Category Archives: Nonfiction

My baby’s feet #babies #memoir

 

image by Deanna Schrayer
image by Deanna Schrayer
When I held my babies, whether to please them or to please me – usually both – I was fascinated with their feet. Not only were they tiny enough to hold in the palm of my hand, they were also tattooed with lines that I read like a fortune teller would read your palm to determine your future.
I could barely see the creases in my youngest son, Noah’s, feet, so faint were they, and I knew they’d never touch the ground.
I couldn’t keep Noah’s feet covered for anything in the world. Shoes? No – no matter how many times I picked them up off the floor and put them tightly back on his feet, off they’d come again in a giggling rage of escape. Covering his feet with a blanket was just as difficult.
My husband and I took turns walking Noah around the block in the middle of the night to get him to go to sleep. I always put socks on him, knowing the blanket we’d swaddled him in would be unwound and flapping in the wind with the first punch of his strong little fists. Still, wide awake and squawking, he knocked the blanket off his feet and for a moment all was quiet. Oh, yes! He’s finally asleep! I thought, careful not to announce it. But no, the moment he realized his feet were not bare his scream grew louder than ever.
Attempting to cover him back up, I rocked and rocked and rocked Noah as I walked like a drunk down the street. His red face hit my shoulder in rhythm to the beat of my heavy footsteps as he bashed his little legs together, rubbing at his ankles in an attempt to free himself of the socks.
For fifteen, twenty minutes the furious fit jarred the entire neighborhood until I’d reached our house for the twelfth time and, seeing our front door wide open at two AM, and plum exhausted, I imagined the ecstasy of the bed I desperately needed to be in. Noah’s temper finally beat out my patience and, back in the house, standing by our bed, I held on to my screaming son as tightly as he’d allow, kicked off my own shoes, laid down with him on my chest, took a deep breath and rolled over to lay him beside me.
But it wasn’t until I reached down and pulled his socks off that Noah stopped crying. Relieved, I pulled the covers up to my chest and, consequently, to Noah’s. The warning sob reached my ears quicker than it could leave his little mouth. Before the sob became a scream I jerked the blanket back off both of us. A heavy contented sigh escaped my son’s mouth.
As I lay my head on the pillow and tucked my baby into the crook of my arm, his free feet kicking at thin air, he laughed, a great baby belly laugh. In the next second he was sound asleep.
*
I came across this snippet, (when gathering stories for memoirs I’m working on), and wanted to share, in the hopes it brings the same smile to you that it brought to me.

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Click here for fiction, and here for nonfiction. I also have just launched The Tale Well: Stories by Roslyn Fainwhere I share my fiction, writing under the pen Roslyn Fain.

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The Other Side of Deanna is back! And she even has a name….. #fridayflash group

Hi everyone. Some of you may recall that I had two separate blogs, The Life of a Working Writer Mommy for my nonfiction, and The Other Side of Deanna for my fiction. A little more than a year ago I combined those blogs into This Side Over Yonder because I was posting mostly fiction and felt it was cumbersome to maintain two sites. I also wanted the URL to reflect my name, which This Side Over Yonder does.

Now, since I am fortunate enough to have more time to write, and because I will be posting more nonfiction articles, I have built a new site for my fiction, The Tale Well: Stories by Roslyn Fain.

TTW header 1

Years ago I wondered why anyone would want to use a pen name; now that I’m building my freelance career. yet still want to write fiction, I understand. Although Deanna and Roslyn are one-in-the-same, there is a vast difference in their personalities…..did I just say I have a split personality? Well, I am a writer!…..there is the business side of me (Deanna) and there is the playful side (Roslyn) and I feel they both deserve their own place.

Why the name Roslyn Fain? Fain is my mother’s maiden name and Roslyn was the first thing that popped into my head (which I always go with). It is apparently an old-fashioned name, had its peak in the 1940s, and fell off the “popular names” list in 1978. My family tells me I do look like a Roslyn, so there you go. I hope you’ll stop by The Tale Well and enjoy Roslyn’s first story, Those First Nights.

