Archives for category: HOW TO

How to dance the flamenco
by Sue Mayfield Geiger

Browse resale shops and buy a pair of castanets or spurge for the authentic ones, hand-painted; made in Spain.
If you can’t find a traje de gitana (flamenco outfit), a ruffly skirt will do.
A long-sleeved lacy top is appropriate, but not necessary.
Do not wear tap shoes; flamenco shoes are made with nails hammered into the heels and toes of the soles.
The headgear is important: A red carnation or decorative peineta (comb).
A pericón (Spanish fan).
Bold ruby-red lipstick.
Download Cajón (drum) and flamenco guitar music.
Start out with slow, concise movements, gradually moving your feet in a stomping motion until the music accelerates into 6/8 time. Wave your arms and hands like you are telling a story.
There are many YouTube videos to get you started. Or…

If you cannot gather the above, just drape yourself in wildly colored scarves, listen to a recording of guitarist Paco de Lucía as he strums a wicked gypsy melody, raise both arms high above your head and vigorously play your air castanets. Olé!

PHOTO: Flamenco dancer by Iatya Prunkova, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As a young girl, I saw my first performance of flamenco dancers on the Ed Sullivan Show viewed on a tiny (and fuzzy) black and white television. I was mesmerized and fascinated. Years later, while attending “Fiesta” in San Antonio, Texas, I wandered down a side street along the river and heard gypsy guitar music, tambourines, and a loud-clapping sound. After several jaunts through back alleys, down some concrete steps and onto an old cobblestone street, an “off-off-Fiesta” of sorts was taking place in an area only known to locals. A small audience was sitting on benches or draped across sidewalks as ten or so dancers dressed in vibrant colors were stomping and swaying to drums and guitars. My mind went back to that black and white performance I’d seen on television. I watched as they danced the flamenco with intensity, and their souls were on fire. So was mine. Later, I would learn that the flamenco dance originated in southern Spain centuries ago, but much of the true origin is debatable since many of the details are lost in history. The dance itself is mainly associated with the pain of love and love in all its aspects. Their songs often translate into something like, “I’ve seen a man live with more than a hundred knife wounds, and then I saw him die from a single dance.” After that night in San Antonio, I made it a point to see flamenco troupes whenever they were appearing on stage. So, during the pandemic, I danced my heart out, listening to Spanish guitars while smothered in the only makeshift costumes I could find.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sue Mayfield Geiger is a writer, singer, and model living on the Texas Gulf Coast. When not writing about home décor, fashion, or a new restaurant opening, she reads and writes poetry. Her literary publications include Grayson Books, RiverLit, Dos Gatos Press, The Binnacle (U of Maine), Of Burgers and Barrooms (Main Street Rag), Red Wolf Journal, Waco WordFest Anthology, Perfume River Poetry, THEMA, Silver Birch Press, and forthcoming in Odes and Elegies: Eco poetry from the Gulf Coast, and others. Visit her on Instagram @LovieSue and @Beyond70ish.

How to Treat a Muse, Partly
by Lawrence Miles

Lose the muse in a pile of dirty laundry
Walk the earth in search of another
Perhaps at the nearest Salvation Army
Or the seventh floor of the Hotel Chelsea
Where the gray New York City night
Turns into a Robert Mitchum film
Powered by the glow of the smoked cigarette
Doused by the first snowfall in over two decades

Amuse the muse at the local bar
Where the forty-somethings gather to celebrate
The last moment of their skin-color dominance
While you write vignettes about each and every patron
Tagging the female bartender as a lost angel
Listening to train after train after train roar by
Asking if you both can leap onto the next one
Hearing her laugh at your foolhardy soul

Fuse the muse with the heart
Thank your higher being for her existence
Bless the blues and whites and velvet crimsons of the day
Buy your muse a dozen roses
Take your muse out to dinner
Share a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge at midnight
Give your muse a great big kiss and a hug
For though she deserves so much more it is a good place to start

IMAGE: Muse by Sergei Parajanov (1967).


Lawrence Miles lives in White Plains, NY.  His work can be sampled on Instagram and on YouTube.

