Category Archives: The Writing Life

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.

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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.

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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?

Click here to follow me on Facebook,and here to follow me on Twitter.

Click here for fiction, and here for nonfiction.

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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?)

Click here to follow me on Facebook,and here to follow me on Twitter.

Click here for fiction, and here for nonfiction.

To subscribe to This Side….Over Yonder look to the top left corner of this page; there are different methods of following, choose the one that’s right for you. 

Thank You, Mrs. Barrett ~ Celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week #teachers #writing

Image via Country Home Learning Center
Image via Country Home Learning Center

Most all of us artists recall the time in our lives, if not the exact moment, when we decided to be an artist. Although I’ve written for as long as I can remember, there was a pivotal moment when I had an epiphany, if you will, (though it came to me slowly), one that kindled my creative side so thoroughly I would never recall a time when I didn’t write.

This epiphany wasn’t a sudden, fully-formed story magically appearing before my eyes, I had not been wondering what I’d do with my life. I was 17-years-old, a senior in high school, when my English/Lit teacher, Mrs. Barrett, asked me to stay after class one afternoon.

I knew I wasn’t in trouble, I didn’t sit through class trying to figure out what she wanted. It was near the end of the school year, I’d be graduating in a few weeks. Throughout my last year of high school I’d assisted the junior English/Lit teacher and the drama coach with whatever they needed – grading papers, planning lessons, coaching freshman on acting. I expected Mrs. Barrett wanted to ask me to help one of them.

But when the students filed out that day and I walked to Mrs. Barrett’s desk she jumped out of her seat, and her round face shone a broad smile as she exclaimed, “Oh! Deanna! Oh Deanna, Deanna, Deanna!”  She bounced around on her little feet while shuffling through stacks of papers on her desk. Finally she found what she’d been looking for – my Stories and Poems notebook for the year. It was bright orange and held so many loose papers the spine had torn. Mrs. Barrett must’ve been the one to tape it back together for I didn’t remember doing that. She held it to her chest with the cover facing me. Throughout the year as I added more and more pages, I also applied various stickers to the cover, whatever caught my eye at the moment. Now a goofy-looking monkey, pouting, presented an empty banana peel to me.

“Deanna!” Mrs. Barrett said again as she sat the folder on her desk and riffled through the papers while I stood bewildered, wondering what on earth I’d done to cause such excitement. Maybe she was just celebrating the fast-coming end of the school year? But no, in a moment she pulled a page from the notebook, a poem I had written the previous week called Strawberry Fields. I saw a long note in red ink written down the right side margin, taking up every bit of white space I’d left. Now I was nervous, licking my lips, beginning to sweat.

Mrs. Barrett handled the paper carefully, as if afraid she might tear it, and as she presented it to me she leaned towards me and took hold of my forearm. I felt she was about to tell me the secret to a long life. This is what she said: “Not just this poem Deanna, which is beautiful, but everything in this notebook, everything you’ve written this year is proof that you need to reach out and pursue a career as a writer.”

I stood dumbfounded, staring at my favorite teacher with my mouth hanging stupidly open. She moved her hand from my arm to my shoulder. “Just think about it,” she said, “we all have the opportunity to follow our dreams and do what we want to do. I know you have several career ideas in mind right now,” (I’d expressed interest in becoming an interior designer, among a few other occupations), “but,” she went on, “you are destined to be a writer Deanna, I can feel it in my bones.”

I glanced down and saw that she now held my wrists in her warm hands and she was gently shaking them with each word. “You are very talented. Don’t let anything stop you.” She dropped her hands to her sides and stood back, looking over me like I was her little angel she’d just dressed up for a party. I was so touched, but I had never been very good at taking compliments and I had no idea how to respond. I felt anything but intelligent in that moment. Eventually I stammered a ‘thank you’ and went on to my next class.

In the nearly twenty-five years since that conversation I’ve thought often of Mrs. Barrett, especially when I have one of those “Oh, yes!” moments that sends me flying to the keyboard or the notebook to record the idea before I lost it. My senior English/Lit teacher is by far the greatest reason I felt confident enough to pursue writing, I will forever appreciate that she took the time to talk to me that day, that she felt strong in her conviction that I should write, and that she cared enough to share that thought with me.

Mrs. Barrett passed away last week but she will always be close to my heart. As we celebrate the superior teachers of our nation during National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 6th – 10th, (National Teacher Day is May 7th ), remember not only to thank your children’s teachers, but also to thank the teachers who have guided your life in significant ways.

Who was, or is, your favorite teacher? What makes them so special to you?

Thank you to all my sons’ teachers and thank you to Mrs. Barrett and the many other teachers I had the privilege to learn from throughout my life!

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The fat lady is holding her breath! #smallstone #poetry #amwriting

small stones badge

Although today, (or what’s left of it), is “officially” the last day of the small stones mindful writing challenge, so many of us bloggers have enjoyed it enough that the challenge will continue throughout the year as small stone Sundays. That’s right, the fat lady ain’t sung yet!

I missed two days of writing my small stones because I was trapped sick inside the house. But a strong storm moved through last night and granted me a deliciously eerie observation; therefore, both to honor that observation and [attempt to] make up for the couple of lost days, I’ve morphed the small stone into a poem called Flock.

Most of you know I am as far from being a poet as any creative writer can get – I know nada of rhythm, rhyme, pentameter, etc., etc. – zilch! But here lately I have been more drawn to writing poetry and since I’m trying to allow my creativity to do whatever the hey it wants, I intend to let the words [even the ones that are making no sense to me whatsoever] spout forth and be.

I appreciate your constructive, (read: gentle and knowledgeable), critique. (The formatting is not as I’d like it, too much white space, so please excuse that). Thank you all very much for reading!

Flock, by Deanna Schrayer

Freakish winter thunderstorm rushing

eastward in fear of being

blasted by arresting snow

hot on its tail,

 

a nightmarish flock of squawking

fat crows diving frantically back

and forth between dying oaks.

 

The rain/sleet/hail goes: splat! ting! bam! against

darkened basement window from

where I spy the liquid mutations.

 

There may as well be a rabbit-

eared TV set two feet

from my face, reflecting

Hitchcock’s The Birds

off my eyeballs.

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Did you write small stones this past month? What is your favorite, (of those)? We want to hear it so shout ‘em out! Be sure to visit Writing our way home and read others’ small stones as well. What is the best one you’ve come across? One of my favorites (quoted from Fiona Robyn’s site, a handful of stones), is by Glenn Halak:

“Twilight rain washes
yesterday’s paper.
Those people aren’t coming back.”

Those few words are chock full of mystery aren’t they? My own favorite small stone is one of the shortest, written on January 24: “Ring of shiny icicles grips streetlamp in the night, looking for all the world like a postcard made in 1942.” Maybe this one is a favorite because the memory of the moment itself is beautiful….which, I believe, is the point. 🙂

Let’s tie that fat lady up and shove a sock in her mouth! Write your small stone every  Sunday or, better yet, every day. And keep in mind, April is National Poetry Month.  

Click here to read my small stones.

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