Andreé Robinson-Neal

Homegoing Day

“Taste this,” Nancy ordered as she shoved a spoonful of macaroni salad in Jamal’s mouth. “Is it enough tuna? You know how Bertram and them like it with a lot of tuna.”

She put her other hand on her hip. “Lord knows they never lift a finger to buy a single can but they sure want to tell you how to make it.”

Jamal licked mayonnaise from the corners of his mouth. He had come for the rest of his glass of sweet tea from dinner and instead found himself wrangled by his mom in a kitchen full of burbling pots and pans.

“You know, Daddy loved daffodils. I bet he’d be disappointed to see how the cold did them this year,” Nancy said as she turned back to the little window over the sink and squinted into the dark. It was only 4 a.m. but her potato salad needed just a few more ingredients. She had so much to do.

Jamal scratched his neck. “Ma, why are you cooking? Auntie Stella said–”

“Boy, you know Stella can’t cook. Besides, everybody’s gonna be looking for my potato salad.” She whipped the big spoon around the silver bowl until it sang.

Jamal watched, hypnotized by the rhythm of her wrist.

“So?”

“So what?”

She stopped stirring and looked at him over the tops of her glasses. “The macaroni salad?”

“Oh! Yeah, it’s great. But what is all this?” Jamal asked as he waved a hand across the kitchen. “You should be resting.”

“What in the world do I have to rest for? Daddy would be cross if I didn’t feed these people right, today of all days.”

Jamal tiptoed to the refrigerator and opened the door. He had put his glass at the back of the first shelf, which was now filled with rainbow gelatin molds. He checked behind each one and sighed; he surveyed the kitchen again and spied his now-empty glass as it sat on a pile of dirty dishes.

“Boy, shut that ice box before you let all the cold air out.”

Jamal walked to the sink, rinsed the glass, and filled it with tap water. “Ice boxes went the way of the dinosaur, Ma. What you have there is an energy-efficient piece of 21st century technology.” He paused to savor a swallow of water and grimaced. He had become accustomed to his filtered city water; distance and time had changed many of the old country homestead’s flavors in the five years since he had left home. Jamal Washington was on his way up the ladder of success and the timing of this particular family issue could not have been worse. He thought there was nothing left for him in the neighborhood and shook the thought away quickly; his family was there and that certainly was more than nothing.

He watched his mother as she dolloped mayonnaise and mustard on top of the perfectly-cubed potatoes in her shiny bowl. “Anyway, like I said, you need to rest. Besides, nobody’s gonna want any kind of salad for breakfast. I think Uncle Bud is getting something catered in.”

Nancy stirred the seasonings into the potato salad. “You know you want some of this good cookin’,” she teased. “Go look in the stove.”

Jamal turned on the oven light, cursed under his breath when it did not come on, and gently cracked the door to peer inside. “Ma, one of the first thing’s I’ll do when I get back is buy you a stove. This thing is so old, Methuselah’s momma probably baked the first loaf of bread in it.”

Nancy stopped stirring and frowned. “Boy, watch your language. Besides, nobody asked you to buy me a stove. Daddy had that put in here when he bought me this house. Now look in there like I said,” she admonished.

Nancy’s egg and bacon casseroles were heavenly and Jamal felt the water rise in his mouth. He shut the oven. “Uncle Bud’s gonna be mad. There’s enough casserole for 20 people in there, and I think he already paid.”

“You wanna clean this for me?” She had left a big dollop of salad on her stirring spoon and Jamal chewed his bottom lip as he took it. “Do I look like I care if Bud paid for anything? Nobody asked me what I wanted.” Nancy fussed as she ripped a gossamer piece of plastic wrap from the tattered box on the counter and covered the bowl of potato salad. “Don’t nobody want that old dried up diner food he bought.”

Jamal bucked his eyes at her and she shrugged.

“That’s what Bud always gets for family gatherings. Calls himself catering. That’s not catering,” she mumbled as she stacked the trays with olives, cheese, and salami to make room in the already-packed refrigerator and slid the potato salad bowl between savory macaroni salad and glistening Ambrosia.

Jamal looked at the spoon. No one made potato salad like his mother. She had shared a few of her precious recipes with him before he had moved away but her versions always came out better. He smiled at her and asked, “Why must you be so contrary, Ma?”

Nancy turned down the flame beneath her pressure cooker and moved across to the sink to pour water off the hardboiled eggs. As she tilted the steaming pot she said, “I need to keep busy.”

“It’s four in the morning, Ma. Ain’t that much busy in the world.”

“You didn’t say that when Daddy caught you sneaking back in the house that time you and Jimmy called yourselves clubbing all night. Y’all got real busy when he was ready to put you on punishment.” Nancy lifted the edge of her apron and pretended to tap dance. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen the two of you think up lies so quick.”

Jamal laughed at his mother and the memory. He had been 18 and it felt like a lifetime ago when his dad had threatened to take his head off his shoulders if he ever disrespected the house by staying out past midnight ever again. He wondered who would chastise him now that his dad was dead.

“Jamal?” Nancy looked at him again over the tops of her glasses. “You all right?”

“I’m good, Ma,” he answered as casually as he could and fingered a foil-covered mound on the corner of the table. “Might there be cornbread rolls under here?”

