4th Annual Writing Contest Anthology
June 2016
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Joan GelfandJoanBy Joan Gelfand (SF)
Annual Writing Contest Chair

Welcome to the 4th Annual Writing Contest Anthology of The Bookwoman. This year's contest was our most successful ever with 356 submissions from around the country. WNBA members and non-members alike sent their best work.
As the contest chair, it was wonderful to see so much varied and interesting work being created by writers of all ages. Death figured prominently in each of our first place winner's work--and in the subsequent winners as well. Death, that part of life we all must come to terms with, can also be a catalyst for catharsis, rebirth and renewal. I hope that you will be as inspired as I was.
The short fiction piece, "Chef," by Nina Smith tells the story of a recently widowed young woman who travels to France to meet her late husband's father. It is full of surprises, delights and catharsis.
In "Pilgrimage," winner in the Creative Non-Fiction, Wendy Brown-Baez ventures to a Benedictine monastery in New Mexico to help her unravel her grief at her son's untimely death.
"Before Making Love," first place in Poetry, by Gail Entrekin, peels away pretense as she relates with brutal honesty her anger at her dying husband.
Of course, 2nd, 3rd places and honorable mentions positions were also impressive. "The Ballerina and the Butcher," by Juliet Wittman, "Wife With Knife," by Molly Giles and "Home Movies" by Rochelle Distelheim in the fiction category; "Falsomagro" by Nadina LaSpina "On the Challenges of Not Reading on Planes or Decisions Born in the Dark" by Marie Chambers, and "Vera Sheets" by Rita Juster. In poetry, "Gold, labor and exotic materials," by Grace Grafton, "Mortgage," Nicole Eiden and "Gliding," Judy Bebelaar were all fabulous.  (Winning entries may viewed on our website:
The contest could not have succeeded without our trusty intern, Elaine Ruth Boe, and our team of early readers: Susan Larson, Nicole Ayers, Ann Benoit, Kristen Knox, Carol Dorf, Eva Schlesinger, Stephanie Koehler and Kim Lehman. 
And gratitude to our inimitable judges: Ann Harleman (fiction) Rosemary Daniel (memoir, creative non-fiction) and Mary Mackey (poetry). All judges are teachers, mentors and superb craftspeople in their own right. Look them up--look for their work and feel free to thank them for their hard work. Time is in short supply for all of us, which is why WNBA doubly appreciates the volunteer hours our members dedicate to making initiatives like this writing contest possible.
On January 15th, upon the close of this year's contest, a satisfying sigh echoed across the country because we had fulfilled our mission: to showcase and encourage emerging writers, and to build our funds for literacy programs around the globe.
A special shout-out to all participants who did not place in this year's contest: Everyone but first place winners is invited to submit again!
Thank you to all the other staff backstage who helped with the contest: The web team of Bebe Brechner and NC Weil; all the chapter presidents who spread the word to their chapters and communities, Penny Ann Makras for helping with social networking and publicity, and to Rhona Whitty and Nicole Ayers for creating this special anthology edition. Finally to Carin Siegfried who supported me along the way, sharing my excitement and joy.
It is our hope that you will read and enjoy our selections. Share information about this contest with your writer friends and on social networks, and help us spread the word about next year's contest--the submission period opens September 15th.
Joan Gelfand 
WNBA Writing Contest Chair
WNBA Development Chair
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By Joan Gelfand
By Nina Smith
"The Ballerina and the Butcher" 
By Juliet Wittman 
Third Place
"Wife with Knife"
By Molly Giles
"Home Movies" 
By Rochelle Distelheim   

"Before Making Love" 
By Gail Entrekin
"Gold, labor and exotic materials"
By Grace Grafton
By Nicole Eiden
By Judy Bebelaar
Creative Nonfiction/Memoir 
By Wendy Brown-Báez
By Nadina LaSpina
"On the Challenges of Not Reading in Planes or Decisions Born in the Dark"
By Marie Chambers
"Vera Sheets"
By Rita Juster
Important copyright information for contributors
WNBA's  Executive Officers
Carin Siegfried (Charlotte)

VP/President Elect
Jane Kinney-Denning (NYC)

Shannon Janeczek (Detroit)


Gloria Toler (Nashville) 


Past President
Valerie Tomaselli (NYC)  


For further information on the national board, chapter, presidents, committee chairs, please go to the WNBA website.

Friends of National Reading Group Month

ChefWinner -- Fiction
By Nina Smith

Nina Smith is a graduate of the University of South Carolina. A professional storyteller, she promotes literacy development in child care centers in Charleston, South Carolina. Appearing as Mother Goose, her audiences range from eighteen months to five years old; her literary choices are fairy tales and nursery rhymes. She is currently working on her first novel.

