Archives for posts with tag: prose

Thank you to the 97 authors from 28 states and 9 countries who participated in our HOW TO Poetry and Prose Series, which ran from February 17 to April 18, 2021. We learned so much along the way! It was a great two-month journey! Many thanks to…

Lisa Alletson
Kathryn Almy
Paige L. Austin
Jaya Avendel
Janet Banks
Jane Baston
Laurel Benjamin
Nina Bennett
Robert Bensen
Penny Blackburn
Shelly Blankman
Mark Blickley
Rose Mary Boehm
Steve Bogdaniec
Elya Braden
Steven Bridenbaugh
Ranney Campbell
Jan Chronister
Tricia Marcella Cimera
Sara Clancy
Joe Cottonwood
Barbara Crary
Barbara Crooker
Jonathan Croose
Howard Richard Debs
Rafaella Del Bourgo
Julie A. Dickson
Dakota Donovan
Elizabeth Dunford
Barbara Eknoian
Scott Ferry
Jennifer Finstrom
Yvette Viets Flaten
Sue Mayfield Geiger
Ken Gierke
Laura Glenn
Catherine Gonick
Vince Gotera
Tina Hacker
Oz Hardwick
Stephanie L. Harper
Penny Harter
Jennifer Hernandez
Stephen Howarth
Mathias Jansson
Paul Jones
Allison B. Kelly
Lynne Kemen
Tricia Knoll
Paula J. Lambert
Joan Leotta
Anne Namatsi Lutomia
Marjorie Maddox
Mohini Malhotra
Shahé Mankerian
Betsy Mars
Carolyn Martin
Lindsey Martin-Bowen
Mary McCarthy
Fokkina McDonnell
Beth McDonough
Joan McNerney
Ed Meek
Lawrence Miles
Michael Minassian
Penelope Moffet
Lisa Molina
Leah Mueller
Lowell Murphree
Lylanne Musselman
Lillian Nećakov
Robbi Nester
Maria Nestorides
Cristina M. R. Norcross
Suzanne O’Connell
Robert Okaji
Jay Passer
Jon Pearson
Sara Lynne Puotinen
Patrick T. Reardon
Jeannie E. Roberts
Kerfe Roig
Dorothy O Rombo
Ed Ruzicka
Sheikha A.
Julia Klatt Singer
Massimo Soranzio
Carol A. Stephen
JC Sulzenko
Rebecca Surmont
Alarie Tennille
Richard Vargas
Julene Waffle
Sheila Wellehan
Kelley White
Graham Wood
Jonathan Yungkans

Photo by Chernetskaya, used by permission.

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 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

licensed Anupong Intawong
by Mary McCarthy

She knew death
Was always in the cards
Whether slow or sudden
The eventual outcome
Coming to us all
Knew it from the first
Days in training
Hands and mind learning
All the sorrows of the flesh
The ones we hope to cure
And those we can offer
No more than comfort
And she knew it never was
And never would be easy—
But now the cruel terms
Of this pandemic
Teach an even harder lesson
Forcing so many
To die among strangers
With no beloved face
No familiar voice
Or hand to hold
Without the chance to speak
One last time
Silenced by the machine
That breathes for them
Stealing all the words
They might have said
She is there for them
Day after day
Behind her mask and shield
Her gown and gloves
Her living heart
Taking on the burden
Of loss after loss
Bearing witness and comfort
In her hands
The last to see them
To touch and speak
To be with them
And forever
Remember all their names

