“Today’s prompt (optional, as always) is based onthis poemby Claire Wahmanholm, which transforms the natural world into an unsettled dream-place. One way it does this is by asking questions – literally. The poem not only contains questions, but ends on a question. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that similarly resists closure by ending on a question, inviting the reader to continue the process of reading (and, in some ways, writing) the poem even after the poem ends.”
It began with a letter. The clunk of the mailman’s shoes as he delivered a letter sealed with scarlet. Genevieve snatched the letter from her mailbox. Her hands trembled. The writing of the address seemed masculine. It curved without order or neatness. The fact that a male could handwrite these days surprised her.
“Perhaps he’s an older man?” She shrugged and slit the letter. The name on the envelope wasn’t one Genevieve recognized. She did not believe its sender was ‘actually’ ‘John Smith.’ She rolled her eyes.
Genevieve slid three folded cream pages from the envelope and straightened them. The first page had a tiny emblem in the corner. She wasn’t sure what it meant. A ‘J’ with a squiggle looped over and down from the top of the ‘J’ to form a tiny ‘S’ beneath it. The third letter was a ‘T’ that she realized matched the wax seal.
‘John Smith’s’ writing began without greetings. Genevieve read a few sentences and discovered the letter was penned to someone called Moose.
“I’m not Moose, and I don’t know anyone with that nickname.” She struggled to read ‘John’s’ handwriting. After a bit, she set down the first page. Moose was involved in serious business.
She threw her coat and purse on the floor. She’d only returned from work a minute before the envelope arrived. She groaned. “Why C/O Genevieve O’Connor?” But no one answered, as she knew they wouldn’t.
Genevieve pinched the bridge of her nose. “Shower and food. Then, I’ll read more.” She gathered clean clothes and pondered the letter under the shower’s spray. After a half hour, she dressed and heated left-over Ravioli.
She grabbed a cozy blanket from a linen closet and flipped over page one of the letter Genevieve swore under her breath. Damn illegible handwriting. Can’t you print like a normal person?
She padded back to her room to towel dry her hair and to comb through some mousse. Then, she reclined on her sofa, gathering her blanket as she deciphered ‘John’s’ letter. She shivered despite her hot shower, and couldn’t help the feeling that something about this letter was amiss.
That’s how it Genevieve became lost in the forest, and ended up at a summer cottage closed for the fall. Her body trembled and she couldn’t stand the dirt, blood, and other forest offerings on her skin. The only place to wash was a large kitchen sink. There was no shower, so Genevieve stuffed the cabin’s broken window pane with a blanket and stripped.
She couldn’t get rid of the tang of blood or acrid dirt. It made her nauseous. She scrubbed her skin raw, and poured more dish soap on her hair. She stepped out of the sink careful not to slip. As she rinsed her hair, evidence of the past few days whirled down the drain.
She was tired of being alone. She yelled at the absent John Smith. He’d helped her only once before. “You’ve a lot of explaining, John.”His name was a sneer. “I’m tired of this game. I never knew Moose. I don’t know why I’m his contact: let me be, and tell your gun-totting buddies too.”
Her voice echoed in the cottage, and she was alone except for the howling mountain’s winds; its paradoxical breezes made her headache throb. Gentle winds mixed with gusts causing the windows to clammer.
Genevieve scrambled through kitchen drawers until she found the Advil. Swallowing two pills, she fell into bed. The sheets were lavender-scented and the duvet warm. Who lived here? She didn’t know. Then, a hand swept across her forehead, and she mumbled thinking it was a dream.
“John?” Her voice was hoarse, and her hands reached, and gripped a muscled arm in flannel. Genevieve groaned as his fingers combed through her wet hair. His hand rested on her forehead.
“It is you.” The room was dark and only John’s outline was visible. She knew it was him by his scent. Fresh and masculine.
“You’ve a fever.” She rolled her eyes. Genevieve was mad.
“Drink this?” A red mug lowered to her mouth.
“What is it?”
“I’m not here to hurt you, Genevieve.”
“Such a liar.” He insisted she drink it, so she did. In-between sips she grumbled and tried to sit up. He pushed her down.
“It’s Neocitran. You’re sick and you need sleep.”
