Fiction: Looking at Pictures

Issue 1.2

by Janet Mason

(May, 1926)

Tina looked at the image in front of her and wished she still had her camera.

She was walking along the deepwater port looking into the hold of a ship that had backed up to the cement pier. She could see both levels. Initially she assumed that first class was on the top and that steerage was down below.  Then she noticed that the people below were almost all women and children.  They looked like immigrants from Europe wrapped in their drab shawls and holding their squalling infants.  None of them looked up.

On the top level, in what looked like first class, men in their bowler hats waited for the sailors to open the gang plank that in a few minutes would be secured on the dock.  To the left a man with a banded panama hat bent forward over the rope railing. He looked like he was lighting a pipe or cigar. He was going to smoke while he waited.  The top of his white straw hat against the brim formed a circle within a circle.

Between the two levels of steerage and first class, a plank ran diagonally through the scene.  Behind the plank, a wide metal chimney came up from the floor of the ship bottom in steerage behind a woman huddled with two children. The effect of the line of the chimney cutting behind the plank made a triangular space in the upper part of the ship where the men and their bowler hats stood.  To the right, the plank and the chimney framed the women and children in the bottom of the boat.  The horizontal line of the second floor and the stairs on the low right leading to the second floor of the ship further divided the image into another triangular space.

Tina recognized that the scene in front of her was as cubist as a Picasso or Braque. It was as mesmerizing as Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase.”  It was the perfect image.  The women in steerage, with shawls wrapped around their heads and shoulders, looked like they were from the old world.  Even the young ones stooped slightly.  They were probably Germans — maybe from Bavaria.  The men too – in their dark caps and bowler hats – looked German. They were European immigrants who had come to Mexico to flee persecution, to be with family (for there were so many Germans living here), to find work.  Tina grimaced.  If they were coming to find work, they were in for a surprise.

Maybe instead they would find the Mexican Communist Party – like she had, like Diego and Frida had, like everyone Tina was fleeing.  She wouldn’t miss them though – Frida and Diego.  She wanted to put them as far out of her mind as possible.  She would miss the Party.  It had become her life. She never thought about leaving her beloved Mexico, her sunny country filled with romance and tropical fruits.

But then she had met Peggy and she convinced Tina to return with her to Europe.  So Tina sold her camera and bought her passage on the RMS Alcantara.

Peggy was right.  Tina would find more opportunities for her photography in Europe.  But she would miss the land, the people, the Mexican Communist Party.  She would miss Frida. No!  Frida was the reason she was leaving.  The thought made her look away from the scene she had been hungering for.  It wouldn’t be right anyway.  The men in the caps and bowler hats looked indifferent.  They were just waiting to come to a new country.  They wouldn’t care if they were photographed.  But the women were different.  Most had shawls wrapped around their heads but not all.  One had her fuzzy head exposed.  They probably had been at sea for weeks — and Tina knew how women felt about fixing their hair. Plus, they had children with them.  The women would most likely not want to be photographed.

Tina ran down the walkway and reached the gangplank at the end of the dock to the liner, just as Peggy called to her from aboard the ship.

“I thought I had lost you,” she yelled to Tina.

“I’ll wait for you up here and then we can find our rooms.”

Tina threw back her shoulders as she stepped up her walk.


Janet Mason is an award-winning creative writer, teacher, and blogger for The Huffington Post. Her radio commentary airs worldwide on This Way Out, the LGBT news syndicated based in Los Angeles. Her book, Tea Leaves: a Memoir of Mothers and Daughters (Bella Books, 2012), was chosen by the American Library Association for its 2013 Over the Rainbow List and also received a Goldie Award. Janet’s short stories have appeared in many literary journals including the Brooklyn Review, Sinister Wisdom, and Aaduna. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Poetry: Space Toys

by Dom Fonce

 

If hands were to play,
I’d hope they
Touched
Neon colored plastic arms,
That broke incessantly.

And if they grew up
‘Round ’94,
I’d hope they’d be
A Pulp Fiction kid,
Instead of
A Forrest Gump.

If those hands now
Hold cigarettes,
I’d hope it due
To too many books read—
Too much knowledge gained—
And not depression.

I’d hope you’d
Hate
The Star Wars prequels.

I’d hope you’d
Hold
2001: A Space Odyssey
As religious text.

And when your hands
Grew,
I’d hope they
Type great otherworldly
Stories.

And, if not,
I’d hope you’d at least
Imagine the day away.
If not,
I’d hope you’d either
Set your space toys
Aflame,
Or pass them down
Sacrosanctly.

And if not even that,
Do not touch
The space toys.