What about you? Do you use a pen name? What is it, and how did you hit upon that particular name? (If you’re using your pen name be brave and tell us your real name). 🙂

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A poem a day keeps the wrinkles away #poetry #worldpoetryday #nationalpoetrymonth

Wolrd poetry day

If you’re an avid (or is that obsessive?) reader as I am, you’ve surely encountered those articles that proclaim reading is not only a pleasurable experience, it also helps to preserve many aspects of our minds, even assisting in slowing the aging process. This Friday, the 21st, being World Poetry Day, and with National Poetry Month in April fast approaching, I felt it the perfect time to celebrate the many advantages of reading.

If you aren’t a regular reader, but would like to be, I suggest subscribing to The American Academy of Poets’ Poem-a-Day. It’s a fantastic way to initiate reading something each day as most of the time the poems are short and, (for those of you who claim “allergy” to poetry), the older, and usually long, poems are few and far-between. Often they are profound, sometimes silly, even outright hilarious. Plus, you may discover that you absolutely adore poetry, or you may decide one poem each day is not enough and start reading more and more and voila, you’re a reader! You might even be inspired to write your own poetry, something I encourage, even if you don’t know the difference between a sestina and a stanza. No one has to see it if you don’t want them to.

I could go on and on about the many reasons reading, and writing, poetry is so good for our souls, but I believe it’s better to give you a couple of my favorites. These particular two may make it seem I’m morbid but no, I just like the profoundness of both, and I believe, upon reading them, you’ll understand why I love poetry so much.

The Bolt, by Mary Kinzie

That girl so long ago walked, as they all did, shop girls,

Little cousins, and church friends, to the unflattering

Hack of the hem just where the calf begins to swell,

Felt ruchings of the bodice’s stiff panels

Gal the flesh beside the flattening ornate

Armature of underwear (like pads and straps

For livestock, fretted by tooling and bright studs),

So she must yank her knees against

Pounds of rigid drapery in the storm of heat,

 

Trailing through the pestering, gray heads

Of Queen Anne’s lace, wind raveling

Her hair and sweeping through prolific

Jagged-bladed grass – a wind that pressed down

There like God with both His hands, mashing the air,

Darkening the hole where the dry mouth of the wood

Yawned to drink the stumbling travelers already touched

By the heavy sacs of rain that broke and ran

In gouts down saturated pleats of surge…

Here that girl ran last, so long ago, to be run through

By one long lightning thread that entered, through

A slender purple bruise, the creamy skin of her temple,

 

The instant that it happened, nobody remembered

How she looked or spoke, so quickly had she blended

With this evocation of her having been.

 

This was the past: a stroke of imagery stare-

Frozen, finished in suspension.

*

I love how the poem uses two definitions of bolt – a bolt of fabric and a bolt of lightning.

~~~~~~~~

I Felt a Funeral in My Brain, (280) Emily Dickinson (Emily Dickinson’s poems were not titled, only given a number).

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,

And Mourners to and fro

Kept treading – treading – till it seemed

That Sense was breaking through –

 

And when they all were seated,

A Service, like a Drum –

Kept beating – beating – till I thought

My mind was going numb –

 

And then I heard them lift a Box

And creak across my Soul

With those same Boots of Lead, again,

Then Space – began to toll,

 

As all the Heavens were a Bell,

And Being, but an Ear,

And I, and Silence, some strange Race,

Wrecked, solitary, here –

 

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,

And I dropped down, and down –

And hit a World, at every plunge,

And Finished knowing – then –

*I love how the ending here is truly as abrupt as “the end” always is.

~~~~~~~~

And here is [the link to] a poem I wrote, She Saw It Comingwhich was originally a flash piece but readers’ comments led me to realize it should’ve been a poem all along.