You may contact Nina at

Read the entire story here.
     The minute I set my baby blues on his chartreuse pants I know I'm looking at a genuine, bona fide character. But he cannot be my father-in-law, the man I just traveled over three thousand miles to see. There is not one thing about him that even closely resembles his son, Francois, the man I fell in love with.
     As he maneuvers his body, not much larger than my own, between the restaurant tables, my jet-lagged brain takes in his straw Fedora-style hat, his black-rimmed glasses, and his ear-to-ear smile.  My fingers tighten around the keys of the rented Peugeot as he advances toward me, a brilliant smile on his face and his arms wide, ready for an embrace.
     I take a quick step back and, over his shoulder on the art-covered wall behind him, spot an unusual creation. It is composed of a lavender mannequin leg with a furry toy mouse perched atop its big toe. Staring at it, I mentally scrounge through my dusty arsenal of college French, hoping to resurrect a gracious apology for wandering into this stranger's restaurant in spite of the closed sign in the window.
     I jump, half expecting the mouse to leap from the mannequin toe and scurry across the tiled floor when the man's voice bounces off the strange and brilliantly colored collection of art that covers the walls.
"Bonjour! Bonjour! Ah! My Francois chose a little bird. A lovely little bird."
     I clamp my jaws together to keep my mouth from falling open. This IS the right man, the father of my late husband. Barely late husband-- if I dig through the ashes in the silver urn, snugly seat-belted in the car out front, I most certainly could find a few still-warm spots.
     I attempt a smile until his fingers clamp down on my shoulders and he pulls me close. "Welcome to Provence," he says. Then his day-old beard, rough as a file, scrapes my cheeks when he kisses them. Three times.
     He pulls his head back and stares at me as if I am the special of the day. I stare at him, wondering if I will have permanent indentions when he finally removes his fingers from my flesh.
     "And my Francois, mon fils?" he says. "You bring him to his papa?"
     Oh my gosh. I glance over my shoulder to the bumper, the only visible part of the car through the restaurant window. He thinks Francois is still alive?
     "You go get him, oui? Bring Francois to his papa."
     Words fail me. So does my balance when he releases my shoulders. Having risen to my tiptoes in an effort to ease his grip, I now totter to one side, crashing my hip against the curly-cue back of a wrought iron chair.
The fingers of one of his hands find me again, this time my forearm, and he pulls me upright. "Ah! But what am I thinking? The little bird is tired. And so hungry." He wags his finger in my face, or more precisely, in both our faces, as we still stand almost nose-to-nose. Then his face falls and his voice takes on a note of sadness. "The-- how you say?" he frowns, "The ashes-- they wait. I cook for you." His smile returns and he kisses the fingertips of his free hand, then splays his fingers wide. "Something merveilleux! Something special for Francois' little bird."
     Fast thinking, never one of my fortes, abandons me completely. Or maybe it's just lack of oxygen from holding my breath against the grip he still has on my arm.
     "No, thank y--" I say to his nose, then stumble behind the chartreuse pants as he turns and pulls me between the tables toward the leg and mouse object d'art.
     "My art." He waves his free hand toward the wall. Francois told you, oui?" I could swear that the mouse grins at me from behind his whiskers as we pass.
     I am certain at least 50 percent of the use of my right arm has been compromised by his continued grasp and 50 percent of the use of my left shoulder by the swinging door slamming into it when he pulls me into his kitchen. Forget food. I need physical therapy.
    "Voilà," he announces and, in one fluid movement, pulls a stool from under a stainless table, sits me on it and, thank the Lord, releases my arm. He draws his eyebrows together and I stare at them over his glasses, thinking how they resemble unraveling Brillo pads, all curly and wiry.
      Chef pushes his hat back, holds his palms up and shrugs. "So. We cook what?"
     I search the kitchen, looking for the other half of "we." But nope. It's just the two of us. And if he thinks I know how to cook he is so mistaken.
     Then, with one hand on his hip and the forefinger of his other hand tapping his thin lips, he scans the kitchen as if seeing it for the first time.
     It's his thin lips that get to me, make me catch my breath and close my eyes. They are Francois' lips-- sensitive lips that had curled in sweet smiles when he knew he had pleased me. I only saw them if I remembered to look up at him, towering above me with his head cocked and his dark eyes shining.
     Chef's voice comes to me though the briny odor of raw shrimp. "You clean. Oui?"
     Overgrown shrimp stare, eye-level, at me from the  plate in chef's hand. I stare back at them and the panic in my eyes doesn't dissuade Chef one bit.
     "Ah." He raises his eyebrows. "I teach you."

Read the entire story here.
BeforeWinner -- Poetry
Before Making Love
By Gail Entrekin

Gail Rudd Entrekin, the poetry editor of Hip Pocket Press since 2000, edits the online environmental literary magazine, Canary. She is editor of the poetry anthology
Yuba Flows (2007) and the poetry & short fiction anthology
Sierra Songs Descants (2002).

Her books of poems are:
(with Charles Entrekin) (2016), Rearrangement of the Invisible (2012), Change (Will Do You Good) (2005), nominated for a Northern California Book Award,You Notice the Body (1998) and John Danced (1983).