How to Write a Poem in 2021
by Carol A. Stephen

Ten a.m. Sit at your desk, assemble writing tools.
Start computer. Don’t write yet. First,
check fourteen emails and five unrelated subject links.

Time for coffee, tea if you prefer.
Sit at your desk. Play two computer games.
Make it three. Oh, just one more for luck.

Search computer for a prompt. Send an email
telling your friend how you have writer’s block.
Bathroom break. Sit at your desk.

Make a list of words to include in a poem.
Ten words. Strike out five. Add another ten.
Lunch break.

Sit at your desk. Read through other poets’ poems
for inspiration. Gaze out the window, check the weather.
Write a line.

Aha! We’re getting somewhere! But— it’s now 5 p.m.
Spend 15 minutes writing. Sign your poem.
Done for today.

PAINTING: Writing by Zhang Xiaogang (2005).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Writing on the computer is often fraught with rabbit holes and distractions. What I start out to write first thing in the morning may not see the light of day ‘til it’s almost time to call it a day. During the pandemic, this has intensified, as the uncertainty of day-to-day isolation draws down energy and initiative at times.

Carol A. StephenENHANCED

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol A. Stephen poetry appears in Poetry Is Dead, June 2017 and numerous print publications, including Wintergreen Studios chapbooks, Sound Me When I’m Done, and Teasing the Tongue. Online poems appear at Silver Birch Press, Topology Magazine, The Light Ekphrastic, and With Painted Words. Carol won Third prize in the CAA National Capital Writing Contest, and was featured in Tree’s Hot Ottawa Voices. She served on the board for Canadian Authors Association-NCR and co-directed Ottawa’s Tree Reading Series. Carol has five chapbooks, two released in 2018: Unhook, catkin press, Carleton Place, and Lost Silence of the Small, Local Gems Press, Long Island, New York  In 2019, Winning the Lottery, Surviving Clostridium Difficile was published by Crowe Currently, she is working on the manuscript for her first full poetry collection.

How to submit a piece of prose
by Maria Nestorides

Submissions are open.

Great news. This is going to be your best submission yet. You rub your hands in glee and crack your knuckles in anticipation.

Double-check the submission date.

Excellent. You have plenty of time, and all sorts of wonderful ideas swimming around in your head that you’d love to write about. You’ve got this.

Settle on one idea.

Yes, that’s the one. You can hear the words in your head. They flow perfectly, one word connecting with the next in a colourful necklace of thoughts and experiences. Quickly! Get it onto paper before you forget. Start typing, fast.

Surely, that’s not how it went?

Start deleting.

Try again.

No, no, no! That’s not at all what you wanted to say. It just doesn’t seem to flow, and it doesn’t feel right in your bones.

In your mind’s eye, dramatically throw the A4 piece of paper into the bin. (Just delete the bloody word file.)

Proceed to delete everything you write as soon as you write it.

Rub your temples with your fingers, hoping this will help with your inspiration (and ease your throbbing headache).

Abandon all hope—and your computer—and mutter something to yourself about having to let this submission call go by.

Continue to fume at yourself and try not to look at the computer (treacherous machine) for the next few days.

Wake up and realise that today is the last day for submissions.

Will you, or won’t you? Give up, or persevere?

Reluctantly, turn your computer back on.

The title for the submission you had originally started, blinks up at you with puppy dog eyes, pleading for a final chance.

Inspiration finally hits you and your piece is finished in ten minutes flat.


Wonder when the next call for submissions will be.

PAINTING: Untitled by Keith Haring (1982).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maria Nestorides lives in sunny Cyprus. She is married and has two adult children. She has an MA in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University and an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her short stories have appeared in Silver Birch Press, The Sunlight Press, The Story Shack, Inkitt  and she has also contributed a six-word memoir to the book Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak: by Writers Famous and Obscure, by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser (Jan 6, 2009). You can visit her on Facebook and Twitter.