PHOTO: Nurse wearing PPE. Photo by Anupong Intawong, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  I was recently in the hospital for Covid-19, and witnessed the nurses on the pandemic’s front line as they kept all the quarantine protocols in action, and were invariably kind through all the stresses of working on a ward with all patients in isolation, many critically ill, while they worked long shifts wearing layers of protective gear. For someone, like me, who had been a nurse, this pandemic carries a sense of solidarity and understanding for the front-line workers. I had to spend a (blessedly) brief time on the Covid unit of my local hospital when pneumonia made the simple act of breathing an exhausting struggle. I watched the nurses as they kept strict isolation with care and efficiency, putting on all the cumbrous gear every time they entered my room, stripping it all off when they left, being careful not to carry things from room to room, and yet being unfailingly kind, responsive, and observant. Their situation working in this environment reminded me of my own experiences when AIDS was something new and deadly that we knew very little about, and everyone worked with apprehension as well as dedication and determination to give the best care and be the best advocate for the patient, who was also frightened, and often without much real family support.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary McCarthy spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. She is also a writer whose work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, and has an electronic chapbook,  Things I Was Told Not to Think About, available as a free download from Praxis magazine.

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Being Blank
by Leslie Sittner

I was born bald. Mother’s joy was chipped. My blue-green eyes and cherubic face would have to do. I was adored anyway. When carroty downy fuzz began to cover my head, then proper baby hair in waves made shampooing and styling necessary, Mother’s joy mended; her plate was full.

Father and Grandmother owned red hair; dark, thick, with frizzy curls. Plus dark red eyebrows. I wore the more common redhead characteristics of pale skin, freckles, white-haired eyebrows and eyelashes. Mother worried throughout my childhood when this didn’t change; my face was blank. Puberty tested Mother’s patience; eyebrows and eyelashes had to match the hair, define my face. She instructed me to mascara the brows with the tiny Maybelline brush; never use an eyebrow pencil on the skin―it looks fake. Spit in the mascara cake, scrub the brush into the pasty color, apply gently, accurately, to the hair only. The eyelashes were easier. My face no longer blank; I did look defined, complete, almost pretty.

Over time the daily process became easier with mascara wands, more natural color choices, waterproof for water wear. I’ve done this for 65 years. It’s second nature. It’s automatic. I never leave home blank-faced. Recently, while wearing the required protective COVID mask in public, it occurred to me that I’ve been wearing a vanity mask since I was 10 years old. Revelation! At first I continued to color the brows and lashes, because after all, that’s what you see above the mask. Yesterday, sweaty, grungy, and tired from gardening in the afternoon sun, I said “what the heck” and walked the dog in public with the mask over my blank face. Neighbors knew me. No one made a “what the?” face or snarky comment.

I may finally be free of one of my masks.

PAINTING: “Young Girl Reading”  by Federico Zandomeneghi (1841-1917).


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As I’ve aged, I’ve managed to fracture all the rules I said I’d never break when I retired. Never wear sweat pants in public. Never grocery shop during lunch hour because seniors prefer that time and take forever, preventing getting back to work on time. Always wear earrings and eye make-up, etc., etc. Sadly, sweatpants (or worse), midday shopping, and, now, blankface are normal. Earrings are annoying to wear with a face mask…


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Sittner’s print works are available in The Apple Tree by Third Age Press (2016 -17-18-19-21), Adirondack Life Magazine, BraVa anthology, and read on NPR. Online poems and prose reside at unearthed, Silver Birch Press, 101Words, 50 Word Challenge, 50 Word Stories, Epic Protest Poems, and Adirondack Center for Writing. A collection of essays about European travels with her ex-husband in the late 1960s awaits publishing. Leslie is currently editing the memoir written by her ancient dog and compiling her own book of haiku with photographs.


My Most Memorable Mask
by Janet Banks

I’d expected to ride a camel into the Sahara wearing my well-worn hiking hat, but when the young Moroccan driver caught sight of my rectangular scarf, he grabbed the hat from my hands and tossed it in the trunk of his car.

In less than a minute, he took the gauzy turquoise material that I’d used to cover my head when visiting religious sites, and conjured me a headdress to match his own: my hair, neck, nose and mouth totally covered. Totally protected. “Much better,” he said.

Without a mirror, I fingered the results — there were no knots. “Will it stay put?” Our guide, Mohammad, stood nearby, watching.

