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Here are a few recent pieces.

  • “Milk.” Book chapter in Mothering Mennonite. Co-editors, Rachel Epp Buller and Kerry Fast. Demeter Press. 2013.
  • Lavish Banquets.The Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing. May 2012.
  • His Wife.” Short fiction. The Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing. March 2012.

Literary fowl

The Cresset picked up one of my pieces about the backyard hooligans. It’s from several years back–I read it at EMU and later used it as a summer sermon at Shalom Mennonite. I’m glad it found a home in print.

For the few brave subscribers–I’m clearly not a prolific blog updater these days. It turns out I’m a one-blog kind of woman. Most of my energy is currently going into the Tongue Screws and Testimonies site. Don’t worry, though. I’ll be back.

The book is out! Order it here or buy it from me.

It was bound on Tuesday and arrived on my doorstep Wednesday afternoon.

Just in time for Thursday’s reading!

It was hard to believe that, after all this time, I was holding the book in my hands. I was still terrified that it would be printed backwards and checked it over carefully. It’s beautiful, of course. Herald Press does good work.

This is why you should self-Google every now and then: because no one will call you to tell you that your essay has been selected by Robert Atwan of the Best American series as a “distinguished submission.” A nice little honor for “Selling the Farm,” published last year in Shenandoah.

Best American Essays 2010.

I think this also means that Christopher Hitchens, this year’s editor, read (or at least skimmed) my essay.

The queen must die, we decided this weekend.

Hive #1 has been our best hive for a couple of years. This year, our first year to harvest honey, we took 5 supers off that single hive, a little more than 10 gallons. It’s the towering “beescraper” on the left, below. By mid-July when we harvested, we added yet another deep body to the stack so that the bees wouldn’t swarm for lack of space. We named the queen  Imelda because we imagined that the queen of such a massive bee city would have a lot of shoes in her bee closet. It has been a mega-city, a bee-tropolis. But today, we planned to kill the queen.

Imelda's hive

We’ve been going through the hives lately to make sure they’re adequately prepared for winter, and we found that hive #1 had no eggs or small brood, a sign that the queen had failed. (Eventually, she just runs out of eggs.) Usually, the bees take care of succession themselves, starting a new queen when the old one begins to falter, but it’s too late this season for them to manage, so we planned to pick up a new queen Monday. First, though, we’d have to assassinate Imelda so that her workers would be ready to transfer their allegiance.

I was reluctant to re-queen the hive–I’d much rather let the bees raise one of her daughters since she clearly has good genetics. So we were very pleased to find two frames full of Imelda’s eggs and small brood this afternoon–and Imelda herself, still fat and glowing.

Guess she just got back from summer vacation. No sign of her shoes, though.

Hint Fiction

I rub shoulders with greatness in Robert Swartwood’s forthcoming anthology of Hint Fiction.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:
A story collection that proves less is more. The stories in this collection run the gamut from playful to tragic, conservative to experimental, but they all have one thing in common: they are no more than 25 words long. Robert Swartwood was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s possibly apocryphal six-word story—”For Sale: baby shoes, never worn”—to foster the writing of these incredibly short-short stories. He termed them “hint fiction” because the few chosen words suggest a larger, more complex chain of events. Spare and evocative, these stories prove that a brilliantly honed narrative can be as startling and powerful as a story of traditional length. The 125 gemlike stories in this collection come from such best-selling and award-winning authors as Joyce Carol Oates, Ha Jin, Peter Straub, and James Frey, as well as emerging writers.

(I’m one of those “emerging” writers.)

Because I don’t have enough else to do, and to break my ten-year poetry-writing block, I’m auditing a poetry course this semester with the inimitable Michael Ann Courtney. She has us playing with all sorts of forms. Last week, one of the (many) assignments was a “terribly clever double dactyl.”

Besides constraints of rhyme and meter, the doubt dactyl requires an opening line of repetitive nonsense and a second line that consists of someone’s name. One of the lines in the second stanza must be a single double-dactylic word. The whole thing should have some snooty literary or philosophical allusions.

Mine, naturally, dealt with the Martyrs Mirror.

I’ll publish it here, since it certainly doesn’t deserve a broader audience.

    Toothsomely, gruesomely

    Thieleman J. van Braght

    drafted his indices:

    martyr parades.

    Gougings on drownings on

    tongue screws on flames for their

    Mennohistorical

    last escapades.

Hymn Sing

Instead of celebrating the start of a new semester of teaching with my traditional box of Breyer’s cookie dough ice cream, I celebrated with a community hymn sing at Park View Mennonite church tonight. On the whole, I think it’s a healthier approach. An hour and a half of deep breathing, wrapped in intricate harmonies, with a song leader who wasn’t afraid to keep the tempo fast.

We were near the front, so I didn’t get  a great look at the crowd, but I think Jason and I were among the youngest participants. Which is a pity. There’s nothing like four-part harmony, Mennonite style. (Though, to be fair, the Brethren, Methodists, and others made a showing for the hymn sing.)

So what if the theology doesn’t always sync perfectly with my postmodern faith? I sang these songs standing on a pew as a kid, belting out “Old Mother Brown is Sleeping Sound” (that would be “All Other Ground is Sinking Sand”), caught up in the joy of the people around me and the beauty of the music. It still works. And, I confess, it works best when I don’t bother to update all those male pronouns for God, and just sing it like I first learned it.

The old hymns combine darn good music and sweet, old-fashioned poetry. I really don’t care much for “praise” music, though I do like the multicultural music in the newer Mennonite hymn collections.
Compare:

You, You love, love….dribble, dribble…

move me, move me…dribble, dribble….

yeah, Baby! Jesus!

With:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

And sorry, dear reader, if you prefer the dribbly music. I’m past thirty now. I’m allowed to curmudge.

Tonight I cooked pork chops for the first time in my life. And they were good.

I’m not usually a big fan of meat. Until I married Jason, I was practically a vegetarian, but he’s a farm boy and likes to sink his teeth into once-living flesh now and then. Since we started butchering our own poultry, we’ve had a decent supply of chicken and duck, and I’ve learned to enjoy meat with a history.

A couple of weeks ago, we visited family in southern Indiana and stopped to see old friends at Brambleberry Farm. We took them honey from our bees and five young Muscovy ducks. In turn, they gave us several nut trees from their nursery, some seed garlic, and a selection of cuts from some of their American Guinea Hogs. Thus, tonight’s pork chops.

I dredged the chops in flour, salt, and pepper, and did a simple saute in butter and olive oil. The meat had more body than the pork chops I’ve encountered before, almost like steak and, as Jason said, “It has flavor.” An incredibly rewarding flavor. In the end, I picked up the remains of the chop and gnawed at the bone like a barbarian, unwilling to let a morsel go to waste.

I wonder if they’ll want more honey next year?

*Insert reality check here: as all of us who care about global warming know, it’s wisest to shun meat. Meat remains a once-a-week treat for us, but what a treat when it comes with a history!

*Reality check B: the five Muscovy ducks were still young, small enough to all fit into a large cardboard box. I don’t recommend traveling with full-grown ducks. Though some do.

This summer, I visited Prince Edward Island, the stomping grounds of L. M. Montgomery, who forever shaped my young imagination with her Anne and Emily books. Her own life, however, was rather sad, in spite of the gorgeous surroundings.

Here, my better half bonds with Lucy Maude.

We also made the obligatory pilgrimage to “Green Gables.”

Our friends re-enacted the classic slate-smashing scene (Jessica as Anne, Tom as Gilbert) from Anne of Green Gables at the Blue Winds Tea Room.

At “Shining Waters” I tried to look the part of an inspired young authoress.