Nancy beamed. “Of course.” Jamal peeled back a corner and carefully removed two rolls; Nancy always stacked them in a spiral and the ones he chose would not ruin the pattern. “Don’t you mess up my pattern, boy,” she chided out of habit.

“Tsk! You know I got it,” Jamal sucked his teeth and handed her a roll. “I know you got some warm butter. Let’s do this.” He found an empty bar stool; the rest were covered with trays of crackers and bowls filled with freshly-washed fruit.

Mother and son stood next to each other and savored the grainy rolls. Nancy wiped crumb-covered fingertips on her apron with a sigh. “I sure miss Daddy.”

“I know, Ma,” Jamal replied; he had no idea since this was his first experience with death but placing an arm around her shoulder, he tried to hug the sadness from his mother’s face. “Say, why don’t you go put your feet up? I’ll wash dishes right quick.”

“Thank you, son,” her voice trembled. She turned away to wipe a tear and Jamal looked out the window. “Jamal? You heard from Jimmy? Do you think he’ll be here?”

He frowned. “I don’t know, Ma. You know I went looking for him when I first got here. I gave a message to one of his associates,” he spat the word. “He knows, Ma. That’s all I can tell you.”

“You’re a good boy, Jamal,” Nancy said gently. She peered through the window into the yard. “At least the azaleas did well. You know Daddy loved azaleas.”

Jamal sank his hands into the sudsy water. “I know, Ma,” he offered with a smile, “I know.”

***

Bud’s grin spanned his fleshy face. “Come on in, Willy!” He bellowed around the cigar tucked wetly in the corner of his mouth and pawed the mortician into the house.

“Nancy! Willy’s here!”

“I’m back here!”

“Willy–”

“It’s William.”

Bud gripped the other man’s shoulder and lowered his voice. “Willy, William, whatever.

Look, man, lemme talk to you.” Bud and William had been in high school together; it was no mystery as to who bullied whom. “You know my sister don’t have a lot of assets. I hope you gave her a square deal on this funeral.”

William stiffened “I need to speak to Mrs. Washington.” He stepped around Bud and followed his nose to the kitchen. “Nancy,” he said as took her hand and placed another of his business cards in it.

“Thank you, William.” Nancy juggled the card from hand to hand as she wiped each against her apron. “Just look at you: ‘Whipper Funeral Services’–I bet you made your father proud.”

William had taken over the family business right after college and continued as the seventh generation of Whippers in charge of final arrangements for most of the town.

She tucked the card in an apron pocket.

“Please,” she moved a tray of deviled eggs off a bar stool, “have a seat.”

“Thank you,” his eyes moved over plates of chicken, bowls of fruit, and assorted cakes and pies scattered across every tabletop, chair, and stool in the kitchen.”My but you’ve been busy,” he commented as Nancy handed him a biscuit and his stomach growled appreciatively. “Thank you; you make the best biscuits.”

She winked. “I always make a few extra just for you when we have socials at the church.”

He finished the biscuit in two bites and then looked her in the eye. “Are we all ready for today?”

“Doesn’t it look like it?” Nancy waved her hand around the kitchen and laughed. “Daddy would be happy, I think.”

William cleared his throat. “You mentioned that you wanted James as a pallbearer.”

“Where are my manners?” Nancy walked to a cabinet and opened the door, revealing rows of neatly arranged mugs. “Would you like some coffee? I just made a fresh pot.”

He shook his head.

“Everything all right up in here?” Bud asked as he shambled in, took a biscuit from a tray on the stool next to where William stood, and shoved it in his mouth. “You need any help, Nancy?”

“Bud! Don’t talk with your mouth full,” she said, handing him a napkin. “You are nothin’ but a big child. Get out–William and I have business, and it’s none of yours.”

He took two more biscuits and smiled. “Okay, okay. I just want to make sure Willy’s taking care of you right.”

“Bud, I hear the doorbell. It might be your catered breakfast.” He dashed from the kitchen as Nancy moved the tray of biscuits from the stool to the last clear place on the counter,beside the coffee pot, and then sat down.”I’m not sure James will be able to serve as a pallbearer,” she answered with a sigh.

“Right now we have Bud, Jamal, his friend Sam and three of Calvin’s lodge mates,”

William said gently. “We’ll be fine if James can’t make it.”

“I’m sure he’ll be along. You sure you don’t want any coffee?” William shook his head again. “Well,” Nancy sighed. “I guess this is it, huh?”

He held her hand gently; it was the first thing he learned how to do as a mortician.”We’ll take good care of Calvin.” He paused as he thought about how much fun he used to have with Nancy, Bud, and Calvin when they were kids and played in each other’s backyards.”Your husband was a very good man, Nancy.”

She smiled and wiped a tear. “You are a good man, William.”

“I’m glad you think so, Nancy.” He dropped his professional veneer for a moment as his own tears fell. He pulled a handkerchief from his inner pocket, blew his nose loudly, and said, “You always looked out for me, you know, with Bud when we were in school.”

She nodded. “Bud really likes you; that’s why he messes with you.” She commented as they walked to the kitchen door. “Thank you for everything, William. Is there anything else you need from me? Daddy did a good job putting his things in order but I don’t want to forget anything.”