“Perfect,” he said, smiling.

The small group of tourists and my husband were already astride their camels. My headdress, a traditional Berber-style tagelmust, was a cross between a veil and a turban. With help from a guide, I hoisted myself on to the waiting camel’s back and held on tight as he pitched forward to stand on four spindly legs. The camels moved forward; as riders, we rocked along with their gait. The wrap allowed me to see the world and breathe comfortably, the perfect shield against the endless expanse of blowing sand. I imagined the caravans of traders who for centuries traveled the routes between the exotic cities of Fez and Marrakesh and Sub-Saharan Africa, and tried to appreciate the dangers, the challenges they faced.

Today, I simply loop elastic around my ears to hold in place the masks I wear to walk in my Boston neighborhood. There is no beauty or grace in these masks, just necessity. My aqua scarf is tucked away now, a reminder of the beauty of the Sahara and of a time when we were free to explore the world without fear.

PHOTO: Desert Tented Camp east of Erfoud, Morocco, near the Erg Chebbi Dunes in the Sahara, March 2018.  (The tour company was Abercrombie & Kent.)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I haven’t left my condo without wearing a mask since beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. I miss seeing the smiling faces of neighbors and strangers, but, unlike the desert sand, the virus is invisible. Wearing a mask is the least I can do to protect myself and others.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Janet Banks is a writer who is exploring memories from her youth as well as the joys and challenges of aging in real time. Her personal essays have been published by The Rumpus, Entropy Magazine, WBUR’s Cognoscenti, Silver Birch Press, and Persimmon Tree, among other on-line sites. Shortly after retiring from a corporate career, she was published in the Harvard Business Review and contributed commentary regarding career development to numerous publications.

Italian Masks
By Terrence Sykes

After numerous trips to Italy it was determined I should buy a Carnival mask . . . the calli in Venice are laden with storefronts galore to buy marbled paper & masks . . . one even if you never have any intention of attending Carnevale before the Lenten season . . . after visiting the ones noted in our travel guide & making my selection & purchase . . . carrying that shopping bag with the large nose protruding . . . left me unmasked as a tourist

Most times in Italy I am maskless when I fool people into believing I am someone I’m not . . . researching & growing heirloom vegetables is a hobby of mine and I stop at every place that sells seeds . . . on this occasion we were in the middle of nowhere in Emilia-Romagna in this little store and as we paid for the seeds . . . the clerk reminded us it was time to plant them . . . my husband told him we weren’t from here . . . Oh you must be from the Veneto! Must have been that mask I bought in Venice

Another time we were visiting the Architectural Biennale in Venice . . . its grounds are in the Arsenale . . . a part of the city tourists only frequent to attend the Biennales . . . after seeing the exhibits for the day . . . we slowly meandered though empty narrow side streets and decided to stop for an afternoon espresso . . . two pale-skinned Americans entered a dark empty bar . . . my husband ordered our drinks with Italian precision . . . as she sat our drinks before us she was puzzled and softly spoke . . . Oh you ARE Italian . . . you must be from the Trentino

I wore that Pulcinella mask every New Year’s Eve dinner party for years . . . then one night around midnight an errant water pitcher transmuted it back to papier-mâché . . . leaving me maskless once again

PHOTO: “Window of a mask shop in Venice, Italy” by Sheila Sund (2006).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My initial concept was the time I went to a gay Halloween party . . . maskless . . . as an intellectual straight man . . . but thought this angle would be more interesting . . . I adore Italy and especially Venice . . . a tourist destination since they stole the bones of St Mark all those centuries ago.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Although Terrence Sykes is a far better gardener-forager-cook . . . his poetry — photography — flash fiction have been published in Bangladesh, Canada, Ireland, India,  Mauritius, Pakistan, Scotland, Spain, and the USA . . . he was born and raised in the rural coal mining area of Virginia and this  isolation brings the theme of remembrance to his creations — whether real or imagined.

