Thursday, March 28, 2024

Cat Thursday - Cats and a secular Easter

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and often hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Share the link to your post with your comment below.

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Thursday, March 21, 2024

Cat Thursday - They're is what it is

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and often hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Share the link to your post with your comment below.

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Monday, March 18, 2024

Poet Anique Sara Taylor discusses Inspiration in Poetry

Welcoming today Anique Sara Taylor, the poet behind the new collection, Civil Twilight.

From Inspiration to Exploration

Inspiration, from the Latin “to breathe into.” The subject of inspiration has followed many concepts through many centuries.
  • The Greeks believed it came from the Muse.
  • The Nordic peoples considered it the voice of the Gods.
  • Israelites deemed it an overwhelming need to share God’s voice.
  • Christians thought it was a communication from the Holy Spirit.
     The Romantics considered the poet a willing receiver of inspiration because of developed inner sensitivities.

     More recently inspiration has included ideas of courting visions, mystical winds, the inner psyche, a divine fury. Endless discussions continue about connecting with inspiration as a form of ecstasy and fervor. Even frenzy and madness. Or being transported, as if this were something the writer hadn’t asked for and couldn’t resist or control.

     In searching for an open connection to creativity, writers have utilized Ouija Boards, meditation, automatic writing, various substances, all in the pursuit of open access to inspiration, and therefore genius. This has inspired philosophers, theologians, psychologists to write many books, with a variety of viewpoints.

     Growing up, I remember teachers referring to creatives as having inspiration, as if this was a magical gift given to only the lucky (or perhaps insane) few.

     I used to wait for the thrilling rush of inspiration, the burning trigger to tell my story. I loved riding the crest of that wave. But in my studies, classes, reading and friendship with other poets, I’ve observed that inspiration doesn’t always swoop down reliably, in full and complete usable form. Working on craft that deepens over time, is a less romantic version that’s often ignored.

     Many serious writers come to learn a more sober, and perhaps more deeply fulfilling mode of working: Read. Study. Research. Have a daily writing practice. Ask questions. Follow threads of completely new and unfamiliar resources. Delve deep into various crafts, professions, and sciences. Write down what comes to you in dreams and meditation. Make friends with phrases. Compose and refine phrases. Explore with curiosity to discover what can be built. Thoughtfully combine materials that have been gathered.

     Welcome the uncut, the wild and the unvarnished parts. Let in what’s unsettling and what’s on fire. Take your time. Sort it out in the rewrite. Then rewrite again. And again.

     Below I’m sharing ways phrases can begin. These are both the tiny lighting strikes and the nuts-and-bolts of inspiration. I hope these will give you insight into the endless ways you can shift from inspiration to curiosity and exploration.

How a Poem Can Begin

• A poem can begin in confusion or passion. A wild inspiration that pulls you away from everything that needs to be done that day.

• Phrases can begin with lines in disarray that you’ve gathered in notebooks where nothing connects. You don’t know what to do with them, or where they’ll go.

• Words come to you while you’re driving or cooking, taking a shower, answering the phone, or stirring the oatmeal.

• A poem begins with the way morning light glitters off the telephone wires.

• Writing begins when someone tells you they have Lyme Disease and you research lists of symptoms and causes, and then you wonder what it’s like to be a spirochete.

• Memories topple in when a phone call comes from a childhood friend. You flash back to a rock ’n roll party in her driveway. Records. 45s spinning on her portable record player, a B-side slow-dance, and the sweet boy who swayed you to the music on a June evening.

• A poem begins when you finally have time to write, and you can’t think of a thing to say. And you feel everything you write is wrong. But you write anyway. On the day you finally had time to write.

• Phrases come when you’re walking the unpaved circular mile around the town pond in early morning, when everyone else is still asleep.

• Words tumble in quickly with a workshop prompt, in the class you were afraid to sign up for. You don’t know where it’s going, and you feel exposed because you’re afraid they’ll ask you to read it out loud.

• Phrases come to you when someone on TV has obsessive-compulsive disorder, and you search websites, and then your life, for a vocabulary of obsessive-compulsive traits.