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How to Make Friends (and leave a trail of crumbs)
by Julia Klatt Singer

Start with a bag of all-purpose flour, some kosher salt, room temperature water.
Mix these with a whisk on your desk, then add the sourdough starter your mother
sent with you back to college. To this college you transferred to, after a year in one
you loved, but so much farther away. Where you were before the pandemic.
Where making friends was as easy as opening your dorm room door, despite
being in Iowa and a tiny college, in a tinier town.

Let the dough rise overnight. Then carry it to the kitchen in the lidded pan
that was your great-grandmother’s. The one she gave to your mother when
she moved into her first apartment. The dough now shaped, it rises again
in a steamy oven. Say hello to the woman you pass in the hall. Say
I’m making bread, when she asks. When Simon from the room next to yours
asks when it will be done, tell him, he will know. He will smell it baking.

When it comes out of the oven, and you and Simon realize you don’t have a knife,
Three other students will go on the search for one. A small group of you now
In the kitchen, you open the peanut butter and jelly and find two spoons.
A small plastic knife is found and you stab it into the loaf, right after taking
a picture of the bread with your phone and sending it to your mother.
Ten minutes later you send her another photo, the bread now, just a heel
and crumbs.

PAINTING: The Basket of Bread by Salvador Dali (1926).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: How to write a How-to Poem . . . Start by thinking about all the things you’ve learned how to do since the pandemic started. How to think about time differently, notice how the light is changing and that you are too. Try to embrace technology, see how it connects you, or a part of you, with the world. Recognize how you have always watched the birds and trees for clues to resilience and beauty. Think about what gives you wings.  Think about where you fly. Start baking bread. Like your mother did when you were a girl. Not the same breads, but bread. Make two loaves and give one away each time you bake. Drop the bread on a neighbor’s porch and drive it across town. Show your son how easy it is to make. Send back starter with him, when he returns to college, mostly because you’ll know he’s eating that way, caring for himself, but also because he enjoys making things with his hands. And when he calls and says thank you, Mom, for sending the starter back with me, I’m meeting so many people by baking bread, realize that this is how to write a poem. Give it time. Let it form and then share it, let it be devoured.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julia Klatt Singer is the poet-in-residence at Grace Nursery School. She is co-author of Twelve Branches: Stories from St. Paul (Coffee House Press), author of In the Dreamed of Places, (Naissance Press), A Tangled Path to HeavenUntranslatable, (North Star Press), and her most recent chapbook, Elemental (Prolific Press). Audio poems from Elemental are at OpenKim, as the element Sp.  She’s co-written numerous songs with composers Craig Carnahan, Jocelyn Hagen, and Tim Takach.

still-life-with-cookies john stuart ingle
Presbyterian Cookies
by Penelope Moffet

First be born into
a Presbyterian family
or be born again
or just find yourself
a red-jacketed cookbook
printed 60 years ago.
Turn to page 60.
You do not need to be 60
or prone to finding
meaning in numbers
or Julia Child.
You may be a child
or a teen or a surly
young woman or
doddering saint.
Little depends on this.
Little depends on having
all the ingredients
or following instructions
as they are written but
don’t skimp on butter or sugar
or you will regret it
the rest of your days
which may be few
or many
or none at all,
your mouth full of sawdust.

PAINTING: Still Life with Cookies by John Stuart Ingle (late 20th century).

recipe 1

cookbook 1

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: During my high school and college years, my family lived in Placentia, California, where both of my parents were very involved with Placentia Presbyterian Church. I was, too, even teaching Sunday school to very small children, until I abruptly lost my faith midway through college. I did not, however, lose faith in the church’s cookbooks. I make these oatmeal-raisin-walnut cookies about once a month, frequently messing with the recipe—egg whites instead of whole eggs, half the sugar and half the margarine the recipe calls for, etc. One of these days I’ll use cranberries instead of raisins and try gluten-free flour. The oat bran isn’t essential. I almost never use it because I almost never have any around. You can substitute a couple of ripe bananas for the sugar. That’s pretty good. But don’t leave out all the fat (e.g., margarine, butter) and sweetener.