“I’m sick? Whose fault is that? After everything, now you show up?” Genevieve’s eyes closed as lethargy overcame her.
“Go away, John. I’ll figure this out alone. You complicate everything.”
He sighed. She opened her eyes as he rubbed his hands over watched his face, and through his two-day stubble.
“I didn’t mean to handle it this way. I didn’t know you’d never met your brother.” He combed through her hair once more.
It bothered Genevieve that things seemed less hopeless with John beside her. She wanted him to stay but knew he’d be gone by morning.
“Just leave, John.”
“Not a chance, Genna.” She thought she imagined his last words.
Allison arrived at the local coffee shop for her morning tea. Her duchshund, Peppy, trotted beside her. His ears stood alert as he waited for his morning treat. The coffee shop was also an independant tea shop. There were black teas, fruit teas, herbal teas, white teas, green teas, and all kinds of delicious tea blends.
When Allison asked the barista for a mango green tea, Trisha sighed. “Sorry, Allison. We’ve had to cut back on teas we serve. We only serve three unique kinds each day. Too much competition with David’s Tea.”
“Okay, what should I try?”
“How about the pineapple, squash, and blueberry fruit tea.”
“Not a fan of that mix, Trisha.”
“How about chocolate and marshmallow with asparagus?”
Allison closed her eyes for a moment. “Any Irish Breakfast tea with a twist of lemon? Or green tea with papaya?”
Trisha shook her head. “No, our tea selections are three exclusive flavors each day.”
Allison rubbed her eyes. “I’ll have a medium latte.”
“You don’t drink lattes,”
“Today I do.”
Trisha bent to give Peppy his treat. While Allison sat down, reading the paper and sipping her latte.
Then she felt as if she was going to throw up, spitting a mouthful of latte into her napkin.
Even the lattes had become exclusive. This one tasted like dirt.
Welcome back to my bi-weekly interview series. This week, I’m excited to share with you the creative, thoughtful, and accomplished writer Mark Reynolds. Please check-out his fantastic blog here: Coloring Outside the Lines.
1. Mark, Please Tell Us About Yourself?
Hello, I’m Mark Reynolds, a.k.a Coloring Outside the Lines. I live outside of Cleveland,Ohio on almost four acres of land with trees and gardens; the edge of a rural area. My Mom and Dad were from small farming towns in Western Ohio.
I’m a professional street-walker. Calling myself a Mailman sounds too boring. I’m also a traveler. I have the vacation time to find cheap flights to any place I want to go, South or West. I also play in the dirt or garden. I like to grow food and have flowers and plants everywhere. Having many gardening areas cuts down on running the lawn mower on grass. I’m a person who enjoys nature. We live with several critters such as birds, deer, turkeys, raccoons, foxes, and snakes. I play photographer once in awhile and I have plentyof photos of many creatures and all kinds of landscape.
2. When Did You Start Writing and Blogging?
Complicated question. I began writing as a freshman in College. I wrote short stories for awhile. I could do dream sequences well, but writing the dialogue and including substance in my short stories was difficult for me.
Then a couple decades or so later, I blew out my knee and was trapped on a couch for amonth with a leg brace; that was about a year and half ago. During this time, I started myblog cleverly with a web address ofAny1mark66. My blog changed after taking a WordPress Blogger University Course.
“I like to grow food and have flowers and plants everywhere. Having many gardening areas cuts down on running the lawn mower on grass. I’m a person who enjoys nature.” – Mark Reynolds
3. What Does Writing and Poetry Mean To You? Why Do You Write?
Writing is all about expression. Poetry for me is spontaneous writing. A stray thought orstring of words can be woven into an image. There’s a challenge to producing a particular feeling you can convey to others. The meaning of fiction for me….that’s personal!
Every fictional story should display a character gloriously flawed and have the ability to connect to the reader with something familiar, they can find in themselves or others. Real life connections are unique to each of us but if I can get a reader to buy in to the theme of my writing, than the reader can embrace my characters. Additionally, I write because it’s fun, and you can’t kill people in real life, but you can in a fictional story.
