Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pushcart Prize Nomination

Every year, editors of literary journals are invited to nominate six pieces for the prestigious Pushcart Prize. A slim collection’s worth are chosen to appear in that year’s Pushcart Prize, Best of the Small Presses. As the editor of Whiskey Island Magazine, I looked forward to this holding up of what I thought was the finest work submitted to us. Taken together, the nominations have to be an excellent slice of what’s being written exactly now. The lesser known journals are championing emerging writers and our experienced voices are nominated by the powerhouse publications in the literary landscape.

I’m honored that my poem “Later We Read Toby Tyler” is among this year’s nominees. Editors Mark Webb and Molly McCormack included this poem for the inaugural issue of their journal A Narrow Fellow, the name taken from an Emily Dickinson poem about a snake, “A narrow fellow in the grass.” I met Mark Webb at the Summer Institute writing workshop at West Virginia University a few years ago, a hard-working poet who cares so much about his craft. No surprise this journal has hit the ground running, a first-rate publication with several tremendously experienced poets, and I’m grateful to be included.

Here’s an excerpt of the poem, based on a day at the circus with my young son. I thank my family members for their willingness to see our stories in poems, without any certificate for historical veracity.  We did read Toby Tyler or Ten Weeks with a Circus (1960) by James Otis Kaler, about a small boy who runs away with the circus and befriends the monkey Mr. Stubbs. Thanks to my mom for putting so many books into my hands when I was a kid.
At the time I wrote this poem, I was reading the work of James Harms, a fine poet whose work I admire, also a Narrow Fellow Pushcart nominee this year.

Later We Read Toby Tyler

And the stakes being pulled from the ground, they whoosh like a screen door settling shut.

Lee jumped up and ran–easy from the front row–
laughed and glanced back over his shoulder. I yelled

over the tinny band, big top full of parents, hundreds
of kids on bleachers that must have crisscrossed the Midwest.

Maybe it smelled like popcorn or hay and he wasn’t listening
anyway, just racing forward on those little blue sneakers,

laughing and looking back, heading toward the gaping opening
elephants and horses burst through.

As the Pushcart Prize nominations go out, it feels like a celebration of writing, itself. It’s a great community to be a part of.   

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Youngstown Cash Mob Gets a Jump on Holiday Gifts

How do you answer the question, “What’s a cash mob?” The name, itself, rode in on the Flash Mob wave, where orchestras or choruses would show up in unexpected places like a train station or mall to sing and dance and make people like me shed a tear over the goodness of humankind.

Where did the Cash Mob get its wings? Buffalo, of course! and the idea was also picked up in Cleveland, a kind of Hey! If we all do this together, it will really make an impact. So the name didn’t start here in Youngstown, but I admit I thought the Valley’s history of mob activity would make an amusing, reverse analogy. Instead of pumping money out of businesses, we pump it in! The way I explain it is that we’re a group of volunteers who support local businesses each month by visiting one and “mobbing” it with cash.

October’s business is Imagine That! Emporium, a consignment shop located inside The Valley Marketplace, the former Pat Catan’s on South Ave. This shop’s changing inventory includes art, photography, home décor, jewelry, accessories, candles, soaps & lotions, stuffed animals, and furniture. These items are original, hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind, printed, painted, sewn, drawn, specialized, repurposed, recycled, vintage, customized or personalized! A wonderful place to get a jump on your holiday gifts.

Youngstown Cash Mob
Sat. 26 Oct., 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
The Valley Marketplace
6121 South Ave., Boardman

Put your name on a yellow ticket to win a $25 gift certificate from Station Square! Thanks a million to the anonymous donor of this terrific prize.

For our November Cash Mob, we solicited nominations for a special event honoring non-profits in the Valley. The nominations were tremendous, filling us with gratitude for the hard-working people and organizations making our communities stronger. We congratulate The Bummer Fund for winning our November Cash Mob! Their mission is to provide “financial support to responsible pet owners in times of temporary medical crisis or emergency for a pet.” Consider making a donation in someone’s name: a thoughtful and meaningful gift. The Bummer Fund plans to host an event so we can learn more about their good work. Details forthcoming.

Our December Buy Local for the Holidays Cash Mob will take us to the year’s end. We’ve had another terrific year! I’ve enjoyed meeting many of you as well as the courageous, hard-working business owners in our neighborhoods. What locally-owned businesses will you visit soon? You might pick up your Halloween treats at Touch the Moon Candy Saloon. Or on a blustery night, warm your mood and feed your hunger on juke box oldies, ribs, stuffed hot peppers and sautéed greens at Niki’z Pub. Need something special for a holiday party? Try Rak’s Nearly New or the Encore Shop for affordable swank. Spruce up your hair and nails at Bang! Hair Studio. These are the businesses that diversify our economy and make our communities unique. And they are so much fun to support.

See you at Imagine That!

Cash mob: like flash mob, only the singing is optional.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Crustless Pear Pie

My friend recently became the caretaker of a farmhouse and I became the grateful recipient of a basketful of farm pears. They reminded me of the pear tree we had when I was a teenager. I didn’t know yet to appreciate tree-ripened fruit grown in my own backyard, without pesticides. I just knew I loved them.

So I got out a stack of pear recipes and the second one I hit on is wonderful. I clipped it from a magazine, where it's attributed to Eunice Gutbrod of Greenfield, Wisconsin. Thank you, Eunice.

The recipe says to make this in a 9” pie plate, but I made it in a hand-thrown casserole dish and it’s lovely. I got the almonds and butter from the new Amish Marketplace here in Youngstown. Mmmm, the butter is so buttery.

Crustless Pear Pie

4 c. sliced, peeled pears
½ c. sugar
1 T. cornstarch
¼ tsp. each cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg
2 T. chopped almonds
¾ c. flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¼ c. cold butter

Combine pears, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Transfer to baking dish.
Combine flour, brown sugar, baking power and salt; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over the top, then sprinkle with almonds. Bake at 350 for 40-45 min. or until golden.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Thanks, editors of Talking Writing

Happiness is having a poem in Talking Writing, a lovely, introspective journal. 

One of the highlights of living in Wisconsin was camping in the gorgeous state parks. It's a funny thing about camping, though—either it’s paradise or hell—owls, breezes, perfectly smoky-crisp chicken, or mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds and everything soaked.

The only time a child of mine broke a bone, we were in the northwoods, miles from nowhere.