Her poems have been widely published in anthologies and literary magazines, including Cimarron Review, Nimrod, Ohio Journal, and Southern Poetry Review.

You may contact Gail at

Finally, we tell the truth: how death's been
hovering at the door, muttering threats and banging
in the long night, how reason takes flight
like a circling falcon over its nest of flapping
fear, how you sometimes wander out into the ocean fog,
how I am so angry I cannot speak, that you
who took the vow, would drift down the beach
accept the icy water, leave me to lift the heavy boat
lock the oars, paddle the hard night, looking
for you; leave me to rake the sand,
build the park, martial the troops, while
you stand down there, your pant legs sloshing
in the water, smiling at the crows,
not helping, not helping at all
with the work of life, just because
you are leaving soon.  And I don't want
this version of myself.  I want to fall
adrift beside you, am terrified that I
will fall adrift beside you, that the two
of us will wade out into the cold
grey sea.  And I don't want this version
of you, timid and silent, waiting to be told
bumping along tipping and spilling the wine,
the vase, my words.  Nor this version of us
still in the same story but no longer
the protagonists, the lovers, the driving nexus
of the plot, only separate wanderers, rarely
found on the same page.  Give me back
the glittering scarf, the ready laughter,
the bodies that twine in the night.

PilgrimageWinner-- Creative Nonfiction/Memoir 
By Wendy Brown-Báez

Wendy Brown-Báez is a writer, teacher, performance poet, and installation artist. Wendy is the author of the poetry books Ceremonies of the Spirit and transparencies of light. She has published poetry and prose in numerous literary journals, including Borderlands, The Litchfield Review, Lavandería, Mizna, and Minnetonka Review, anthologies such as The Chrysalis Reader, Wising Up Press, and The Heart of All That Is and in online journals, such as Interfaithings and talkingwriting. Her article "Why We Write: The Wounded and Enduring" appeared in Poets & Writers July/August 2014 issue. Wendy was awarded McKnight and MN State Arts Board grants to teach writing workshops to youth in crisis and in nonprofits and teaches writing in prisons as a member of MN Prison Writing Workshop. 

You may contact Wendy at

Read the entire piece here.

     It is Thanksgiving and I am at the Christ in the Desert Monastery near Abiquiu, New Mexico. The Monastery was founded in a canyon thirteen miles down a dirt road off the main highway. This is O'Keefe country; majestic canyon walls sculpted by the Chama River rise in layers of terra cotta, Saltillo tile red, pale lemon, and gritty white, topped by green pines. At sunset they flame into a brick color with tinges of mauve. The road winds along the ribbon of the Rio Chama through scrub, sage, juniper, cactus, and piñon trees. This is the land of rattlesnakes and tarantulas, spectacular sunsets and sudden thunderstorms.
     I am here to participate in silence and prayers. The monks belong to the Benedictine Order and chant psalms seven times a day but otherwise, maintain a practice of silence. The monastery has been here since the '60s and the monks number about thirty.
     I am here for silence in community because I don't think I am ready yet for silence alone. A few months ago I threw my son's ashes into the bend of the river about a mile and a half away from the monastery. The shock of Sam's death severed my spiritual practice. I am mute because I am angry at God. Others have to pray for me, and I am hoping that this ritual of prayer will jump start my own prayers, like jumper cables applied to a stalled engine.
     The Chama River is a place of memories. I took Sam's ashes to the Chama because I camped there when I was pregnant with him. But that was twenty-five years ago. I have camped here with my sons when they were teenagers since then and the beauty of the place reawakens the urge to transcend my own problems, to ease into timelessness and wildness, every time.     
     As we drive down the road, memories flood me. I didn't want that pregnancy; my first child was difficult, precocious, hard to please, and restlessly active. With a second pregnancy close to the first, I felt discouraged. The continual fighting with his father that led to our separation did not help.
     But the first time I laid eyes on Sam, I loved him instinctually. Even months before, as my body began that incredible metamorphosis of forming new life, flutters that became jolts and kicks, the sensation of life growing inside me, I had begun to love my child. And I never stopped, not even when he threw temper tantrums or pestered me or took risks I thought he had no right to take. One minute he was a teenager, falling in love with cars and girls. The next minute he was a father, a home-owner, with a job and responsibilities, and all that it entails. And I wasn't looking.
     It will take a whole year of sifting through the information, the coroner's report, gossip from friends, to admit that Sam had a drinking problem. 
     The church can be seen from the road as you arrive, a tall stone wall topped by a cross and windows reaching up to the sky. The guest rooms form an L-shape along a yard filled by small stones that crunch under your feet and large flat rocks to watch the sun set behind the canyon.  My room is the next-to-last. When we open the door to my room, we see bare walls but for a cross over the narrow single bed, a desk with a Bible, a closet with extra blankets and a towel, and a gas heater built into the wall. On the cement floor is a narrow blue-and-brown woven striped rug. There is no electricity, no phone service including cell phones, and no internet. "Wow!" Alejandro, a friend who has driven me here, exclaims. "It's just like in the movies." 