• Strange dream-words flood in from blurred clouds on first waking up. You feel they’re trying to tell you something, even though you don’t understand. But you write them down anyway.

• Images rush in when you’re stopped at the red light, and you have less than a minute to capture words for the scene at the intersection.

• A poem begins with your journal when you’re sad and alone, and there’s no one to call.

• Phrases pour out over a collection of seashells. A list of first times, last times and turning points. A history of places where you’ve lived. Shoes you’ve worn. Cars. Jobs. Past loves.

• An elegy begins when you write about one loss as if it was a reflection of every other loss.

• A poem begins when you research snakes or frogs, or how you learned to walk. Or how the rocks below you were formed billions of years ago.

• Imagery begins when you catalogue all you see around you. Or hear, smell, taste, feel, touch.

• A poem begins when you’re reading someone else’s poem, and it sparks an idea in you that continues on your own tangent.

• A new thought opens up when your cousin calls to say she’s taken the kids to Arizona’s Saguoro National Park. And although you only know New England forests, you read about the cactus that take 50-75 years to grow their first arms.

• A project can start when you make a date to meet a friend at the mall for tea. You sit and write together quietly.

• Poems begin when you enter your daily writing practice and continue the work you'd left unfinished and breathing from the day before.

• Writing begins with a wild body-surfing wave, or on thin ice. With too much time, or not enough time. With what is disconnected, broken, messy and uncertain, But begin in any way you can.

A Poem Begins With Possibility

     With these possibilities, I bring you back into the little world of my own beginnings and disconnected phrases. These lines are from unwritten poems, slips of paper and old computer files. Maybe someday, some will grow up to become poems.


Bass sax threads a warm perfume around the slow dancers.
Another Lucky Strike between her red lips,
she inhales with a magnet of breath until embers glow scarlet.
Thistles, nettles and thorns of night where owl shadows
and hawks gather, where no one has ever been so alone.
It was the year of seven monkeys and the structure of dragon kites.
As shimmering fish intersperse with ruins and castles,
soaking up the sadness of shipwrecks.
White noise ripples in my ears, I can no longer hear the angels.
Spirochetes dive into my tissues, I ask for grace.
Even with theories of atonement, the deeper difficulty remains.
Among the sand and mud of protected bays,
submerged lilies sway with pond grass.
a similarity of corresponding mouth parts
its nature smoother than glass, rounder than pearl
Just before the roses bloomed, just before you left me
memories of ten thousand cigarettes
beside discarded J&B Scotch bottles
Birds swoop past unaware, their music first urgent, then tender
The silver planets of my thoughts

How a Poem Grows

     Early writers often try to tell their personal story. But magic can happen when they loosen their personal grip on the story and consider the limitless possibilities of the universe. If we open our senses to the cornucopia of material ceaselessly seething all around us, we might find that all we’d wanted to say would still follow us.

     When you gather phrases of possibility, when you combine them, you might discover something you’d always wished for, but didn’t know how to find.

What are the silver planets of your thoughts?


Anique Sara Taylor’s book Civil Twilight is Blue Light Poetry Prize 2022. Where Space Bends was published by Finishing Line Press 2020. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her chapbooks chosen Finalist in 2023 are: When Black Opalescent Birds Still Circled the Globe (Harbor Review’s Inaugural 2023 Jewish Women’s Prize); Feathered Strips of Prayer Before Morning (Minerva Rising); Cobblestone Mist (Long-listed Finalist by Harbor Editions’ Marginalia Series). Earlier Chapbook Finalists: Where Space Bends (In earlier chapbook form 2014 by both Minerva Rising & Blue Light Press.) and Under the Ice Moon (2015 Blue Light Press). She holds a Poetry MFA (Drew), Diplôme (Sorbonne, Paris), a Drawing MFA & Painting BFA (With Highest Honors / Pratt) and a Master of Divinity degree. Follow her on Facebook, X, Instagram, LinkedIn, and her blog. Sign up for her newsletter.