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Swing Sets Were Never Essential
by Joseph Johnston

In my mask I’m dismantling a swing set. It was once steel but is now rust and I’ve counted many times around the sun since any kids have laughed amidst this rubble.

I was proud as a sneak-thief when I bought this swing set. I’d leveraged everything I had in the middle of the Great Recession to move my family out of danger and into better opportunity. A faker the whole way. But I did it, wearing an invisible mask to fit in and play the part and act out the game for the creditors.

Two hundred bucks available on the last credit card of my Great Recession Mask and I plopped it on the counter of the Toys R Us and said “I’ll take the HappyFunScape. WITH the optional five-foot slide.” It was the evening before we moved, and I stayed up all night putting it together so my kids would see it first thing and know we’d arrived. Two swings and a see-saw and a plastic slide + a yard big enough for it to rust = deliverance. That was the cold equation then. Fake it, and perhaps make it.

Now it’s the Great Pandemic and there is no equation and the mask is visible and uncomfortable. I can’t see and I can’t breathe and I’m sawing through swing set rust because I need the money.

In my mask I’m not concerned with tetanus. I’m concerned with scrapyard policies and viral load. Will they be wearing masks? Is there a scrapyard workers union? Is it as powerful as the gravediggers union? Will their droplets become mine, or my droplets theirs?

I think I prefer the pretend masks of yore. At least the phony intangibles were controllable. Swing sets were never essential, but lungs are.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For me, the most bizarre aspect of the pandemic is the masking of faces. That’s something our culture, however that can be defined, usually reserves for Halloween and Mardi Gras. In other cultures they’ve always been far more ubiquitous, so it’s strange to see them all over the place now. It’s good, but it’s frustrating to know now that if we’d been utilizing them in February things might look a lot more positive today. It’s even more frustrating that they’ve now taken on symbolic political meaning. Something so simple as a tool to prevent the spread of disease shouldn’t carry political weight. Hand-washing isn’t political; masks shouldn’t be either. I have a vision of a post-pandemic future where the clever masks we made to help prevent the spread of the virus are sewn into scrapbooks or quilts, mementos of a most bizarre time. My story is an attempt to relate the physical masks of the present with the pretend masks we sometimes wear out in society.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Writer and filmmaker Joseph Johnston made his first movie at the age of 11, an industrial espionage thriller that continues to play to excited crowds in his parents’ living room every Christmas. His prose, poetry, and video literature have appeared in Atticus Review, Matador Review, and Iron Horse Literary Review. He currently resides in Michigan, where he is working on a feature-length play about a dystopic suburban road rally.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to the 118 writers from around the world who participated in our MY FRONT DOOR Poetry & Prose Series, which ran from March 18-May 20, 2020.

Many thanks to the following authors for taking us through their doorways — and helping us feel connected during these challenging days.