Read the piece here.
BallerinaSecond Place -- Fiction 
The Ballerina and the Butcher
By Juliet Wittman (Network Member)

Juliet Wittman is a long-time journalist and currently the theatre critic for the Denver weekly, Westword; she also reviewed memoirs for the Washington Post for many years. Her essays and short stories have appeared in The Sun, among other publications, and an essay about the murder of a college friend, "My First American Friend," won the New Millenium Writings Award. Her memoir, Breast Cancer Journal: A Century of Petals won the Colorado Book Award and was named a finalist for the National Book Award. She has just completed Stocker's Kitchen, a novel.
You may contact Juliet at

Read the entire story here.

     Grushenka was dancing. What can you say about that? Grushenka stops the universe when she dances.
     The audience was still, all two thousand of them, not a cough or rustle to be heard. The members leaned forward at an identical angle, sharing the same inbreath, unwilling to disturb the air between themselves and Grushenka with the rhythm of their own ragged and unworthy respiration.
     She crossed the stage on the diagonal, little feet pick-picking on the wooden boards, as curved and flexible as a kitten's. She placed herself exactly over the point of each pink shoe as it descended, this one, that one, flying across the stage faster and faster while her body curved in a tender arc above those delicately tickering feet and her arms swayed like seaweed in translucent water.
     I hated Grushenka. All of us did. We whispered and snickered behind her back. Marie was just as good, we said. Josephina had talent. Why were none of us ever chosen? Maybe my body wasn't as perfect as hers, but they could at least have considered me for Kitri. I looked the part more than she did.
     Now she was still for a moment in her red and black tutu, chin high on that white column of a neck, fluttering her fan.
     I was forming criticisms in my mind--the crook of her elbow was too sharp; those ear-grazing extensions were just a way of showing off--when she turned with a tilt of the hip so playful and impish that even I had to smile.
     Grushenka dancing. A brilliantly eye-pleasing collection of curves. A quiverful of thrilling tricks. Ethereal yet steady as a bookshelf, strong as a pit bull. The perfection of her technique and the emotions she conveyed with it: subtle, slow and deep as mother's love or quick and clear as water. The curve of her neck alone could bring you to tears.
     Let me not forget her musicality. Some dancers move to the music; the more gifted allow it to flow through them. Grushenka did as she pleased. She contained the music in her body or let if fly from her fingertips like drops of water. She gave it her liquescent limbs to play with. She teased it, stepping out of its flow a little, then returning in a gesture of the profoundest acceptance and humility. And oh how joyfully it received her back.
     I noticed a man sitting in the front row. He bulged onto the seats on either side of him, his flesh hanging over the arms like extra clothing. As he watched Grushenka, he quivered with joy; he started and mumbled with each of her thirty-two cleanly-snapped-out fouette turns. When she danced toward the front of the stage, he pulled his chins modestly onto his chest, his fat white hands gesturing in his lap, as if to say, Oh no, please, really, it's too much. His red mouth worked like a sucking baby's, a snail trail of saliva tracking to his chin.
     Two other corps members, my roommates, had joined me and were peering through the curtain.
     "Yech," said Paulina.
     Marie giggled. "Maybe he'll eat her up."
     He came every night after that. He must have bought those three front row seats for the season. He jiggled his mountainous flesh happily to the music from "Boutique Fantastique." When Grushenka danced "Rites of Spring," a grey leotard clinging to the hollows of her body and revealing the silvery pattern of her bones, he burbled and salivated till I thought he'd melt over his chair.
     Grushenka's Juliet is famous. The first time she danced the part, rapturous adjectives flew off the newspaper pages like clouds of grasshoppers. Glorious. Transcendent. A revelation. When the company revived the production, we watched her together, the fat man and I. I gritted my teeth as she charmed everyone--the nurse, the guests at the Capulets' ball, the audience. But during the balcony scene, when she gave herself to Romeo--so pliant, so tender--I found myself weeping. Was it envy? Or something else?
     He cried, too. He turned his massive head to the side and the self-pitying water slid down his shaking cheeks.
     It was by accident that I discovered who he was.
     We're frugal eaters, Marie, Paulina and I: vegetable broth, plain bagels, unadorned noodles, the occasional celery stick. Along with lots and lots of coffee and cigarettes. (Grushenka, of course, has no problem with weight; some dancing god designed her thin as a snake.)
     But one evening we were entertaining a couple of boys from the art school, and we needed a chicken for dinner. We went into town.
     The floor of the butcher's shop was covered with sawdust; the smell was a  greasy film coating the backs of our throats. On the counter lay a skinned calf's head, dried blood clotting a nostril, an eye socket turned blindly in our direction.
     It was the fat man who came from behind the counter, smiling, wiping his hands on his stained apron.
     Marie suppressed a giggle.
     We asked for a chicken, and he nodded and went out. From behind the store came a scuffle, a loud, anguished clucking ending in a gurgle. The butcher emerged holding a limp, feathered corpse.
    We stared.
    "But we wanted it dressed." Paulina was pale.
    He nodded again and placed the bird on the counter. Then he seized a small hatchet, whacked off the head and held the bleeding neck over a basin.
    "Come in an hour," he said. "She will be plucked."
     Outside, we held on to each other, laughing. Marie closed her nose with her fingers and made a retching sound: "phuey."
     "It's him," said Paulina. "The one who loves Grushenka."
     We were weak with disgust and malice.
     "She should marry him. She could sweep the sawdust."
     "Serve the customers."
     "Pluck his chickens." 

