Archives for posts with tag: writing #2



Story by Thom Kudla

…I was 18 when I noticed my first gray hair. Actually, it wasn’t me that noticed. My girlfriend, my high school sweetheart at the time – she noticed that gray hair. That single gray hair wandering from the center of my scalp, as if aware of the wars fought inside my mind, sought refuge in the escape toward the sun. We laid there, our eyes entranced with that shining orb’s setting motion in all its variegated splendor, and she brushed her petite hands through my hair. She always loved how soft my hair was, “for a guy.” We lay there, watching that sun sink deeper toward the earth, and we talked about many things – I discussed my parents’ impending divorce; she told me about how happy her parents were together. I mentioned how sad I can get sometimes; she said she smiles whenever she feels that mood strike her, and it changes everything. Then she found it – that gray hair.

“You’ve already got a gray hair,” she said, her dimpled smile and light voice hiding her judgment. “You work too hard. You stress too much. Someone your age shouldn’t have gray hairs.”

I laughed it off and kissed her. I kissed it away, all my fears about being too serious or being too sad or being too dysfunctional or not being enough for her or being too much for her. I kissed it away. She reciprocated my kisses in innocent pecks, naïve to the reality of where those gray hairs came from. She thought she knew. But I knew better.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Thom Kudla is an accomplished author and poet  from Chicagoland. He has written a variety of books, including the novel Confessions of an American (2005), a nonfiction book What My Brain Told Me — finalist in the 2009 National Indie Excellence Awards — and a poetry collection entitled Commencement.

NOTE: “This Gray Hair Means Something” a 1,000-word story by Thom Kudla will appear in the upcoming Silver Birch Press release Silver: An Eclectic Anthology of Poetry & Prose (available November 15, 2012).


On Writing by Stephen King is my very favorite book about the craft of writing.

Filled with insider stories and practical advice, this engaging memoir should have a permanent spot on every writer’s desk!

I was going to write “highly” recommended, but figured I’d better avoid an adverb (see quotation below) — instead,  I’ll say “5 Stars!”

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” STEPHEN KING, On Writing

Available at — where the book has garnered over 800  five-star reviews!

Here are a few more quotes from the book:

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” 

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” 

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.” 

“In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.” 

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” 

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” 

“You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.” 


I’ve read The Writing Life by Annie Dillard several times — and sometimes just pick it up and read a few sections. The book is Dillard’s memoir about her life as a writer and includes her musings about the craft.

Here is my favorite passage (I actually woke up today thinking about this quote): “One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better.” 

Find the book at



story by Joan Jobe Smith

A jet airliner flew overhead, a golden rod in the setting sun, getting the hell out of town while a full moon came rising like no other, just like every moon ever born is like no other moon before and that particular moon was the L.A. Watts Riots Silvery Moon, and it stared down at us with grand magnificent indifference and satisfaction for being faraway from the pyromaniacal crowd that was riot-making L.A.

 “Wow –” Mick panted, patting his chest to calm himself, as the hot August 12, 1965, sun dropped behind the Pacific Palisades to the west of us and the sky turned royal blue and the horizon turned magenta, then blood red, the smoke from the riots’ fires baking one of the most spectacular sunsets I’d ever see. Los Angeles can be so beautiful if, when, it is. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  JOAN JOBE SMITH, founding editor of PEARL and Bukowski Review, worked for seven years as a go-go dancer before receiving her B.A. from CSULB and MFA from UCI. A Pushcart Honoree, her award-winning work has appeared internationally in more than 500 publications, including OUTLAW BIBLE, Ambit, Beat Scene, Wormwood Review, and Nerve Cowboy – and she has published 20 collections, including Jehovah Jukebox (Event Horizon Press, US) and The Pow Wow Cafe (The Poetry Business, UK), finalist for the UK 1999 Forward Prize. In July 2012, with her husband, poet Fred Voss, she did her sixth reading tour of England (debuting at the 1991 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival), featured at the Humber Mouth Literature Festival in Hull. In September 2012, Silver Birch Press will publish her literary profile: Charles Bukowski Epic Glottis: His Art & His Women (& me), and later in the year, World Parade Books will release her memoir TALES OF AN ANCIENT GO-GO GIRL.

NOTE: “By the Light of a Silvery Watts Riots Moon,” a 2,000-word creative nonfiction story by Joan Jobe Smith will appear in the upcoming Silver Birch Press release Silver: An Eclectic Anthology of Poetry & Prose (available November 15, 2012).


Some years back, I wrote a children’s novel that featured a girl named Anna, a dog named Otto, and lots of wordplay — as evidenced by the main characters’ names, spelled the same backward and forward. In the book, Anna, an amnesiac, sets out with Otto to learn her identity — and along the way meets a range of unusual characters and encounters a variety of wacky situations.

For a time, I shopped Anna & Otto to publishers in New York and received positive response (but no offers). One editor compared the novel’s emphasis on language to the wordplay found in The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster — a book (shame on me) that I had never read.

That day, I visited my local Border’s (RIP) and purchased a copy of The Phantom Tollbooth, a novel first published in 1961. I went home and read the book in one giant gulp — a huge smile on my face the whole time.

Excerpt from The Phantom Tollbooth: “In this box are all the words I know…Most of them you will never need, some you will use constantly, but with them you may ask all the questions which have never been answered and answer all the questions which have never been asked. All the great books of the past and all the ones yet to come are made with these words. With them there is no obstacle you cannot overcome. All you must learn to do is to use them well and in the right places.” 

The book’s jacket copy advises, “Readers of all ages will find much wit and wisdom in Norton Juster’s beguiling, offbeat fantasy about a boy named Milo…[who] meets some of the most logically illogical characters ever met on this side or that side of reality, including King Azaz the Unabridged, unhappy ruler of Dictionopolis.”

The New York Times gave The Phantom Tollbooth a rave, noting: “Most books advertised for ‘readers of all ages’ fail to keep their promise. But Norton Juster’s amazing fantasy has something wonderful for anybody old enough to relish the allegorical wisdom of Alice in Wonderland and the pointed whimsy of The Wizard of Oz.” 

Now whenever I see a copy of The Phantom Tollbooth in one of my used-book haunts, I snap it up — and pass it  on to someone I know would love this marvel of a book. (I’ll admit that I don’t often find The Phantom Tollbooth at thrift stores — people hang onto their copies of this brilliant novel.) Highly recommended! A Must Read! 


Illustration: The cover illustration is by Jules Feiffer, whose witty, spot-on drawings fill the 256-page book (Knopf hardcover edition). At left is Feiffer’s drawing of the Terrible Trivium, “…demon of petty tasks and worthless jobs, ogre of wasted effort, and monster of habit.” 


This post is for people who really love books, especially WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak

“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and a drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, ‘Dear Jim: I loved your card.’ Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, ‘Jim loved your card so much he ate it.’ That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.” MAURICE SENDAK


And to celebrate the free spirit of Maurice Sendak, we include in this post another entry in The Cecilia Prize, a contest that honors the creativity of the average everyday “restorer” — named in honor of Cecilia Gimenez, the  amateur art restorer who has gained international fame for her unsolicited restoration of “Ecce Homo,” a fresco on the wall of her church in Borja, Spain. This entry, “Ecce Sendak,” is by Twitter @dairoberts.