Who are your favorite poets? What are your favorite poems? Why do you believe you’re attracted to these particular poems and/or poets?

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A proper post…..er, really…..

liebster-blog-award-2

Just before I started This Side….Over Yonder the wonderful Steve Green presented my former fiction blog, The Other Side of Deanna, with a Liebster award and the lovely Estrella Azul gave me both the Liebster and a Sunshine award. I was going through a Major Life Change at the time and neglected to post proper acceptance. Now the talented John Wiswell has graciously given me a Liebster award, a different one, and that prompted me to get with the program. Thank you so much Estrella, Steve, and John, not only for feeling I’m worthy of the blog awards but also for not forgetting about me when I was AWOL for a while there. That means more to me than I can tell you.

So, on with the acceptance. The “official rules” for the Liebster Award are:   

1. Link back to the person who nominated you. 
2. Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator. 
3. Nominate a few other bloggers who’d enjoy it. 
4. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer. 

Of course since this is for three awards I have to shake things up a bit. Let’s answer John’s (thought-provoking) questions first.

1. What is the hardest you’ve laughed in the last year? It may be that I laughed harder at some point this past year but the one that’s fresh in my mind is when, about a week ago my youngest son, Noah was playing some game on his phone as I drove. He was making these maddening rackets – “arg! ah! Ack!” – so much that my oldest son, Jimmy, finally asked what the problem was. Noah was playing a game called Flappy Bird, he said, and he commenced to explaining how supposedly simple but truly hard it was. When Jimmy, who, at 16-years-old is developing his own software, held out his hand and asked if he could play, Noah, still playing the game, told Jimmy he wouldn’t like it and went on to tell him that the graphics were crummy and there was really no point and yada, yada, yada. Jimmy just looked at him and Noah said, “It’s just for fun, Jimmy, it’s not like a real game.” As if “real games” aren’t supposed to be fun. I cracked up it was so funny but truly it’s not funny at all because he’s right – the computer games kids play today are so advanced and so life-like that it becomes more, well, like life, to them and takes all the fun out of it……and, okay, now maybe you know a small reason why I’m a writer.  🙂

2. What theme do you wish more fiction tackled? I’m a literary fiction fan and a ghost story fan, so what I’d like to see is more supernatural themes crossing over into the literary genre. Maybe there is more like this out there than I’m aware of (because the stories are labeled so specifically I’m overlooking them – ?) simply because I wouldn’t pick up a book in the “aliens invade Earth” genre. One author who weaves ghost stories into literary fiction superbly is Joyce Carol Oates. Hmmm, maybe I just wish more authors wrote like JCO.

3. What was the last time you envied another writer’s work? First, let me state the obvious: there is a fine line between envy and admiration…..yet, when I got to the ending of A Fair Maiden, by Joyce Carol Oates, where there was twist after twist after twist, and within just a few pages mind you, I found myself thinking “Why can’t I do that?” Indeed, most all her work leaves me with this sort of reaction – the stories are exactly what I want [from reading] yet they also plant that little rotten worm of jealousy in my gut.

4. What’s the next book you’re planning to read and why? Right now I’m reading The Big Book of Ghost Stories, edited by Otto Penzler and I am loving it! There are tons of not only classic but also modern spine-tingling tales by some of the greats and some I’ve never heard of. Reading these has led to a couple of (thankfully inexpensive) Kindle purchases so I’ll be sticking with the ghost/horror kick for a while with my next read being Voodoo Tales: The Ghost Stories of Henry S. Whitehead. (Check out my bookshelf for short reviews of other recent reads).

5. Does anything in fiction routinely scare you or creep you out? Whether it’s werewolves or doctor visits. What gives me a great fright more than anything is when the writer describes the dark and gloomy atmosphere so perfectly that I can feel the absolute hush about the character who is walking through total darkness all alone just before we discover that he’s been watched for the last several pages. Great chills!