PHOTOS: Old-Fashioned Oat Cookie Recipe (above, center) and cover of Placentia Presbyterian Church recipe book, Galley Goodies (above, right). 


Penelope Moffet is the author of two chapbooks, most recently It Isn’t That They Mean to Kill You (Arroyo Seco Press, 2018). She works for a small law firm in Los Angeles, takes lots of solitary walks, and is entertained by two rambunctious cats.

maya moody licensed
How to Give a Hug
by Howard Richard Debs

It’s been forever
since we did it.
Today my twin
became teenagers.
Last time I saw
them in person,
it was their grandma’s
turn to have a birthday
I won’t tell which one.
Let’s just say she was not
yet a teen herself
when Bill Haley &
His Comets hit number one
with “Rock Around the Clock”
and Twinkies had been
packed in school lunchboxes
for a pretty good while before
she came along.
Her birthday this time around
coincided with a year’s
worth of pandemic,
still keeping us apart,
from family, friends, those
dear to us, the ones we love.
So on that occasion
we only saw the twins briefly
masked and social distanced
on our driveway; one of them
baked a cake which we rationed,
savored for quite a while,
sweet pieces of recollection
of how it used to be.
I read an article about
all this, it states that touch
is the only sense crucial
to humans’ survival.
This day, with our CDC
vaccination cards filed
carefully away, out of practice
for sure, we reached
with arms wide encircling
each child pressing them
close, holding them as if
we would never let them go.

PHOTO ART: Hugs and Kisses Banner by Maya Moody, used by permission.

Debs1 a special hug

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Some things seem instinctive, natural. Until you can’t do that thing, until it is precluded, taken away. Then you have to in a sense relearn it. I try in my writing to call attention to that which is mostly not fully acknowledged about common and ordinary things we do. That even the elemental act of a hug is built layer upon layer of what comes to make it special. The physical act itself is accompanied in the back of our mind maybe with the remnant of the taste of a birthday cake, a fondly remembered bite of a Twinkie from long ago perhaps, a recollection of dancing with someone in our life to a favorite song many years before. Touching is certainly one thing essential to our being human. Many of us surely more fully recognize how important this and other kinds of human interactions are out of the sad experience of this pandemic; hopefully, we will not soon forget what we have come to better appreciate, what we have learned about what really matters during this unprecedented time.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me hugging the twins, now teens; it will always be a special hug for me, on a special day for them.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Howard Richard Debs is a recipient of the 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Award. His essays, fiction, and poetry appear internationally in numerous publications. His photography is featured in select publications, including in Rattle online as “Ekphrastic Challenge” artist and guest editor. His book Gallery: A Collection of Pictures and Words (Scarlet Leaf Publishing), is the recipient of a 2017 Best Book Award and 2018 Book Excellence Award. His latest work Political ( is a nominee for the 2021 Eric Hoffer Awards. He is co-editor of New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust, forthcoming in later 2021 from Vallentine Mitchell of London, publisher of the first English language edition of the diary of Anne Frank. He is listed in the Poets & Writers Directory.

conceptual motion licensed
How to Do It All
by Paige L. Austin

You wake up to your alarm at 6:30 a.m. after three hours of sleep, your head spinning with everything that needs to get done. Chores, deadlines, errands, school projects pass in front of your mind’s eye while you brush your teeth and check your email on your phone. You walk out of your bedroom with a full laundry basket and let the dog out back, drop the clothes by the garage door, and grab a protein drink from the fridge while you feed the cats meowing after you, put away clean dishes while you mentally prepare for your first staff meeting of the morning. You put the laundry into the washer on your way to your home office. The floor needs to be vacuumed today. You sit down at your desk and turn on both computers. It’s 6:45 a.m.

The kids wake up at 7 a.m., and by then you’ve cleared out your inbox and have a plan, detailed and soothing in an Excel spreadsheet you maintain for just this purpose. You pause your work life to help your husband get the boys ready for school, grabbing the older one’s bag while you chase the one-year-old around the living room to get a shirt on him. He is half-naked and shrieking-gleeful about it. His joy is the highlight of your morning at 7:15 a.m.