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civil twilight

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

About the book:

Anique Sara Taylor’s chapbook Civil Twilight is the winner of the 2022 Blue Light Poetry Prize.

As the sun sinks 6 ̊ below the horizon at dawn or dusk, it’s 5:30am/pm someplace in the world. In thirty shimmering poems (30 words/5 lines each), Civil Twilight probes borders of risk across a landscape of thunderstorms, quill-shaped mist, falcons that soar, the hope of regeneration, a compass to the center. Tightly hewn poems ring with rhythm and sound, follow ghosts who relentlessly weave through a journey of grief toward ecstasy. Spinning words seek to unhinge inner wounds among sea shells and hostile mirrors, eagles and cardinals––to enter “the infinity between atoms,” hear the invisible waltz. Even the regrets. The search for an inner silhouette becomes a quest for shards of truth, as she asks the simple question, “What will you take with you?”

Advance Praise:

“Taylor’s award-winning collection is mesmerizing. 30 poems, 30 words each shimmer with a refined intensity at once both taut and expansive … her emotional richness is as lyric as it is restrained.” ––Leslie T. Sharpe, Author of The Quarry Fox and Other Critters of the Wild Catskills

“Experience each poem, woven [with] great intimacy and rare musicality … Read all 30 poems aloud in sequence and feel yourself transformed.” ––Sharon Israel, Host of Planet Poet, Words in Space Radio Show and Podcast

Civil Twilight is a stunningly crafted sequence of small poems … keenly attuned to the language of the natural world and all the mysteries that come with it.” —Sean Nevin, Author of Oblivio Gate

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Thursday, March 14, 2024

Cat Thursday: Authors and Cats (127) Hiro Arikawa

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come acros s, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Share the link to your post with your comment below.

The second Cat Thursday of each month is Authors and Cats Thursday. Each time I will feature an author, pictured with their/a cat(s), or guest posts by cat loving authors who also (sometimes) write about cats.

Hiro Arikawa s a female Japanese light novelist from Kōchi, Japan.

Although she is a light novelist, her books from her second work onwards have been published as hardbacks alongside more literary works, with Arikawa receiving special treatment in this respect from her publisher, MediaWorks. Shio no Machi was also later published in hardback. Her 2006 light novel Toshokan Sensō (The Library War) was named as Hon no Zasshi's number one for entertainment for the first half of 2006, and came fifth in the Honya Taishō for that year, competing against ordinary novels.

She has written about the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF); her first three novels concerning its three branches are known as the Jieitai Sanbusaku (The SDF Trilogy). She also wrote about the fictional Library Forces in the Toshokan Sensō series. Raintree no Kuni, which first appeared as a book within a book in Toshokan Nairan was later published by Arikawa as a spin-off with another publisher. It was adapted into a film titled World of Delight released on November 21, 2015.

Her novel Shokubutsu Zukan [ja] was adapted into a film titled Shokubutsu Zukan: Unmei no Koi, Hiroimashita (Evergreen Love), released on June 4, 2016. Likewise, two other of her novels, i.e. Freeter, Ie wo Kau and Hankyū Densha were adapted respectively in film or TV series in 2010 and 2011.

Tabineko Ripouto, a work which was serialized Weekly Bunshun between the years of 2011-2012, was compiled into a novel in 2012. In it, the protagonist is a cat called Nana (Japanese for seven), which enters the life of cat lover Satoru, who is still mourning his first cat Hachi (Japanese for eight). Tabineko Ripouto rapidly gained critical acclaim and several literary award nominations. It was translated by Philip Gabriel and published in English as The Travelling Cat Chronicles in 2017. The novel was then adapted into a film in 2018. (Wikipedia)

Images from INTERVIEW | Living, Loving, and Learning with Cats According to Best-selling Author Hiro Arikawa

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Thursday, March 7, 2024

Cat Thursday - Silly cat antics

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and often hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Share the link to your post with your comment below.

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Monday, March 4, 2024

Author Elizabeth Bruce discusses the characters in her new collection, Universally Adored & Other One Dollar Stories

I grew up in a small town on the Gulf coast of Texas, though I haven't lived there for over 50 years. I left a week after I graduated from high school and went off to college in Colorado. I’ve spent my entire adult life either in the urban centers on the front range of Colorado or in NE Washington, DC, with a one-year layover in New York City.