Read the entire story here.

GoldSecond Place -- Poetry
Gold, labor and exotic materials
By Grace Grafton

We put gold around the rubbed-down nub of our
decaying tooth.  We want to live longer, don't want
to quiver with pain each time we bite down
on what's going to save our lives.  Spring, summer,
another day kindled, another burial avoided,
a strawberry, a morsel of meat, a flash in the smile.
It's said that Ramses, and the Emperor Qi,
built monuments and the Great Wall, tombs
that included the sky and all the materials
for cooking, manufacturing, decorating -
it is said they did this as wish or expectation
of eternal life.  It takes a lot of work
to stay alive; it takes a lot of someone else's
work to build another world.  Gold
is good for no practical use except
to insulate the nerve of a tooth but
it mimics the sun and we are dazzled.
We want to bring it up each day, like Ramses.
We know now that if anything deserves to be
called god/creator, it is the sun.  We know
silver has no practical use but it is
the color of the stars and didn't some
scientist prove, much of our matter is
made of the dust of exploded stars?


Grace Marie Grafton's most recent book, Jester, was published by Hip Pocket Press. She is the author of six collections of poetry. Her poems won first prize in the Soul Making contest (PEN women, San Francisco), in the annual Bellingham Review contest, Honorable Mention from Anderbo and Sycamore Review, and have twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She taught for decades with the CA Poets in the Schools program.  Her poems recently appeared in Sin Fronteras, The Offending Adam, Canary, CA Quarterly, Askew, Fifth Wednesday Journal,, and West Trestle Review.

You may contact Grace at
FalsomagroSecond  Place -- Creative Nonfiction/Memoir
By Nadina LaSpina

Nadina LaSpina is an activist for disability rights and an educator who taught college-level Italian and later Disability Studies. Her writing, in the past, focused on those areas, but gradually has transformed into more creative expression. Her articles, essays, and stories have appeared in publications as varied as New Politics, And Then Literary Magazine, and Ragged Edge. Her memoir, Such A Pretty Girl, is with the Frances Goldin Literary Agency.

You may contact Nadina at

Read the entire piece here.

     "Come sono contenta!" How happy I am!
     My mother helped me hang my clothes in her closet, made room in her drawers for my underwear.
     "This is the greatest mother's day present!"
     Bending down, rather unsteadily, she put her arms around me, hugging the back of my wheelchair as well. I hugged her and all I felt was bones.
     Nicky, the old black and white mutt, raised himself up off the kitchen floor and came to put his front paws on my lap. When there were hugs going around, Nicky demanded his share.
     "Come sono contenta!"
     Her eyes flashing, her face glowing with excitement, my mother looked young. She seemed so genuinely happy I almost wondered whether she fully understood what the gastroenterologist had told us a month before. In the thirty-five years she'd been in this country,
my mother never learned English well enough to carry on a flowing conversation, but I knew she had no trouble understanding. And the doctor used plain words. What could be plainer than the word "cancer?Pancreatic cancer. And the word "nothing," as in "there's nothing to do."
     Besides, I was sure my mother had known for months how sick she was. She'd been covering up the symptoms, had not told me about the vomiting, constipation, pain. The day we went to the gastroenterologist's office to talk about her test results, she wore a loose pink sweater with shoulder pads to hide her thinness and her swollen abdomen. Matching pink lipstick and blush-on covered her paleness.
     "I don't want the doctor to think I'm afraid," she said when I told her how pretty she looked.
     "Afraid of what?"
     "Of dying."
     On the way home after we got the verdict, I suggested we get a second opinion.
     "Non c'è bisogno. Tuo padre mi vuole, that's all." No need. Your father wants me, that's
     She said "that's all" in English. There were some English expressions my mother was
particularly fond of. Like many immigrants she spoke a hybrid language. A mixture of the
standard Italian she kept from forgetting by reading novels and magazines and watching the
Italian TV channel, her native Sicilian dialect, and certain English words and expressions.
     "That's all" was one of my mother's favorite English expressions. So curt and final. It
meant there was nothing else to do and nothing else to say, no arguments allowed. And what
arguments could I have? Always the good Sicilian wife, my mother never went against my
father's wishes. What did it matter that my father had been dead for almost a year? She had left
her relatives, her friends, her town, to follow him to a far-away land before. She was now ready
to follow him again.
     I was too stunned and grieved to talk. I kept my eyes on the road.