You have 20 minutes of complete silence while your husband takes the boys to school. You wash your face and get dressed properly, play a mindless level of Soda Crush in defiance of the day ahead, take a deep breath, and jump back into the fray.

You make a doctor’s appointment while moving between your bathroom and your office. You order groceries while you wait for your meeting to start.

It’s 7:59 a.m.

PHOTO: Spinning plates by Conceptual Motion, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As a working mother, I feel very keenly the pressure to succeed at everything, to “do it all.” The truth, of course, is that it’s an impossible task and only sets you up to fail over and over again—but that doesn’t stop me or any other working mother I know from trying anyway, often to the point of utter exhaustion. The above is taken right from a typical start to my day.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paige L. Austin is a professional magazine editor with a Master’s degree in writing and publishing who has recently returned to the creative writing fold. Visit her on Instagram and at

flying gull espen sundve
How to learn to fly
by Mathias Jansson

Throw yourself to the ground
and miss
Create an anti-gravity space
in your backyard
Transplant a pair of wings
from a pterosaur
Be born by parents
that are birds and can fly
Study for a year
and take a flight certificate
Or take the hard way
close your eyes and use your imagination.

PHOTO: Escaping from Alcatraz by Espen Sundve, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I started to think what I wanted to learn. And I wanted to learn to how to fly, but biological humans cannot fly by their own, so the task is impossible. The poem is about an impossible dream, but even if we cannot fly we can use our imagination to work around the problem and find new solutions to problems that seems impossible and against our natural boundaries.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mathias Jansson is a Swedish art critic and poet. He has contributed with poetry to different magazines and anthologies as Maintenant 8, 10 & 11: A Journal of Contemporary Dada. He has contributed to anthologies from Silver Birch Press and other publishers. Visit him at 

lost parrot nancy l. stockdale
Morning Ritual
by Jonathan Yungkans

Open the front door at six a.m. See if the dead still stir. They never keep to a regular schedule.

Swallow hard to move sinus pain from skull. Keep swallowing. Eventually, it might work.

Walk into bathroom. Splash face and back of neck with cold water. Whatever you do, don’t breathe. Gasp for oxygen, your face buried in a towel, once you’ve finished.

Do not notice the dead, laughing.

Make coffee. Two rounded scoops of grounds, three cups water, and who knows how much gravel from ancient water pipes.

Close eyes. Thank God the neighbors are quiet. They dragged trashcans along their driveway, dropped boxes from their second-floor balcony—all of this well after midnight. Hopefully, not even the dead are up over there. Purple nightshade twists through chain link, the fence one solid bloom; the vine has wrapped itself around the plum tree in a backyard shotgun wedding.

Pour coffee. Take it black. Sip. Feel tiny gravestones down your throat.

Notice seven large parrots perched on a line between two phone poles. Their feathers glow green, brighter than money.

Fill large salad bowl with Cheerios. Add milk. Shovel mechanically into mouth.

Do not notice the parrots are now shiny black, look more like falcons.

Ingest two pills of sanity—one nightshade purple, one bleached bone—and a multivitamin, just in case you should live so long as to enjoy that sanity, whenever it might come—you’re pretty sure it’s not going to be today. The pills feel like larger chunks of gravestone going down.

Do not count the parrots. Do not notice there are only five now, or the two large splatter patterns below them, like when liquid-filled balloons are dropped from high above.

Drink more coffee. Keep drinking. There is only so much solace in the world.

Previously appeared in The Chachalaca Review, Vol. 5 (Fall 2019)

PHOTO: Lost Conure, Tarzan by Nancy L. Stockdale, used by permission. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is how to get through the morning on days I have to force one foot in front of the other. This happens a lot more often than I let on. The weights of depression and unreal expectations for myself can be crushing in themselves. Together, they become almost unbearable. Thank God for coffee.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who earned an MFA from California State University, Long Beach, while working as an in-home health-care provider. His work has appeared in San Pedro Poetry Review, Synkroniciti, West Texas Literary Review, and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and is upcoming from Tebor Bach Publishing.