“I have everything,” he answered. “The car will be here by 9:30 to carry you to the church and the viewing will start at 10.”

Nancy walked him to the door, said good-bye and closed the door behind him. Turning around, she stepped backwards as Stella had walked right up behind her.

“Here, honey,” her sister-in-law cooed. “I made you a plate.” She had pulled together a plate of fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, grits, bacon, and sage sausage from Bud’s order.

“That’s okay, Stella. You know I’m not a fan of diner food.” Nancy swallowed a laugh as Bud scowled. Now Bud, I’m not sayin’ anything you didn’t already know,” she said, giggling. She turned to Odessa, Jamal, Cora-Lynn, Stella, and several other relatives. “There’s a casserole on the sideboard.” Everyone except Bud hurried into the kitchen.

Bud snorted. “Don’t nobody like your old-fashioned breakfast casserole. It’s nothin’ but leftovers anyway.”

“Why you lyin’, Bud?” Their older sister, Odessa, fussed as she returned with a heaping plate, a half-eaten biscuit on top. “Everybody loves Nancy’s casserole. Hers was the only one Mamma would eat.” She perched on the arm of a chair, swallowed the rest of the biscuit in one bite and continued talking. “And she hated that diner stuff you always get,” she added, licking her fingers

“I know that’s right!” Cora-Lynn, their youngest sister, piped up, sitting down on the chair beside Odessa. “And even if Nancy put every leftover in the house in her casserole, I bet it would be more moist than that cardboard you bought.” The two sisters erupted with laughter.

“Look, you all finish up and don’t make a mess in here!” Nancy ordered. “I’m going to get dressed. The car will be here soon and we need to be right. This is Daddy’s day.”

The other women stopped laughing and Cora-Lynn wiped tears from her eyes as Nancy walked toward the stairway.

Bud stepped to the table to pull the aluminum foil covers back over the food he had purchased. He picked up the plate he had left on the arm of his chair and bit into a slice of bacon that crackled across the silence.

“That bacon is so old, Aunt Jemima cooked it!” Odessa joked and the sisters broke into laughter again as Bud frowned.

“I know that’s right,” Nancy added and laughed despite herself as she started up the stairs.

***

Bud smacked Justin in the back of his head as he sank his ample butt into the last free chair in the living room. “How you gonna sit up in my sister’s house –”

“Don’t you mean ‘my lodge brother’s house’?” Justin shot back.

“Justin Spirts, don’t you start with me.” Bud shook his hand in the other man’s face. “How you gonna sit up in here and talk about my nephew like that? Jimmy’s got a few issues, but you got no right!”

Justin snorted. “Jimmy’s got more than issues. He’s out there on that stuff and you know it. That’s why he wasn’t at his daddy’s funeral.”

“He was, too. I saw him in the back of the church,” Odessa said. “Nancy said he walked to the cemetery from there.” She winked at Justin. “And the boy does have issues.”

Bud hefted his frame from the chair and stood up. “Odessa, you would take Spirts’ side anyway.”

They stopped talking as Nancy walked into the room. “What are y’all on about over here?”

“Bud was messin’ with Justin about–”

“Nothin’,” Bud interrupted. “We was just jaw-jackin’.”He knew Nancy would be angry if Odessa shared that they had been talking about Jimmy and his habits. “You know how Justin and the rest of those stuffy lodge boys are. I was tryin’ to get him to show me the handshake.

“Uh-hm,” Nancy looked him up and down. She suspected they had been talking about her oldest son but let it go; it was the wrong day for family to be at odds. She smiled.”How about James?” she said.”He was telling me how well he’s doing these days.”

“What’s he doing?” Odessa asked. She was always ready for something to gossip about.

“He’s working at one of those can and bottle recycle places. Some kinda manager or something.”

“Managin’ to sell cans and bottles to get them drugs, more like,” Justin snickered, balancing a forkful of potato salad. Bud elbowed Justin’s hand and the salad plopped on the edge of the plate.

Nancy frowned at them.”From the sounds of things, he’s doing better. You know that recession hit young men like him awful hard.”

“That only happened to people who were actually working, Ma,” Jamal added, slipping past her with a plate full of cookies, cake slices, and a large piece of sweet potato pie.

She swatted at him and he dodged her hand.”Where is he anyway? I didn’t even get to talk with him.”

“Don’t you speak about your brother that way, young man. Anyway, I made him a plate since he had to go. Can you believe they have him scheduled to work this afternoon?”

She crossed her arms tightly and hugged her elbows.”On the day of his Daddy’s funeral and they wouldn’t let him off. He had to be there,” she leaned around Jamal to look at the mantel clock, “at 3 so I gave him car fare.”

Sighs of disgust filled the room. Nancy looked at them in surprise. “What’s wrong with all of you?”

“Ma, Jimmy didn’t need car fare,” Jamal answered. “He’s not a manager. He hustled you.”

Nancy blinked. “Don’t talk that way about James. Don’t let me hear any of you talking that way. Daddy wouldn’t approve.”She frowned, turned, marched into the dining room, and smiled at the Reverend and William, who were deep in discussion.