 

Dom Fonce is an English Lit major at Youngstown State University. He is on the editorial staff for the Penguin Review and Jenny Magazine. He has had poetry, fiction, and journalism published in Sequart Organization, Scriggler.com (recently named a Scriggler All Star), Section 8 Magazine, and the Jambar. He will have his first comic published by Unearthly Comics in 2016.
 Image: Space Invader – Hoxton Square, Advers.com

Writer Realities #7

https://www.flickr.com/photos/derricksphotos/829680595/in/photolist-2gjk8R-5GMYHE-4QzWnz-7fgviN-ekHbtN-j1MDAG-k2e11x-6jLBxM-ajmari-bsHhYH-7NeGE1-amyCyA-7wyRvk-62nyxw-nvP4nb-acbosd-nSndsm-r3zNCd-363Kas-UQ71-bR6upD-rbQoyd-9zjpEM-bQctWv-86AZzD-adjFdH-8ksirr-7NUJ82-bxozPJ-bBFix2-8jUCyx-boLoqA-dex2Xy-9F1YYf-ejuZVD-bWaG75-gnyakN-dhbiNj-dLB8qW-dLvAwR-ng5p5V-a7m2Uu-cT2gTE-ejuZRD-a6igbY-8ksira-nHNxw1-rw8Xvh-ejAGGW-ejuZ3DIt’s well known that artists are likely to starve until they become successful. But I bet you didn’t know that the majority of writers who aren’t in journalism have a day job. With the exception of Stephen King (who shall be named the messiah of the modern novel), most novelists are also professors. So don’t count out the possibility that you will still have to keep a full time job when you publish your first novel.

 

A good example of this phenomenon are two of my professors who both have published several commercial novels. One of them is becoming wildly successful at his work, and yet he still chooses to have a university position. Go figure!

Where you publish and why

Where your work is published matters. Period. Anyone who tells you differently is wrong.

With the prominence of media and self-publishing as options, it can be daunting to know exactly where to publish your work. There are a few easy rules to remember.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fdecomite/13286300615/in/photolist-mf4Lhx-7jZBWR-5P2CM3-8FwebZ-7jZZmD-97MiLa-4FqsHc-7k4jpY-bfMnnH-4nWSbL-5rWWgQ-bfMroH-bfMrhF-bfMr98-bfMnGx-bfMnzg-4R5XJ6-8c98Zt-4nWX27-7Fro7M-7JC4aQ-5Bi5dm-9vLKKU-4nB7pz-bPNSi8-64mivm-jhdng6-dBoANf-7dRG2d-7rnmaB-cMZGLd-4nSVjM-6eiQnd-6RPgM-aFniJR-4nSSYp-7JC6xs-7JC8ZY-8wt9E-9dAQEM-92Bik-g8yzPk-8RyKy2-4nGiyw-9gcxvv-5aE3Yr-a26aqX-4nGhYL-9TePEB-8Qt9W3
Discover Magazine April 2014

Self Publishing

This is when you pay for your book to be printed on paper and bound together into a book. This is also when you pay to have your text published in an online form such as an eBook. Any form of publishing which you do not pay to appear on the page yourself is not self publishing.

1. Don’t self publish if you intend to be the next Stephen King.

2. Self publishing can be done by anyone anywhere.

3. No publisher means little or no marketing. It also means poor distribution.

4. No agent could mean no one to guide your writing to the proper form.

5. No editor means that you may produce a piece of work with several errors.

6. Paying for your own work to be printed isn’t a career.

7. Be wary. Self publishing is for those who want a personal accomplishment not a professional one.

Online Publishing

1. This included blogs, website, etc.

2. Publishing online without a strong company behind you (like Time) can be risky.

3. Anything online can be immediately distributed.

4. Serious offers may not want to publish your work if they know it is already online somewhere.

5. Online publishing is a great way to get your opinion out. It is also a great way to break into journalism or to become a critic.

Publishing Houses

1.These exist for a reason. Because they are a business and have made money for a very long time.

2. Publishers have the funding to market your work.

3. They also have the funding to pay you.

4. This is the route most commercial authors go – with an agent sometimes included.

5. They have professional editing services.

6. They are willing to work with you to craft your work if you are already someone they feel has promise.

7. Their interest is an investment in you.

8. Having a finished piece is best to present to a publisher.

Agents

This isn’t a publishing avenue, but agents are important.

1. They have special relationships with publishers.

2. They understand the legal aspects of a contract – or they’re supposed to at least.

3. They only make money if you make money – and if they ask for anything otherwise, walk away.

 

A better reason to read in order to write

There are several phrases that have become writer mantras. I could skip meditation all together and “om” myself with them into sleepy bliss. I’ve heard them so many times, they almost don’t mean anything to me anymore. Today, I had a revelation about one such phrase.

In order to be a good writer, you must read a lot.

I was reading The White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty when this phrase came to mind, and I realized how true it was. However, previously, I had thought that reading meant reading for the words on the page. Reading was a way to analyze how others had managed to create compelling stories. It was a mathematical way to separate a formula from plot. It was everything that writing is not.

For most of us, writing is feeling. It isn’t done because we have to. It’s done because we want to. Therefor, I say that instead of quantifying your reading experience by deducing the various equations that make up your chosen genre, qualify your reading by how it makes you feel. Read something you enjoy, and do it every day. This exercises your imagination, which is the tool that got you into this authorial mess to begin with.

With the imagination and creative excitement you felt when you first picked up the pen, perhaps you will become the writer you wish to be.