Read the entire piece here.
WifeThird Place -- Fiction
Wife with Knife
By Molly Giles 

Molly Giles has published three short story collections, a chapbook of flash fiction, an ebook of stories, and a novel. She has won the Flannery O'Connor Award, the California Silver Medal for Fiction, the Split Oak Award, and the Spokane Prize.
Recently retired from teaching Creative Writing at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, she lives in West Marin. 

You may contact Molly at

Read the entire story here.

     Rafe was a drunk when I married him but he wasn't famous; fame came later, after his third one-man show. Suddenly everyone loved him. The students, of course, he'd been at the Institute for years, so I was used to young girls phoning and fawning, but after The Times review it was society women and gallery owners and rock stars; my best friend, Pamela, was in there too, the snake, and I was sick of it.  Every day when I came home from work there were letters and phone messages saying O you're so wonderful/ come speak to our university/ come accept our prizes. I should have been happy for Rafe but I wasn't. The man hadn't changed. He was still a miser and a pessimist; he still had bad breath and athlete's foot and terrible table manners and I was still the frump chopping onions by the sink who got beat up twice a year. I guess I was jealous. So one night I stupidly reminded him that I too was an artist and had had my own one-woman show before I'd met him and Rafe put down his glass and stared at me and I knew what was coming.
     "Every painter's wife thinks they can paint" followed by "If you really wanted to paint, you would be painting every day" followed by "I couldn't stand to be married to another painter" followed by "I couldn't stand to be married to a bad painter" followed by "Which is what you are and always will be," and pretty soon I was going at him with the knife and he was coming at me with the kitchen chair.             
      While I was being treated in Emergency it occurred to me that I was as bad for Rafe as he was for me and I would do us both a favor if I would just get out.  So I moved into a neighbor's barn where there was no toilet and I had to shit on newspapers but it wasn't as bad as it sounds. I set up an easel and started to paint. A jazz guitarist moved in with me for a while and there were a few other men but nothing until the next year when I met Ashford Faught, the Scottish poet. 
       Ash wasn't as famous as Rafe and he didn't have Rafe's beauty, but he had one of those long faces, like a collie's, that I've always liked, and a virginal pink and white body, like a young girl's, and a marvelous voice, full of choked passion.  He was very attentive, very well-educated, wonderful manners. He said, Come live with me, and I thought, No, I can't do that, but when I heard Rafe had moved in with Pamela I packed my things and flew to Edinburgh. 

Read the entire story here.
MortgageThird Place -- Poetry
By Nicole Eiden

This house that we built is lovely
Here, I sleep next to you every night
Remember when we were unfamiliar. I had a plump life
you had a plump life
we were busy with our things
we tried to be loved by other people
Remember that messy life

But then, as they say, we got together
we had sex everyday
Who knew when I would ask the wrong question
The instant you would turn dull
But you weren't scared of scrambled eggs
You were keen to walk the dog
And now here we are every night


Nicole M.K. Eiden is a poet and award-winning filmmaker whose work captures the simple challenges and beauty of ordinary life. Nicole hails from Columbus, Ohio. She arrived in New Orleans in 1999 and never looked back. Nicole holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of New Orleans and a Bachelor of Communications degree in video production from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Nicole co-owns Windowsill Pies, a Southern-style pie and tart company in New Orleans, where she lives with her husband and young daughter. 
You may contact Nicole at

It's after midnight, sapped from balancing plates, people all night for cash
Exhausted from nailing floorboards and keeping hair off the tub
My calves ache and I don't want to give
It's the end of the month is there enough for the mortgage
I want to buy a hardback atlas, the book that split
the Germanys, took me to the USSR
pressed my kindergarten watercolors proved
my humble town existed
The atlas is $80
But we need toothpaste
I want to see a movie-- can't, can't, there's not enough
it's the end of the month
I move away from you. Find your own dinner.
Do you want something or are you just hugging me good night?

The 1st comes--we pay the mortgage, another month
You reach out again. Your hand says Come here
All weighty words fall second to the comfort we create
I don't wonder what you want. I quickly kiss you hard.

ChallengesThird Place -- Creative Nonfiction/Memoir
On the Challenges of Not Reading in Planes or Decisions Born in the Dark
By Marie Chambers

Marie Chambers received an MFA from the Professional Writing Seminars at Bennington College.  Her work has appeared in The LA Review of Books, The Atlanta Review, Talking Writing, The Quotable, The Ilanot Review, Printer's Devil Review, Ironhorse Literary Review, the California Poetry Society, and the Seven Hills Review. She is also a winner of the 2015 ARTlines2 Ekphrastic Poetry Contest for work inspired by a piece of art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (judged by Robert Pinsky and published by Public Poetry, September 2015.)