Odessa shoved a last spoonful of the Ambrosia into her mouth. She swallowed, looked toward Nancy in the next room and whispered, “She might not think so but Calvin knew all about James. And no, he didn’t approve.” She looked at Bud and Justin and gave them both a dagger-eyed stare. “You two know how she is about that boy. Now leave it alone. Today isn’t about James, anyway.” She turned toward Jamal, who was sitting in the corner, and asked, “Jamal, is that your mamma’s lemon cake you got there? I gotta get me some of that before it’s gone!” She licked her fork, and clutching her plate, stood up, and left in search of another of her favorite desserts.

Nancy shook her head, wanting to block her son’s words about Jamal from her mind as she joined William and the Reverend as they stood near the punch bowl. William wiped the last of his chocolate cake from the corners of his mouth, and stood up straight.

“Nancy, how are you?” William asked. “I haven’t seen you sit still since everyone arrived back here from the cemetery. Have you eaten?”

She waved him off. “I can’t eat a bite just now, but I’m all right. I hope you’re both enjoying the food.”

Reverend Jones, Nancy’s sister Stella’s husband, shook his head. “Of course. You know I did.” He leaned in. “When you gonna teach your sister to cook like this?”

Nancy tapped him lightly on the arm. “Stella’s gonna get you for making fun of her cooking!”

“Ma. I need to talk to you.” Jamal stood by her side, touching her elbow.

“Not now, Jamal.”

“It’s important.”

She turned, saw the frown on his face, then looked past him and saw a police officer stood in the front doorway.

“It’s about Jimmy, Ma.”

Jamal took Nancy by the arm and guided her through the groups of family and friends, all quietly pushing food around their half-eaten plates.

“Mrs. Washington, I am so sorry to disturb you but there’s been an incident involving your son, James. I’m going to need you to come with me to the hospital.”

Nancy shrugged Jamal’s hand away and replied, “Officer, I don’t know if you are aware but we are celebrating my husband’s home-going today. Now why don’t you just rest yourself there — Bud, move over so the officer can sit down — and let me make you a plate. There’s plenty as you can see. I know James is fine. I gave him car fare to get to work just about a half-hour ago, so what is this all about?”

The officer touched the edge of his cap.”Thank you, ma’am but no. I can’t give you any additional information here and need you to come with me to the hospital. Your other son–Jamal?–said he would drive you.”

Nancy wiped her palms down the front of her apron and reaching around, untied the knot at the back.

“Cora-Lynn,” Nancy said, “get my purse from upstairs, would you? Stella, I didn’t say thank you when I was in the dining room so please give my thanks to your husband for the message today. I know Daddy would have been very happy. Bud, you leave Justin alone while I’m gone and Justin, be sure to tell the brothers how much I appreciate all they did. I’ll bring something nice around to the lodge next week as snacks for the meeting. And Odessa, make sure everybody gets some of this food to take home, especially the Reverend and William. And make sure Bertram doesn’t take all of the macaroni salad — tell him to leave some for other folks.”

Nancy glanced in the mirror next to the door and patted down a stray hair.

“I want that kitchen empty when I get back,” she continued. “But save some of those oxtails. I want to freeze them for James because they’re his favorite.”

As Nancy and Jamal followed the officer down the porch steps, Stella called out,

“Should I make you a plate too, Nancy?”

“No, that’s all right, Stella,” Nancy replied. “This is Daddy’s day. I’ll find something when we get back.” Nancy turned to the officer. “We’re going to the hospital?”

He nodded.

“Well,” she paused by her potted flowers next to the bottom step and grabbed a handful of daffodils and pansies.”If James has been hurt or something, I’m sure some flowers will brighten up his room. Don’t you think, Jamal?”

Jamal glanced at the officer, who shook his head slightly. “Sure, Ma. I’m sure that will be fine.”

“Of course it will.” Nancy gave Jamal and the officer a shaky smile as they walked toward the curb where Jamal’s rental car was parked. Turning to Jamal as he opened the car door, Nancy asked, “Did I tell you how much Daddy loved daffodils?”

“Yes, Ma,” Jamal said, “you sure did.”

“Homegoing Day” is part of the Pure Slush anthology, Feast, published in three parts: “Homegoing Day,” “A Visit from the Mortician,” and “After the Service”.

Andreé Robinson-Neal got bit by the writing bug back in the late 1970s while watching Rod Serling and reading Ray Bradbury; although she has worked in education for more than a quarter-century, she has never been cured of her penchant for speculative fiction. Find some of her flash fiction www.starvingactivist.com. She writes under the name AR Neal, who will hopefully one day be identified as a famous NaNoWriMo participant. She reads more than she sleeps.

Andreé Robinson-Neal is a member of Andrea Fingerson’s Creative Writing Workshop at the Feldheym Library in San Bernardino.

Cynthia Covert

Elegy For Rufus, My Mentor And Friend

Gentle lord of the flowers, winter red, spring white,
Nurturing crops for market,
Toiling day and night.

Botanical cycles turn, those immortal keepers of time.
Age descends upon the Maestro,
Sounding its final chime.

The baton is passed.  Cycles proceed without end.
Russet hummingbirds circle the fountain.
You are missed my old friend.

