martha showed me her phone, a slender model, one of the boutique phones popular during the late nineties. It was a phone that has almost a gender assigned, a female elegant phone that for some reason reminded me of a large tube of lipstick. “This phone has everything that I need,” she said.
“Sometimes, I think of a phone as a substitute for jewelry,” I said since I had imagined people wearing them in the same way we wear a necklace or a ring—we already have the watch.
“Like in the old Egypt, they may bury us with phones,” said Martha laughing.
In that moment, I had the gist of a story in my mind so I told Martha, “I’m going to write a story about that. OK. This is my story.” I opened my hand and made as if I was grabbing the idea from the air.
Before paying the check, I took out from my bag Anger Meridian. Martha was curious about the book and I told her about you, Kaylie. “My former teacher at Southampton College.” Of course, I mentioned the times I used to live in your mother’s house in Sagaponack. “Like in the book, Kaylie had a difficult relationship with her mother.” And the characters of Danuvius born right there. Kaylie, anyone who read your novel and read my story would see that the novel influenced my story. The characters are completely different from the ones in Anger Meridian, with different lives and backgrounds but they share difficult relationships that, in the case of Danuvius, survive through the phone.
After that I traveled to New York Mills, Minnesota, where I was awarded an artist residence. There I wrote the story that I workshopped later in one of the classes with John Reed to whom I’m very grateful and whose sense of practicality I wish I had. Of course, I got very valuable feedback from Holly Rice who was the first person who read the complete draft before submitting to a workshop. I’m also very grateful also to Samuel Ferri who read the story, made comments and challenged me to research on issues like artificial intelligence, stores set-ups, and the creation of voice. I couldn’t write convincingly on the issues related to artificial intelligence without the help of another friend of mine, Aaron Freimark who is a computer geek. Finally, my friend Nan Frydland who was Kaylie’s student and my classmate had been a great support. She’s now an ESL teacher, and she gave feedback with my grammar and language usage and, as I told her, I’m her ‘winning pig’. One of the persons who read the final draft was Emma Komlos-Hrobsky from Tin House who encouraged me to submit it to different publications. I’m very grateful to all of them for their comments and pieces of advice.
Since the story was born during that summer lunch, I’m dedicating the story to you both. I’m very grateful for the faith that you have deposited in me, and thank you again for putting out your teachings, your stories. I hope they continue inspiring many others. It would be great if you can meet one day and share a nice lunch in Woodstock, perhaps.
Finally, the story has a humorous touch, but the other day I read it, and I ended up in tears. I had a beautiful relationship with my mother. We had some difficulties, but we sort them out with a lot of laughs. My memory of the relationship with my mother is like watching one of those classic movies that we never get tired of. Danuvius Application, though, has allowed me to understand the tenderness, the sensitivity of those who haven’t had a similar experience. I’m very fortunate, and sometimes I think that I should answer the phone more often because it may be you calling me.
The challenge in writing anything that smacks of memoir, I think, is to avoid making the material so much about me that even I wouldn’t want to read it. You have to step away. Thus the seeing-eye me. The seeing-eye me, a kind of avatar if you will, is just independent enough to look both ways—at the action and at the guy sitting at the bar eavesdropping on the action (and sometimes at the guy eavesdropping on the guy sitting at the bar). The seeing-eye me is just thoughtful enough, I think, to draw some conclusions from so much eavesdropping.
I wrote Salute! as part of a book of travel and food essays from thirty years of mostly business travel. Food appeals to me, food and stories, but risotto in particular. My journals are full of recipes, scenes, people, places, situations, exaggerations, lies, character sketches, experiments, even some dialog.
I am a poet. I publish pretty regularly and I’m pretty serious about being a poet. Until recently, I’ve only dabbled in narrative, especially non-fiction narrative. Dabbling doesn’t get you very far when you need to make sense of things. Only narrative structured out of character, dialogue, scene, pacing and flow, description, denouement, resolution etc, will take you to the sense of things you’re trying to get to. And in my case, risottos I’ve known around the world and the people I’ve known them with are part and parcel of the sense of things. Poetry doesn’t do that, at least mine doesn’t. (Can’t imagine, yet, a poem about a risotto.)