You may contact Marie at

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     Pterodactyls flew first, not a ticket price distinction, just a timeline.  With a brain the size of a lime, this creature piloted his compact mass of sinew and skin over prehistoric hill and dale without a compass or a flight crew or any extra charge for baggage exceeding the miserly 75-pound limit.  He calculated distances without the swirl of neon-armed assistants and would never bother to visit any part of the earth that featured temperatures regularly hitting a cheerless 12 degrees.   Reading lamps did not fail him midflight.   His thick mesh tights did not gnaw into the atmosphere-starved flesh of his thighs, prompting him to flee to the toilet to separate nylon from skin.   Perhaps, during lunch, he took a pit stop and was nibbled by a stegosaurus or two.  But his laptop never requested codes unknown to man, woman, or animal kind while waiting and waiting and waiting on the tarmac of Chicago's O'Hare airport.   He may have had some serious survival concerns but he had legroom.   
     Ten hours into a journey filled with choices born of no seeming choice, I blame him for this mechanical beast, his manmade descendant, we on flight 411 are currently trapped in.  I blame him for our ridiculous ambition to go everywhere, my hopeless ambition to work while flying, my inability to read Susan Sontag's Against Interpretation during this flight, my despair at being incapable of understanding Against Interpretation perhaps at any time, the resonant snoring of the round man next to me, the futility of closing eyes for rest and joining him in the act of dreaming.   From my singular scratchy perch in row eight, I blame that first big bird-- not to be confused with Big Bird, a youthful friend from earlier times--for everything.  
     It is strange how we come to be where we are and even more curious why we do what we do.  Sitting in a darkened plane, all once and future traffic lights melted into one endless nightlight.  We all had places to be and yet, here we were; blankets at our chin, necks u-turning at the intersection of pillow and headrest, jaws pried open by gravity, books thick as door stops on our laps, a blanket at our feet and whether we liked it or not, whether we intended it or not, we were all flying together.  All because we looked up and felt what can only be termed overachiever envy.  We should all be so free, so of the air, so capable of accomplishment.  All the explanations for flight, all the logic, algorithms and sonograms, magical concoctions of math and engineering and desire for domination, for eternal life, fade to black as we fly. We watch the eternal Jennifer Aniston movie and resolve to be amused while intermittently wondering if the breathing bag would really drop down to us if we needed it. 
     I let helplessness wash through me and leaned my cheek against the metal of window cover.  It felt Ice Age cold. After a struggle with the cover release, I inched the shade open and peered into an impenetrable dark.     

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HomeHonorable Mention -- Fiction
Home Movies
By Rochelle Distelheim
Read entire story here.

Rochelle Distelheim has had short fiction published in The North American Review, Ascent, Nimrod, Other Voices, StoryQuarterly, Salamander, Mississippi Valley Review, Press 53 Anthology, "Everywhere Stories,", and She's won numerous awards, including The Katharine Anne Porter Prize, Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and Fellowships, Ragdale Foundation Fellowships, Sewanee Writers' Conference Scholarship, Salamander Second Prize, and received nominations for The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize. 

You may contact Rochelle at

     July. July so hot whole families escape the prison of their apartments to sleep in Grant Park near the lake. Whole families asleep, defenseless, out on the grass, in the open, and nobody afraid.
     It is 1935. Lindbergh is my mother's hero because he did what he said he would do. I stand on the front porch of our second floor apartment and lean against the window, looking into the living room. I see my family sweating-- my father in an undershirt and wrinkled work pants, my mother in a flowered housedress without the belt. I am seven years old and wearing puckered underpants. My sister, ten, has to wear a halter top with her puckered underpants. She is angry because I can go bare from the waist up.
     We can't drive to Grant Park to sleep. We don't have a car. I put my mouth close to the window and shout, "Use the Dodge!" Then I remember: we didn't buy the Dodge until 1945, with money my mother will earn during the war working in a defense plant--money for a new car, money for the bank account that will swell and then shrink when I go to college. I want to wish the Dodge into our 1935 lives, but I don't know how. I want to offer them my  2003 Lexus sitting in my garage now. There is no way to reach them.
     Hot is hottest of all for families who live on the top floor, under flat roofs, In apartments with tiny windows that decide not to open that day. Louis sleeps in the smallest room under the flat roof in 1935. Only three miles from my seven year-old life. I cross streets and backyards and alleys to watch him sleep. I want to invite him to sleep on our front porch, invite his whole family. But he doesn't know me then. We won't  marry for seventeen years.
     We may pass on the street, sit in the same movie theater on Saturday afternoons, run in the same gravel playground, swim in the same public pool. Or, we may not. Nothing would signal to either of us, if we should brush past one another. He is twelve, handsome. I am still in puckered underpants.
     I stand outside his bedroom window, listen to him sleep; restless, twisting in his cocoon of damp sheets. His alarm clock rings. He wakes us slowly. He still does. He takes his clothes from a hook next to the bed, and goes into another room. "Make your bed!" I call to him through the window. He still doesn't.
     My father-in-law gets up one morning the winter I'm ten, and tells his wife he has an itch that must be scratched in California. He doesn't have a job, and the Great Depression is less depressing in California in the sunshine, with oranges asking to be picked, and mountains instead of streetcar tracks. She says, "Go, I'm staying. Me and the children.
     He goes. Alone, without money or much language. He packs a cardboard suitcase, and walks to the streetcar before it is light, so he will not have to say goodbye to his children. He waits at the corner stop.
Not far away, I'm asleep in my ten year-old body. I watch him in the weak circle of light from the street lamp: a not-young, not-old man who has already forgotten what it is he will never have. "Don't go," I say. "You'll be sorry." He ignores me. "How can the children eat if you leave them?" He isn't listening. He looks past my face,and into the faces of people he hasn't met yet.
I try one last time. "You won't know your grandchildren if you go away." He will never know me, anyhow. I will see him only once more, in his coffin. I will be carrying my first child. I'm told that a pregnant woman must not look into an open coffin. It means bad luck. I look anyway, or how will I have a face to put to the memory of a man who is part of my husband, my children?