4. Where Do You Find Your Inspiration and Motivation to Write?
I participate in several writing challenges. I especially like to mix music with fantastic writing using the lyrics in songs.Nature is also always available for inspirational ideas. And those characters you can kill in writing are fascinating.There’s a quality to them and they inspire me to use different methods to explain why the die and how. Also, I have stray or random thoughts which keep giving me writing ideas. I use my spontaneouswriting when I write serial stories which can be built into bigger works of writing.
“Every fictional story should display a character gloriously flawed and have the ability to connect to the reader with something familiar, they can find in themselves or others. Real life connections are unique to each of us but if I can get a reader to buy in to the theme of my writing, than the reader can embrace my characters.” – Mark Reynolds
5. Do You Find There Is a Time Of Day You Most Like to Write? What Are Your Most Current Writing Projects?
I write at several different times in a day. Poetry is usually, a morning exercise. Flash fiction and stories are easier to write in the afternoon or evening.
I’m finishing up some of my fictional serial stories. I am doing a rewrite of the fairy tale: Little RedRiding Hood which I call: Beware of The Red Cape. In my version, Red is not the small innocent girl you read about in most fairy tales.
My other serial writing project is about a stalker. The stalking begins at a soccer practice and we’ll just say, hasn’t ended yet. Or, maybe it has? I’m not sure yet. I’m still working the serial story out.
I also have a serial story about a Granny whose ghost has become rather strange, a bit crazy. My Granny character has changed slightly as the serial has developed. My characters like to tell me how they wish to be viewed.
6. Have You Attempted To Publish Any of Your Writing? Or Are You Planning to Publish Writing In the Future? Can You Briefly Describe Your Current Publishing Process?
I have been waiting to hear from a group doing a collection of stories from writers with Amazon self-publishing. I have submitted several pieces to this group.I have heard back twice and generally been told, ‘We are not looking for this now but we may contact you in the future.’ So, still waiting unfortunately.
If I understand the process of self-publishing right, I may have professional editing done and have Amazon recommend cover art for my book. It will be in the form of an E-book. I’m not buying a bunch of hard copy books upfront; Amazon does offer demand printing if I wish to go that route in the future.
“And those characters you can kill in writing are fascinating.There’s a quality to them and they inspire me to use different methods to explain why the die and how. Also, I have stray or random thoughts which keep giving me writing ideas. I use my spontaneous writing when I write serial stories which can be built into bigger works of writing.” – Mark Reynolds
7. What Is Your Writing Process Like? Do You Prefer Certain Genres for Reading and Writing?
I suddenly, have an idea; I lose said idea. Then, my idea returns similar, but changed and slightly twisted. Next, I peck out my ideas on my phone or IPad. I prefer to write my entire story all at once. If I come back to the story, my thoughts may change. I want a certain feeling when I write and that’s hard to recapture at a later time if I leave it. I will, however, go back to my writing and play with some new ideas later. But these ideas often become new stories on their own.
My preferred areas of reading include science-fiction books, suspense books, horror books, historical reads, science books, and books on nature. Although I write poetry, I have never read much of it.
8. Do You Have Any Helpful Advice for Other Writers?
Forget what you think you know about writing and write outside the boundaries of yourdaily life. If you have to research a bit about a subject or place and learn its history, it builds a greater depth of feeling in your writing. Researching and visiting places to come up with new ideas, or more in-depth ideas, will give you a stronger voice in your writing.
Oh yeah, fail at what you want (to write or do in life) once in awhile. Failure teaches a person things; no one ever learnt much from doing something right all the time.
“If I come back to the story, my thoughts may change. I want a certain feeling when I write and that’s hard to recapture at a later time if I leave it. I will, however, go back to my writing and play with some new ideas later. But these ideas often become new stories on their own.” – Mark Reynolds
9. Is There Anything Else You’d Like to Share With Us About Yourself Or Your Writing?
I have a passion for spreading information on things such as the food we eat. We have terrible options for fresh food and for finding out what is actually in the food we eat from the supermarket.
Food labeling isn’t often correct and there should be laws to make the labels on the food a person buys truthful and clear. GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) are terrible for a person to ingest. You may disagree with me, but try dumping weed killer on your garden plants and eating them, its about the same. But of course it’s safe. Ask the people who made the weedkiller.