Cynthia Covert is a longtime resident of Corona, California.  She is a horticulturist with an active garden design and consulting business.  Cynthia is also a cellist with the Corona Symphony Orchestra and the cello teacher for the string conservatory (Youth Symphony, Corona Symphony Conservatory Inland Empire, CA). Cynthia discovered creative writing in 2001 when she studied memoir writing at the UCR extension center and continues her work with local workshops such as Inlandia.

Cynthia is in Matt Nadelson’s workshop at the Corona Public Library.

Matt Nadelson

What is Poetry?

Upon hearing poems that don’t rhyme or follow a metrical pattern, new members of my writers’ workshop often ask me what poetry is then, if not meter and rhyme?

And this is a very good and fair question, one that deserves an answer.

Follow this link for the full essay, What is Poetry? by Matt Nadelson

Matthew Nadelson earned his BA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside and his MFA in Creative Writing from San Diego State University.  His poems and non fiction prose pieces have appeared in Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature, Ars Medica, Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poems, Blue Collar Review, ByLine Magazine, Chiron Review, Connotation Press, Cliterature, The Inflectionist Review, Inlandia: A Literary Journey, JMMW, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, and Whistling Shade, among other literary journals, and in the anthologies Beloved on the Earth: 150 Poems of Grief and Gratitude and America Remembered, among others. His first poetry collection, American Spirit, was published in August 2011 by Finishing Line Press, and his second and third poetry collections are scheduled for publication in 2015 and 2016.

Poetry in Idyllwild with Cecilia Woloch by Myra Dutton

I first met Cecilia Woloch in 1999, when she became the founding director of the week-long summer poetry program at Idyllwild Arts Academy in Idyllwild, California. For the next nine summers, Cecilia selected an impressive lineup of guest poets. It was an honor to listen to renowned authors as they read their work in our little mountain town. Pulitzer Prize winners, Galway Kinnell, Sharon Olds, and Natasha Trethaway; U.S. poet laureates, Ted Kooser and Billy Collins; MacArthur Fellowship recipient, Terrance Hayes; National Book Award winner, Lucille Clifton; and National Endowment of the Arts recipients, David St. John and Cecilia Woloch were some of the headliners who entertained us while we sat on the grass hills that lined the amphitheatre where the event took place. I became accustomed to the idea of having such greatness in Idyllwild, and when it finally ended, I became keenly aware of what we had lost.

Now some of that greatness is coming back! After teaching numerous graduate and undergraduate creative writing programs, as well as leading workshops in locales ranging from Los Angeles, to Paris, to Istanbul, Cecilia Woloch will return to the Inland Empire to offer a weeklong writing retreat at the Idyllwild Manor, a 4200 sq. ft estate in the center of Idyllwild. From November 1 – 7, 2014, Cecilia will lead intensive workshop sessions, offering inspiration and camaraderie, close-critique of participants’ work-in-progress, generative writing exercises, craft-talks, and fireside readings. A special event is also planned. On Sunday, November 2, from 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm, Cecilia will read from her new chapbook, Earth, accompanied by two of Idyllwild’s treasures: jazz saxophonist, Paul Carman, and jazz legend, Marshall Hawkins. Carman toured and recorded with Frank Zappa in the late 1980’s as part of Zappa’s “Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life.” Hawkins joined the Miles Davis Quintet and toured with them. His jazz credits are endless; his philosophy of life is this, “the world would b-flat without music.” The performance will be held at the Idyllwild Manor and will be free to the public.

Woloch’s poems are travelogues of the human spirit, recounting mysterious liaisons, gypsy ancestors, wild horses, and heartfelt longings. She is a guardian of the downtrodden, a creatrix, a wild one that no one can tame. Her words illuminate each page with intensity and beauty: “Do I look like a bride in these rags of wind? Do I look like the angel of home and hearth with this strange green fire in my hands?” Master of the prose poem and impeccable lyricist, she is the gifted tenth muse that Shakespeare idealized… “ten times more in worth than those old nine which rhymers invocate.” As Natasha Tretheway explains, Cecilia is “…a poet who is passionately alive in the world.”

Cecilia Woloch is the author of six collections of poems, most recently Carpathia (BOA Editions 2009), which was a finalist for the Milton Kessler Award, and Tzigane, le poème Gitan (Scribe-l’Harmattan 2014), the French translation of her second book, Tsigan: The Gypsy Poem. Tsigan has also been adapted for multi-media performances in the US and Europe, and is currently being translated into Polish. Her novella, Sur la Route, a finalist for the Colony Collapse Prize, is forthcoming from Quale Press in 2015, along with a new chapbook of poems, Earth, recently awarded the Two Sylvias Press Prize.

Cecilia’s honors include The Indiana Review Prize for Poetry, The New Ohio Review Prize for Poetry, the Scott Russell Sanders Prize for Creative Nonfiction, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, CEC/ArtsLink International, Chateau de La Napoule Foundation, the Center for International Theatre Development, the Isaac W. Bernheim Foundation and many others. Her work has been translated and published in French, German, Polish and Ukrainian. She collaborates regularly with musicians, dancers, visual artists, theatre artists, and filmmakers.