Suzanne Allen
Cynthia Anderson
Alicia Austen
Jane Berg
Alice Venessa Bever
Shelly Blankman
Rosemary Boehm
Steve Bogdaniec
Anne Born
Nancy Brewka-Clark
Gregory Brooks
Kelsey Bryan-Zwick
Charis Buckingham
Karyl Carmignani
Patricia Carney
Jan Chronister
Tricia Marcella Cimera
Joan Colby
Clive Collins
A.S. Coomer
Joe Cottonwood
Neil Creighton
Isobel Cunningham
Michelle D’costa
Subhankar Das
Michelle Davies-Brown
Howard Richard Debs
Ashini J. Desai
Steven Deutsch
Julie A. Dickson
Katherine Edgren
Joseph A. Farina
Vern Fein
Jennifer Finstrom
Lourdes A. Gautier
Midge Goldberg
Vince Gotera
Vijaya Gowrisankar
Uma Gowrishankar
Anita Haas
Tina Hacker
Mark Andrew Heathcote
Jennifer Hernandez
Veronica Hosking
Stephen Howarth
Temidayo Jacob
Andrew Jeter
P M F Johnson
Joseph Johnston
James Ross Kelly
Phyllis Klein
Tricia Knoll
Laurie Kolp
Judy Kronenfeld
Jennifer Lagier
Mary Langer Thompson
Barbara Leonhard
Joan Leotta
Laurinda Lind
Rick Lupert
Tamara Madison
Shahé Mankerian
Ruthie Marlenée
Betsy Mars
Lindsey Martin-Bowen
Devika Mathur
Mary McCarthy
Daniel McGinn
Linda McKenney
Alice Morris
Leah Mueller
Priyanka Mukherjee
Robbi Nester
Maria Nestorides
Cristina M.R. Norcross
Carolyn O’Connell
Robert O’Mochain
Erin Parker
Martha Patterson
Apoorva B. Raj
Patrick T. Reardon
Kevin Ridgeway
Belinda Rimmer
Jeannie E. Roberts
Mary Rohrer-Dann
Kerfe Roig
Alexis Rotella
Sarah Russell
Kimberly Sailor
d.r. sanchez
Wilderness Sarchild
Jame Schwartz
Shloka Shankar
Sheikha A
Kashiana Singh
Leslie Sitter
Massimo Soranzio
Carol A. Stephen
Robert Strickland
Lesley Strutt
Jacque Stukowski
MK Sturdevant
JC Sulzenko
Debi Swim
Terrence Sykes
Jo Taylor
Alarie Tennille
Thomas R. Thomas
Wren Valentino
Alan Walowitz
Dylan Ward
Lisa Lerma Weber
Elaine Wesson
Kelley White
Lynn White
Lin Whitehouse
Kim Whysall-Hammond
Jonathan Yungkans
Joanie HF Zosike

Please check out our current call for submissions at the link below:

WEARING A MASK Poetry & Prose Series (May 31, 2020 deadline)

Photo of house in Palm Springs, California, by Don Stouder on Unsplash.

Haas door
A B-Movie Birthday
by Anita Haas

I listen at my front door — dare not open it nowadays. Once-friendly neighbors watch for infractions. Leave only for food or medicine. Always alone. Masks, gloves, shopping trolley, distance. Cross over the road. Look away.

Stories of chivatos (tattlers) and “balcony police” abound online.

Has he been caught? Fined? Would they say his errand wasn’t “essential”? Several thousand euros would be a lot to pay for a birthday cake.

Stories of power-hungry cops and soldiers abound online.

At last I hear footsteps on the stairs — elevator buttons not safe. I open the door a crack and super-hubby slips in, panting. “We are living a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers!” I giggle “Yes, The Curse of Covid-19!” “Felicidades, cariño! Your cake!” He presents it to me proudly. “Gracias! My hero! Quick! Mask off! Wash your hands!” I spray alcohol over the parcels, relieved.

Stories of infection and death abound online.

Eyes lined, lashes lengthened, hair curled, careful not to show the roots. Chic top and earrings, track pants and slippers. Our backs shun the front door, the same one we opened wide to welcome last year’s guests. We grin into the phone, me holding the cake and he the selfie-stick. We bet on the number of likes we’ll get. Confined but connected!

Happy birthday stories abound online.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When this whole craziness began, I knew, as a writer, that I wanted to capture the fear, the uncertainty, and the hilarity that we were all experiencing. Madrid, at this point is still one of the hardest hit places, with most residents strictly confined to small apartments. My little birthday celebration and the front door theme helped tie it all together.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anita Haas is a differently abled, Canadian writer and teacher based in Madrid, Spain. She has published books on film, two novelettes, a short story collection, and articles, poems, and fiction in both English and Spanish. Publications where her work has appeared  include Falling Star Magazine, Poetry Quarterly, Tulane Magazine, Literary Brushstrokes, and Adelaide Magazine. She spends her free time enjoying tapas, flamenco, and B-movies with her husband and two cats.