After a decade of political activism in the 60s (FSM, SNCC, etc) I taught English at Wayne State University in Detroit for seven years. Then I found myself collecting unemployment while ghostwriting testimonials for a weight loss clinic run by scam artists weirder than anyone I ever met in the Haight-Ashbury. In 1987 I was invited by a successful Jewish businessman in Detroit to start a literary journal. There was no interview with Dr Lutz. The job came entirely through the recommendation of a friend, a Holocaust scholar at UM-Dearborn, working for Dr Lutz designing a course for teaching the Holocaust in high schools. Witness was not the usual literary journal. No university standing behind it, no staff of MFA graduate students in creative writing to help out, no Departmental review boards, etc. I was working solo, with complete freedom. If I had to create the right working conditions for reading 2500 submissions a year with a little drink, some dope, or an NFL game on TV in the background, then so be it. It’s always more chaotic on the editor’s side of the desk than anyone on the outside imagines, so rejection should not be taken personally. Still, over 20 years Witness won over a dozen grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and four of its special issues (The Sixties, On Nature’s Terms, Sports in America, and The Best of Witness) were reissued as books from university presses.
I’m the author of The Art of Survival, a collection of literary essays on Babel, Hemingway, Kafka, and Conrad. My fiction, poetry, non-fiction and journalism have been published in many places, including The Iowa Review, Boulevard, The Gettysburg Review, North American Review, The Antioch Review, Crazyhorse, The Threepenny Review, Sport Literate, The New York Times, and Harold Bloom’s Modern Critical Views.
Often I dont know what direction my words will follow until Im tumbling down one path that leads to another path that leads to another then ends just as unexpectedly as it began. The first line exists as a leak that either flows or seals itself, a sentence leading to paragraphs or to the backspace key. If it went unrecognized, the first sentence to this piece, essentially, mimics a lyric from a Nirvana song they covered by The Vaselines. I had, at that time, listened to the MTV Unplugged Nirvana set more than once, the song popped into my head as I sat looking at a blank page and a cursor blinking steadily more mockingly, and hundreds of words later, finished. But, though the pathway may wind unpredictable and crooked, not long after beginning does it start to follow a vague yet discernible trajectory. The theme, if there is one, or two, would have something to do with being present. And spending our finite time with consideration. After accounting for time spent sleeping and fulfilling the other necessities of modern existence, we arent left with much time to do as we like. Does this mean we should just attach ourselves vaguely to the outside world whenever we perform obligations? I say we assign equal value to the commute to work as we do to the birth of a child. When we can begin to witness the wonder hiding within every day, then no longer will we have to wait for something better tomorrow.
Writing is something, as of recent, I try to perform each day. Maybe Ill just stare at my computer for an hour then close it after having composed nothing, maybe Ill write a couple dozen words then become distracted by my phone long enough to lose my train of thought and end up closing my laptop, or maybe, maybe Ill put down that first thought where, during some almost manic frenzy, idea after idea seems to appear like they shouldve been there all along. I really have not a clue how the process works inside this black box of mine but Im thankful when it does, even if I write something that will never be read by anyone else.
I don't have an extensive list of publications that I wish to flash although I have been published by Salt Hill Journal.
KARINA ELIZA RODRIGUEZ
I wrote this in my Algebra II class. Besides minorly coming up with the idea prior to this I had not thought about it at all. That day in class I felt a sudden need to write about how my life is and why it is important to value the moments that you experience as a child because they shape who you are.
As a child I valued every moment my family spent together and never even realized that we were a “broken family”.
Throughout my moments of anger, hope, love, despair, and restoration, I write in order to pass along my stories for the sake of others. To speak is to express your mind, to write is to open your heart. I believe there is nothing more intimate than opening up to someone. Writing is the print of that intimacy and I value it with my whole heart. I believe in the power to move someone with words. There is no greater love that can be spread from any part of the earth and to more people than writing can. My goal as a writer is to let people know that they are not alone in their struggles and that they are loved, inevitably and unconditionally, just as my parents have taught me.