6. If you could spend an afternoon hanging out with any villain, who would it be? Definitely Count Olaf from Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, just because he’s so darn funny!

7. If you could delete any character from all of fiction, such that no one would remember it had ever existed, what character would it be? Easy one – Edgar Sawtelle. Never have I had a more violent reaction to a book than I did to The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I had heard so many great things about it that I felt, even though I was bored to tears with the painful turn of each page, I had to finish it. When I finally became halfway interested, (about 95% in), the ending was horrible; in fact it was the ending that made me throw the heavy tome against the wall.

8. What’s your favorite nickname you’ve ever been given? Slim – as a child I was so skinny if I turned sideways I disappeared. My dad called me Slim from the cradle until I was about six months pregnant with my first son. He still calls me Slim now and then but, unfortunately, it’s more out of habit than anything that defines my physical attributes.

9. Do the last ten books you read have anything in common? At least eight of the last books I read had something to do with the supernatural. [See question #4].

10. By a unique snafu of publishing, you are legally obligated to write a crossover between two popular franchises of your choosing. Which two are they? Batman (with the Joker) and Toy Story, hands down.

I’m so late in accepting the awards that I dare say these folks may have already received them, but I want them to know I think they’re terrific anyway:

The Liebster Award goes to:

Eric J. Krause 

Sonia Lai

Adam Byatt 

I’m shaking things up with the questions for Eric and Adam by incorporating (okay, stealing), some of Steve and Estrella’s original questions. My questions for you, Eric and Adam, (and don’t worry if it takes months to post acceptance, I’ll be in good company):

  1. What year should you have been born? Why?
  2. What will you be doing in seven years?
  3. Does the description of your astrological sun sign match your personality? If not, what sun sign should you have been born under?
  4. What odd fact about you would people be most surprised to learn?
  5. If you could come back in another life as an animal, which one would you choose to be?
  6. Where is the most beautiful place you’ve ever been?
  7. Which do you prefer, the quiet of the countryside, or the hustle-bustle of the city?
  8. If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
  9. Have you ever had an experience with ghosts/spirits? (We’d love to hear about it!)
  10. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Join in the fun! Anyone who’d like to answer the questions in a comment please do – we’d love to hear it! (Do all writers say that or is it just me?)

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Ah, the memories….. #fridayflash #Christmas #holiday

Image by Deanna Schrayer
Image by Deanna Schrayer

I love to flip through memories as a way to relax during this hectic time of year. As I reflect in my essay, There are Stories to be Told, if we don’t capture the myriad memories of our lives by writing them down, they could too easily fade into the distant past and be forever lost. Had I not jotted down the conversation [below] with my youngest son, Noah, eleven-years-old at the time, I may have forgotten it. I stumbled upon this from a past blog and just had to share, again. I hope you get as much of a kick out of it as I have.

Conversation between mother and son, Christmas time

Noah: I want a power scooter for Christmas, and that’s all.

Noah: I want a skateboard for Christmas, and that’s all.

Noah: And I want swords like Tyler and Skyler, and that’s all.

Noah: I want a flashlight and batteries to make it work, and that’s all. That’s all I want for Christmas.

Me: Do you know what I want for Christmas?

Noah: What?

Me: I want all my family to be happy.

Noah: *rolls eyes*

Me: And I want tickets to see Bruce Springsteen, and tickets to see Keith Urban, and tickets to see the Tennessee Vols play football, and a new car, and someone to remodel my house, and a new wardrobe and a make-up artist, and a hair dresser, and a new bathroom, and a mud pit, and…

Noah: I’m sorry, I don’t want to listen anymore.

Me: But I didn’t say that to you.

Noah: That’s because I was done!

********

During that same time, in 2010, I wrote a Friday Flash inspired by something my oldest son had said when he was four-years-old. I hope you get a chance to sit back, relax and enjoy the story Christmas is Over!, on my former fiction site The Other Side of Deanna, here.

I wish you all a blessed Christmas and fantastic New Year!

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