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GlidingHonorable Mention -- Poetry
By Judy Bebelaar

They are thigh to thigh in the narrow seat,
dipping, turning
on insubstantial air.
The pilot wonders if they'd like to do a loop.
He wants to answer yes, but he asks her first.
She's afraid, so he tells the pilot no.
They are in love. Or she is in love.
It's too soon.
He's too young.
She is in love with his arm
around her shoulders.
It's been so long.
Or in love with the curly crowd of blond hairs
glistening on his brown forearm,
muscled from hammer and saw,
with the smile in his voice on the phone.
But up here, floating
with the raptors, who can tell?
They don't talk, sitting so close,
looking down at vineyards,
barns, canopied oaks
spread out like illustrations in a children's book.
The glider rattles.
But she doesn't hear.
She's thinking she wouldn't mind
if he kissed her.
But it's too soon
after her husband's death.
He was too young to die,
and she's old enough to know better.
Isn't she?
She's probably just
a little giddy
up here,
so far above the earth.    

Judy Bebelaar's chapbook, Walking Across the Pacific, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2014. Her work has been published widely and is included in  The Widows' Handbook: Poetic Reflections on Grief and Survival (foreword by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, published by Kent State University Press in 2014) and River of Earth and Sky: Poems for the 21st Century (edited by Diane Frank, published by Blue Light Press in 2015). And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown,  nonfiction, will be out in the fall of 2016 from Sugartown Press.
You may contact Judy at
VeraHonorable Mention -- Creative Nonfiction/Memoir
Vera Sheets
By Rita Juster

Rita Juster received an MFA in fiction from Queens University of Charlotte and serves as Senior Fiction Editor at Carve Magazine.  She recently interrupted her short story writing to focus on a memoir. After two-and-a-half years of living in the French Quarter of New Orleans, she and her husband will be moving to Sarasota for a year.

You may contact Rita at
Read the entire piece here
(Contains scenes of sexual abuse.)
     I heard my father's footsteps cross the small carpeted area outside my bedroom.
     "You sure you're ready for this?" he said at the doorway. Diffused streetlight limped through the shutters. His naked body glowed white in the almost dark. He'd just taken a shower.
     "I guess so," I said. I concentrated on the sheets covering my twin size bed. They were Vera-brand seconds. With dabs of white amid black swervy lines on shades of purple, they brought to mind the waves he'd thrown me into to teach me to swim on Cape Cod when I was five. "I can do it!" I'd said, gulping the Atlantic Ocean while my mother sat on the beach reading our town's Milford Daily News. Now I was twenty.
     Old-fashioned white bedsheets like the ones I'd grown up with would have seemed pasty on this night, a wimpy stage for my grand eve of self-discovery. The word Vera in its branded script peeped at me from a corner. Same name as my godmother, Aunt Vera. I tried not to look at her name. She wouldn't like what was happening.
     My father sat himself down on the edge of my bed, then lit the candle on the wooden crate night table, the one he'd found in some company's trash heap while he waited for me to move in. In those waiting weeks, my first as a college dropout, I lived with my mother in Milford, fifteen hundred miles away. The day she realized my silver ring was formed by two naked embracing lovers, she said, "Nothing but two nudies kissing. Rape bait," and rammed it into her housecoat pocket before stomping out of the room. It was then that I decided to move in with my father. He sent me a plane ticket, and I started a job working nights at a US post office close to his rented duplex in Hialeah, Florida.

Read the entire piece here.
(Contains scenes of sexual abuse.)

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