“Instead, you came late, you came after I’d made myself into harbor and chalice and wick. More like the ashes than any warm hearth. More like a widow than wanton, beloved. And you lifted me over the wall of the garden and carried me back to my life.” — Late, Cecilia Woloch

Please join Cecilia Woloch for a workshop of creative writing and performance. Stay at a historic estate, located in the heart of the mandala of Idyllwild. This is an incredible opportunity to refine your writing skills and get your work ready for publishing. The Idyllwild Workshop and Retreat is open to all writers with a serious commitment to the creative process and the desire to be creatively challenged. Cecilia will address participants’ questions and concerns in regard to work habits, reading, revision, submission, publication, and other ways of moving one’s creative work out into the larger world, while honoring, always, the inner source and the integrity of the poet’s voice. Cost for the retreat with 6-nights lodging (exclusive of meals): Shared bedroom: $975, Private bedroom: $1075, Commuter rate (exclusive of lodging): $675. Cost for 3-days only (exclusive of lodging): $350. To register for the workshop, or for further information, contact Cecilia: ceciwo@aol.com.

KIDLANDIA: Trash Talkin’ with Kids by Julianna M. Cruz

No, it’s not what you think. Last week I was walking to my classroom, with my little charges following behind, and we walked right into a teachable moment. There was trash all over the lawn and in the hallway. I stopped everyone and said, “Oh, my heart is breaking! Please help me save the Earth!” I bent over to pick up a piece of trash and most of the kids automatically joined me. Before we even walked into the classroom our lesson for the day had begun. I take great pride in teaching by example, so as we walked in we sorted the trash by putting recyclables into our blue recycling tub and other trash into the trash can. I thanked my students and assured them that they had personally made a difference in the world that day. That got me thinking about a lesson I had written (and taught many times over the years), and I vowed to get going on it the very next week. Now, most of you are probably thinking, “When am I going to squeeze in another lesson?—especially one that is not already in my long-range plans!” My answer is, find the time—steal it if you have to! This is paramount! Anyone who would like a copy of the lesson plan and student/parent data collection sheets can feel free to leave your email address in the comments and I will send it to you.

Here’s what we are doing. Next week I’m going to introduce my students to the Scientific Method by conducting an experiment about how much trash we generate. Students will learn about the Giant Trash Gyre in the Pacific Ocean (just one of five) and discuss how they can keep from contributing to that mess. Then, they will predict how much trash they will generate in a 3-day period, and sort them into solid waste and recyclables. They will weigh the trash, and learn how to collect and record data by using a simple table. We will be using some math that’s a little advanced for the second grade, but it’s never too soon to introduce them to higher level math, with support—especially if it’s purposeful math. Hopefully after seeing how much of their trash can be recycled, they will think about waste management more responsibly. They may even look around and take responsibility for cleaning up, even if it’s not their mess—because it’s the right thing to do. If you are a parent and would like to help, please come in on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday to help weigh and sort. Please bring a bathroom scale and a calculator—we can do this experiment with the materials we already have!

Here’s a video of the North Pacific Gyre. Warning: do not show this video to your elementary class—they might cry—perhaps junior high or high school students would respond better to the video.

If you don’t find success with the link above, look up the Pacific Trash Gyre.

For younger students, I suggest Bill Nye’s Garbage video.

Thanks for helping me and all of our children make a difference.


Julianna M. Cruz is a teacher, an author, and an Inlandian.

 

Talent is Overrated: A Free Five-meeting Fiction Writing Workshop at CSUSB by Cati Porter

Join the Inlandia Institute and Cal State San Bernardino for a free five-meeting fiction writing workshop, “Talent is Overrated.”

Writing isn’t glamorous and it isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. With determination and hard work you can become a writer, but you have to choose to be one. Join Andrea Fingerson for a 5-meeting workshop where you will learn how to become a writer. (Note: there will be homework. Please be prepared to commit to the workshop.) The workshop will discuss what it means to be a writer, share strategies that will help you develop the necessary disciple, and review basic fiction techniques and strategies that will help you write a short story or picture book. By the end of this workshop you will have a completed and edited story that is formatted for submission. Writing is in your future. Let Andrea help you get there.

Workshop dates and times:

Sept. 25, 6-9 p.m.

Oct. 2, 6-9 p.m.

Oct. 16, 6-9 p.m.

Oct. 30, 5-6 p.m. (optional meeting)

Nov. 13, 6-9 p.m.

Nov. 20, 6-9 p.m.

All workshops will take place at CSUSB in the Pfau Library, room PL4005A (4th floor).

This workshop is limited to 15 participants. The only requirement is that only people who are sincerely willing to commit the time and effort take one of the places. You will essentially be writing, rewriting, and editing a short story in under two months. If you would like a place in the workshop email jvlong@csusb.edu, and include a phone number that she can reach you with. Reservations will be made on a first come, first served basis. If you are interested, please email today.

KIDLANDIA: Trout in the Classroom Time, Again!

I’m writing a little early again because tomorrow morning I’ll be helping teachers learn how to raise trout in their classrooms. Yes, I said trout. As some of you already know, my students and I have been raising trout in the classroom for close to fifteen years now. We have had a blast learning about the life cycle of trout, what their environmental needs are as they grow and change, and how we affect their environment. As students learn to care for and observe the trout they also learn to be good stewards of the earth. The Trout in The Classroom program has been developed by the Department of Fish and Game, locals to the Inland Empire, brought to teachers by the Deep Creek Fly Fishers Club. If you are interested in learning more about the program you can visit the Deep Creek Fly Fishers site. If you are a teacher who would like to be part of the Trout in the Classroom program, please come to the Isaac Walton House at Fairmount Park, Riverside, CA 92501 tomorrow,  Sunday September 14, from 8am to 1pm and ask about how you can get trained.