“A genetically modified organism (GMO) is any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques (i.e., a genetically engineered organism). GMOs are used to produce many medications and genetically modified foods and are widely used in scientific research and the production of other goods. . .
The Organic Consumers Association, and the Union of Concerned Scientists,and Greenpeace stated that risks have not been adequately identified and managed, and they have questioned the objectivity of regulatory authorities. Some health groups say there are unanswered questions regarding the potential long-term impact on human healthfrom food derived from GMOs, and propose mandatory labeling or a moratorium on such products.
Concerns include contamination of the non-genetically modified food supply,effects of GMOs on the environment and nature,the rigor of the regulatory process,and consolidation of control of the food supply in companies that make and sell GMOs,or concerns over the use of herbicides with glyphosate.” –Wikipedia: Genetically Modified Organisms
10. Can You Please Share Some of Your Favorite Pieces of Writing With Us.
“Jezzibelle! Jezzibelle! Where are you?” Mama calls out.
She washes her hands with lye soap as she looks out the open window. Mama is nervous about sending the girl off alone. She is of age now, but so easily swayed from her chores. Mama knows the family trait to do the easy gains runs deep in her. But Mama’s love can cure all ills. Her Mama told her the way to be. It’s that figure Jezzibelle is developing she is more concerned with.
Her own Mama has not responded to the traditional cures. Leaches have proved ineffective to her maladies. Herbal wraps have made her skin glow in the palest of white, lacking the rudiness of life. Charcoal chunks have pasted through her without taking the problem with them.
Mama shuffles through bottles of homemade wine. Dandelion wine, it’s pale yellow color and gentle flavor would be prefect for a picnic. Today it’s a message to get well. A smoked chunk of beef rests inside a burlap sack. Two half pieces of bread complete the basket. A single sage smudge stick wrapped inside kept out and bugs.
“Where is that girl? I shouldn’t trust her. My Mama isn’t getting better since Jezzibelle has taken over the role of care taker. I hope Jezzibelle isn’t a burden to her. Mama loves her so. The red cape of velvet came from her grandmother. It gave her a certain glow of vibrant womanhood at the young age. And I remember being that age….The day Derrick came to the farm…I could careless he was so much older. There are men waiting to get a hold of her. Her uncles tell me how much she would fetch us. Maybe the men know best. It’s a lot of money. She will need someone to keep her well.” Mama reflects on the regrets of life and what future her daughter will be strattled with.
“Mama, what is it. I was playing with Mindy’s dog. He’s so cute. I wish we could have that dog. He keeps the ghastly beasts from the forest at bay. Please, could we get one! I really think it would be best. They haven’t lost a single chicken in months. And I would…” Jezzibelle tries to plead her case.
“Enough child! You know what I need from you. Take that basket to grandmother! She hasn’t been by. She still bed ridden. You must take care of her for me. I packed it well. It’s early. The field and woods will be cool. Make haste child. If it gets too warm the animals will smell the food. They will stalk you, and steal the food. Those ugly old wolves might hunt you too. Take your cape! Grandmother will only recognize you in it. Her vision was really poor last week.” Mama is nervous and shaking. “Don’t you snoop around her corners! She will hear you! She doesn’t like snoops. You may get her home one day.”
“Mama, I love grandmother. Will she be ok? I fear she’ll die. I’ll never have her long enough. I want her to know my babies. I don’t want to live there without her.” Jezzibelle kicks at her feet and tries to avoid her mother’s gaze.
“Stay on the path! Don’t stop to talk to anyone! There are strangers who might want this food or try to take you away. A pretty girl like you needs to be careful around strangers.” Mama warns her.
“You worry too much, Mama. I’ll be fine. I have seen a few people in my trips. They know me now. They will help me.” Jezzibelle puts her hand on Mama’s arm.
Mama looks at her with a mix of unsure feelings and hope. Her heart lends itself to worrying about one thing at a time.
Thank You so much Mark for the interview. It was great to read about your writingprocess, your inspirations, and your thoughts on writing and other topics. Here is one more link to Mark’s Blog:Coloring Outside The Lines
If you would like to be interviewed on my blog and share with other writers and bloggers about your writing and the process involved with how you write and how youpublish your work, you can reach-out to me on my Contact Page.