However, most of my characters are regular, “analog” folks who live in small communities.

People ask me why I don’t write more about my own urban adult life. And my answer is that I kind of do. I couch my insights into the human condition in my forthright, plain-spoken characters who embody a resilience I’ve found everywhere—in the people who shaped me growing up, who have befriended me in adulthood, with whom I’ve worked or collaborated—

individuals with whom I have found such a profound community.

So many people I know—be they friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, fellow artists, etc.—have faced real hardships in life.

Indeed, I’ve tended to live and work in places where people are “strivers.” They’re survivors. They’ve gone through hard times of sorrow, of affliction, deprivation, war, or violence. Maybe they’ve come here from somewhere else—another country, another region of the U.S.—or maybe they’re trying to get away, but mostly they’re striving for a better material reality, a better inner reality, some measure of equilibrium. They’re the models for my characters. While my characters don’t always succeed, mostly they soldier on. And I find that heroic. My fiction is an homage to their grit.

The reality is, I'm not an academic. I don’t have an advanced degree. While I have a sweet little BA in English from a great liberal arts college, and a ton of lifelong learning, I don’t belong to, nor do I write about “the academy.”

There’s a very insightful analysis that emerged in recent years by British author David Goodhart about “anywhere” people and “somewhere” people.” “Anywhere” people have skill sets and social capital that enable them to live anywhere and make a good living. “Somewhere” people, on the other hand, have livelihoods that are not so transportable and for whom place is a palpable and essential ingredient of their lives. For whom family, friends, community institutions, and the land itself weave together the meaningful tapestry of their lives. They live local lives.

There’s a fabulous museum in Baltimore, the American Visionary Art Museum, that describes itself as “America’s official national museum, education center, and repository for self-taught and intuitive artistry.” One of its first goals is “to expand the definition of a worthwhile life.”

I love that—expanding the definition of a worthwhile life.

Those are the lives I write about. My characters are not particularly hip or prosperous. They’re not the cerebral, “logocentric,” often alienated or cynical “anywhere” characters of much of contemporary Western literary fiction.

But I love them all. I relate to them all.

I read a beautiful commentary 30+ years ago by a woman writer in a series of interviews in the Washington Post. This writer wrote about how, once she’s conjured her characters into existence, she feels a deep commitment to finish telling their stories. It’s like a moral obligation, and I completely agree.

There’s this thing that happens when a reader is totally immersed in a story. They call it “narrative transportation.” This happens at a very deep level for writers themselves. It’s a magical, sometimes painful, but always deeply empathetic experience, even with unsympathetic characters. As a former character actor, I find it so much like the actor’s process of embodying a character.

In fact, speaking of theatre, there’s a great play your readers might know by the early 20th century Italian playwright, Luigi Pirandello, entitled “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” in which characters whose authors had not finished telling their stories, barge into a rehearsal with a bunch of actors and demand that they finish acting out their narratives. I completely understand their urgency!

So that’s who I dedicate my writing to—my own characters in search of an author. They’re who’s in my new collection, Universally Adored & Other One Dollar Stories, in which every story begins with the words “one dollar” and pivots in some way around the meaning of a dollar.

There’s a ladies’ room attendant escaping an abusive husband, a stable owner and her alcoholic father, an urban street vendor of ice-cold water and a laid off ammo factory worker. There’s a street jazz musician, a color-obsessed artist, a germaphobe bartender, a migrant farmworker girl, and an odd-job bibliophile. There’s a jaded humanitarian doctor, an older brother in charge of his neurodivergent younger brother, a vagabond healer, and some middle schoolers, single mothers, and more. And there’s a subset of characters embroiled—voluntarily or not—in the underground economy: a drug mule, a soon-to-be conscripted-into-prostitution young girl, an ex-con, and a wrongfully convicted lifer.