Have a great weekend everyone.


Julianna M. Cruz is a teacher, an author, and an Inlandian.

As a Living Language, English is Malleable and Still Changing by Matthew Nadelson

When I think back about what I really learned in college, aside from the insights I received during a handful of fascinating lectures and conversations with excellent professors, the ideas I still remember today are the conclusions I came to myself regarding the material presented, much of which were based on material presented in other courses.

Looking back, I realize that it was the culmination of these courses that allowed me to observe alternative, and often opposing, viewpoints and arrive at my own conclusions.

Of course, I wasn’t just drawing on my experience from other college courses when I came to these conclusions, but my life experiences as well. And, the clearest material was the material I could most relate to personally. Now that I have taught for eight years, I understand that a similar personal connection to the material can be beneficial to the teacher as well.

Because of this, I think the best advice I could give any teacher (of high school and above), in addition to more obvious things such as letting students’ questions and comments direct the discussion, is that we not only must show the students how the material relates to their lives, but we also must present the material in a way that relates to our own lives.

When teachers don’t do this, students lose interest. And really, why should they care about something that they can’t imagine providing any practical benefit to their lives? Grades are rudimentary motivators at best.

Another problem I see is that too often too many teachers fail to place their subject matter in the proper context. They present it almost in a vacuum.

Here is an example: About five years ago, when we were both 30, an extremely smart woman I had grown up with, asked me whether it was OK to start a sentence with “and.”

She didn’t know whether it was ever OK to start a sentence with one of the most common words in our language. I don’t know where my friend went to school, but I’m pretty sure she has lived in Orange County all her life, and somewhere along the line, a college professor had told her it was never OK to start a sentence with “and.”

Of course, what this person had neglected to tell her was that in a college-level essay, it is generally not a great idea to start a sentence with “and” because it is informal (and it could be argued that the job of a coordinating conjunction such as “and” is to coordinate between independent clauses or … blah blah blah).

But this teacher had failed to explain to my friend the importance of audience, purpose and occasion in college writing, and how all these things determine the level of formality in the writing, and also the fact that English is a living language and English punctuation is only a few hundred years old and has changed radically in that short time.

For my money, the great American poet Walt Whitman said it best:

“Language, be it remember’d, is not an abstract construction of the learn’d, or of dictionary-makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, affections, tastes, of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground. Its final decisions are made by the masses, people nearest the concrete, having most to do with actual land and sea.”

My friend’s anxiety over the use of “and” is not even the best example of this. One time an English tutor told me that he had been told by his teachers that the word “good” was never correct to use… ever – that “it should always be ‘well.’” He had no idea that “good” is the adjective and “well” is the adverb, meaning they are both good but should be used well.

Hopefully, this student wasn’t actually told this, but this is what he remembered … perhaps because he (or the instructor) couldn’t understand the practical application of such knowledge and therefore (perhaps even subconsciously) had no interest in really understanding the material.


Matthew Nadelson of Corona teaches English at Norco College and leads an Inlandia creative writing workshop every other Tuesday night at the Corona Library. Contact him at mattnadelson@gmail.com.

Inlandia’s Fall Creative Writing Workshops Set to Begin by Cati Porter

The Inlandia Institute’s Fall Creative Writing Workshops are set to begin. Led by professional writers and writing instructors, each workshop is designed to meet the needs of writers working in all genres at all levels. Currently there are six different workshop locations:

Ontario, led by Charlotte Davidson [*Closed: Full]; Riverside, led by Jo Scott-Coe; Corona, led by Matthew Nadelson; Idyllwild, co-led by Myra Dutton and Jean Waggoner; Palm Springs, led by Alaina Bixon; and San Bernardino, led by Andrea Fingerson.

Each workshop series is approximately 10 weeks long, meeting every other week unless specified. Workshops are free and open to the public but registration is required.

Please RSVP to cati.porter@inlandiainstitute.org. Registration forms will be emailed prior to and/or distributed during the first session.

And, while these workshops are free and open to the public, in order to keep them that way, we do ask that you consider an optional but suggested donation of $25 for the entire series. Information about why this is necessary is included in the registration packet.

 

Dates and times vary by location:

Ontario [*Closed: Full]

 

Led by Charlotte Davidson

6 pm – 8 pm

September 10 & 24, October 8, 22, and November 5

 

Ovitt Family Community Library

215 E C St

Ontario, CA 91764

 

Idyllwild

 

Led jointly by Myra Dutton & Jean Waggoner

2 pm – 4 pm

First Friday of every month

 

Idyllwild Public Library

54401 Village Ctr Dr

Idyllwild, CA 92549

 

Corona

 

Led by Matt Nadelson

7 pm – 8:30 pm

September 9, 23, October, 7, 21, and November 18

 

Corona Public Library

650 S Main St

Corona, CA 92882

 

Riverside

 

Led by Jo Scott-Coe

6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

September 25, October 9, 23, November 6, and 20

 

Riverside Public Library

3581 Mission Inn Ave

Riverside, CA 92501

 

Palm Springs

 

Led by Alaina Bixon

2 pm – 4 pm

October 8, 22, November 5, 19, and December 3

 

Smoke Tree Racquet Club

1655 E Palm Canyon Dr

Palm Springs, CA 92264

 

Free parking, accessible from E Palm Canyon or the Citibank lot on the corner of Sunrise/Hwy 111.

 

San Bernardino

 

Led by Andrea Jill Fingerson

3:30 pm – 5:30 pm

September 23, October 7, 21, November 4, and 18

 

Feldheym Library

555 W 6th St

San Bernardino, CA 92410


Alaina Bixon leads writing workshops, including Inlandia’s creative writing workshops in Palm Springs, edits books, and reads for the online journal The Whistling Fire. She is working on an article about women at MIT.

Jo Scott-Coe is the author of Teacher at Point Blank. Her essays can be found in Salon, Memoir, TNB, River Teeth, Hotel Amerika, Fourth Genre, and the Los Angeles Times. Jo is currently an associate professor of English at Riverside City College and the faculty editor of MUSE.

Charlotte Davidson received a Masters in English from Syracuse University followed by an MFA in poetry from UC Irvine. Her first book, Fresh Zebra, appeared in 2012. Charlotte leads Inlandia’s creative writing workshops in Ontario.

Myra Dutton is the author of Healing Ground: A Visionary Union of Earth and Spirit, which was a 2004 Narcissus Book Award finalist and a 2006 selection for “Ten Books We Love” by Inland Empire Magazine.

Andrea Fingerson has taught preschool, reading, and high school English. Currently, she teaches Child Development classes to teen parents. She received her MFA in Fiction from CSUSB. During that time she was a Fiction Editor for Ghost Town and the high school Outreach Coordinator for The Pacific Review. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is currently in the process of editing a young adult novel.

Matthew Nadelson teaches writing at Norco College and leads a creative writing workshop at the Corona Public Library (every other Tuesday from 6 pm to 8 pm) through the Inlandia Institute. He has lived and worked in Riverside County since 1997 (with the exception of a brief stint in San Diego at SDSU, where he earned his MFA in creative writing, from 2002 to 2005). His writing has been featured in more than 20 journals and anthologies, and he was recently featured on the Moon Tide Press website as their “Poet of the Month” for December 2013. His first poetry collection, American Spirit, was published in August 2011 by Finishing Line Press.

Jean Waggoner, a published fine arts reviewer, poet, essayist and story writer, has taught college English and English as a Second Language in Riverside County for the past thirteen years and co-leads the Idyllwild poetry and creative writing workshops for Inlandia Institute. Jean is an advocate for part time faculty equity and co-author of a book on the part-time professor experience, The Freeway Flier & the Life of the Mind.

* Charlotte Davidson’s workshop is now CLOSED due to maximum enrollment; please check back in winter to see if openings are available or join one of our other upcoming workshops that still have seats. San Bernardino and Corona both have openings.

KIDLANDIA: Six Degrees of Separation

It always amazes me when I meet someone who I think is a stranger and it ends up we are related in some way. I’m sure this has happened to you too. Well as weird as it sounds, it keeps happening to me. But not just with people—with situations, and even with food! Let me explain. I’ve been living with the belief that everything happens for a reason—whether that reason is divine intervention, or merely the choices one has made—one thing definitely leads to another. So, with that said, for the last month or so I have been having very powerful bouts of déjà vu. This déjà vu seems to be strongest with food, but situations in which I am meeting people are also strong. I wonder: am I really experiencing this again, or am I so focused on what I want to happen that everything is just falling into place? Let me make clear that things can’t just fall into place if you haven’t already created a place for things to land—usually through hard work and preparation. I know sounds like a philosophical ramble, but bear with me–you’ll see how it all falls into place.

For the last year, my incredibly talented husband, Curtis Cruz, has been attending the Riverside Community College Culinary Arts Academy. He left his teaching position at Redlands High School in order to pursue his passion, first he saved a year’s worth of wages  in order to go without working. He recently graduated, with medals in Hot and Cold Food competitions, and the Outstanding Baking and Pastry Award. To say the least, I am very proud. So what is he doing now? That’s where I get that strange feeling about how I fit into the whole plan. You see, over the summer, I met a distant cousin, Mitzi, and she and I formed a fast connection. During a visit to her home and business in Redlands she introduced me to a friend, who sells olive oil at a shop in Redlands, and like I said before, things started falling into place. Energy just keeps flowing in the right direction—it’s amazing, and a little scary.

Curtis and I will be sharing her booth at the Redlands Farmers’ Market next Thursday night. Look for My Goodness, Artisan Breads together with Stone Wheel Olive Oil Co. next Thursday night. What a natural pairing of two great flavors! I hope that when you let that olive oil soaked sourdough touch your tongue that your eyes close involuntarily and you let out a little sigh of pleasure. Then, and only then, will you know that feeling that I’ve been having.

Hoping to see you all again.


Julianna M. Cruz is a teacher, an author, and an Inlandian.