The collection was just released by Vine Leaves Press. Your readers can find out about it or purchase a copy here or learn more about me or my other work at

Thanks so much for this opportunity to share a bit about my work.

Elizabeth Bruce’s debut story collection, Universally Adored & Other One Dollar Stories, is forthcoming in January 2024 from the Athens, Greece-based Vine Leaves Press. Her debut novel, And Silent Left the Place, won Washington Writers’ Publishing House’s Fiction Award, ForeWord Magazine’s Bronze Fiction Prize, and was one of two finalists for the Texas Institute of Letters’ Steven Turner Award for Best Work of First Fiction. Bruce has published prose in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Sweden, Romania, India, South Korea, Malawi, Yemen, and The Philippines, including in FireWords Quarterly, Pure Slush, takahē magazine, The Ilanot Review, Spadina Literary Review, Inklette, Lines & Stars, and others, as well as in such anthologies from Paycock Press’ Gargoyle series, Weasel Press’ How Well You Walk through Madness: An Anthology of Beat, Vine Leaves Literary Journal: A Collection of Vignettes from Across the Globe; Madville Publishing’s Muddy Backroads, Two Thirds North, multiple Gargoyle anthologies, and Washington Writers’ Publishing House’s This Is What America Looks Like. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

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About the book:

In Universally Adored and Other One Dollar Stories, Elizabeth Bruce gives readers 33 ways of looking at a dollar. Her empathetic, humorous, and disarming embrace of plain-spoken people searching for a way out, charms and provokes. These are bittersweet stories of resilience and defiance.

In “Universally Adored,” a color-obsessed artist draws a facsimile of a dollar—a masterpiece universally adored—to win her girlfriend back. While checking for spare change in the laundry, in “Bald Tires” a Tennessee housewife with a malcontent husband finds an unused condom in his Sunday trousers. In “The Forgiveness Man,” a runaway teen with a newborn follows a vagabond healer absolving the bedraggled godless through hugs of forgiveness. And in “Magic Fingers, a ladies’ room attendant tracked down by her abusive ex finds refuge in a cheap motel with a 1970s era bed massager.

Riffing on the intimate object of a dollar, Bruce’s humane short fictions—from a great mashed potato war to the grass Jesus walked on—ring with the exquisite voices of characters in analog worlds.

Advance Praise:

“Elizabeth Bruce’s stories have that rare quality of feeling as though they have always existed, the way the best stories always do. In a lesser writer’s hands, the conceit of beginning each story with ‘one dollar’ might seem like a gimmick, but here they echo Wallace Stevens’ ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,’ and I found myself eager for what came next, curious to see how each new story amplifies the previous story while also diverging from it, often in dramatically different points of view and styles. These are exquisite short stories that give me hope.” –John McNally, author of The Book of Ralph and The Fear of Everything (USA)

“This collection contains inventiveness, voice, and vivid characters grappling with life and love, pouring forth on each new page. Together the stories weave a remarkable tapestry around a theme with a shockingly familiar starting point. By the end, we see in how the author guides our attention, new ways of seeing ourselves and the constellations of our closest relationships. It’s breathtaking.” –David A. Taylor, author of Success: Stories and Soul of a People: The WPA Writers’ Project Uncovers Depression America (USA)

“I’ve been eagerly awaiting this collection of one of a kind short-shorts from the author of And Silent Left the Place. Keen-eyed and with a great gift for stand-out narratives at whose heart is a profound appreciation of the particular, Bruce takes us on a magical realist journey through the lives of ordinary people whose lives turn on a dollar. A gifted storyteller, Bruce is at her best here. The stories sing with ingenuity and keep us in her spell. Just how far can one dollar take a person? You’d be amazed.” –Naomi Ayala, author of Calling Home: Praise Songs & Incantations (USA) Winner, Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy of Environmental Justice Award

“Elizabeth Bruce’s stories shine a light on the conflicts–big and small–that we face in life and our struggles to resolve them. She writes thoughtfully and elegantly about the pain and beauty of being alive.” –Eric Stover, author of The Witnesses: War Crimes and the Promise of Justice in The Hague (USA)

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