Extended Deadline January 15, 2018

Submit your best short fiction stories!

We’ll make this quick. Writer’s Digest is on the prowl for standout short stories in 1,500 words or fewer.

Think your short story has what it takes? Enter it in the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition for a chance to win $3,000 in cash, a paid trip to the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, recognition in the pages of Writer’s Digest and more.

Make your story bold, brilliant and of course, make it brief.

Enter today!

 

Hard to believe the collection of poems made it into a book, and that Amazon is offering it for sale at $14, free shipping if ordered by August 25th. The editing process, always ongoing, taught me just how much refocusing can happen when a publisher/editor asks simple questions about things you knew so well, before she asked.

Kelsay Books of Hemet, California published the book and sent it UPS to me, this July at Long Lake, NY. Two weeks went by as I tracked it cross-country to New Jersey, then to Glens Falls, NY where it got stacked in a warehouse, off the grid. Several calls, visits to the PO, cursing at the woods… Seems the destination address was insufficient. My luck changed when I spotted the Brown UPS delivery truck circling the village library. I hailed the driver, told him my anxiety-laden tale, and he handed me a 13.6 lb. box from California.

GCWA poets, Jim Gustafson and Joe Pacheco were instrumental in the editing process. Without the GCWA, I doubt I would have met either one of them. Karen Kelsay did a sensitive, efficient job at her end of the publishing process.

I encourage GCWA members to forge ahead with their work, to seek peer review and to learn how even the most modest publishing objectives can be accomplished.

I hope you buy The Time We Make in Passing and that you ask me to sign it for you. It will be an honor.

Gary McLouth

Hayton — Chasing Brenda

Chasing Brenda
by Pauline Hayton

Her sixtieth birthday, her self-centered husband, and the death of a friend have Brenda wondering what happened to her once adventurous spirit. Determined to get it back, she hotfoots it to a remote village in India. When family members give chase to persuade her to come home, life becomes hectic. Arriving in India, rebels promptly kidnap Brenda’s ditzy granddaughters. With the police no help and her dander up, Brenda turns into “Wonder Woman” on a mission, embarking on a hare-brained scheme to rescue “her girls.” Her showdown with the maniacal rebel leader has Brenda fearing for her life and the lives of her granddaughters. Calling him a moron doesn’t help. Against all odds, she outwits the rebels. Using implements hidden in her bra, Brenda escapes with the girls under cover of night. Traipsing through jungle, dodging rebels and bullets, and fleeing angry bears—no problem for the wild child in Brenda that was there all along. [more]

Purchase at Amazon

Myanmar: In My Father’s Footsteps: A Journey of Rebirth and Remembrance
by Pauline Hayton

Traumatized and physically depleted from aggressive cancer treatments, Pauline Hayton decides an adventure in Myanmar, formally known as Burma, will make her feel more alive. She takes along her husband Peter, and a film crew, students from Boston University, to capture her travels on film to help her grandchildren remember her should she develop further cancers and die, as expected, from the harsh radiation treatments. She explores remote regions where tourists rarely go and travels the famous Ledo road, visiting the places where, in WWII, her father participated in The Burma Campaign, as a Royal Engineer in Britain’s Fourteenth Army. Hayton’s jaunt in Myanmar turns into a journey of self-healing and remembrance of Fourteenth Army soldiers who suffered tremendous hardship as they fought to retake Burma from the Japanese. It is not in the spiritually charged atmosphere of the golden Shwe Dagon Pagoda or at the top of Mandalay Hill that Hayton starts her healing process, but on the shores of the great Ayeyarwady River as she recounts a twist of fate in Fourteenth Army’s 1945 river crossing while under fire from the Japanese. As dawn breaks, she finally faces her fear of crumbling to dust and disappearing from this world as have thousands of Bagan’s ancient pagodas. In Myitkyina, Hayton discovers a temple donated to the town some fifty years after the end of WWII by a Japanese Army captain, who fought under siege there and lost many comrades. Hayton realizes that she is not the only person to be carrying wounds from past traumatic events. Then, during a visit to Taukkyan War Cemetery, Hayton discovers her father’s friend’s name listed in the memorial book. He may have been part of “The Forgotten Army” but he is not forgotten here. Surrounded by row upon row of graves and the more than 27,000 names engraved on the Rangoon Memorial of Allied soldiers whose remains were never recovered from the jungle, a revelation hits her. Most of the graves belong to men who died in their twenties, and she has already lived more than thirty years longer than these young warriors. Gratitude for those extra years floods her whole being and the emotional pain from battling cancer and fearing an early death dissolves. [more]

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The Unfriendly Bee
by Pauline Hayton

 

Beryl, the unfriendly bee, chases other bees away from flowers that have the most pollen. She doesn’t care if she has no friends. She wants to win Queen Bee’s merit badge for collecting the most pollen for the hive. The other bees are annoyed and teach Beryl a lesson–that life is much better if you are a friendly bee. [more]

Purchase at Amazon

My good news this past month involved the celebration of my 80th birthday. The family had worked hard to get Dottie and me to travel to our hometown of Fennimore, Wisconsin, where we went to school and married while I was in engineering school. Over 55 years were to pass when in retirement, I started to write a newspaper column for the Fennimore Times. These stories have been published in six volumes telling the tales of my younger years from the over 750 columns written since August 29, 2002.

The birthday was one of great surprises, including a proclamation by my hometown declaring July 7, 8, and 9 as “Tom Nelson Weekend.”

Mr. Tom Nelson… tells the story of life and growing up in rural America: namely Fennimore, Wisconsin.” In closing this declaration by the city’s mayor: “The writings of Mr. Nelson have sparked interest in growing up in this city prompting people of a younger generation to invite conversation with their elders of how things used to be.”

I was both humbled and caught speechless by the above.

Tom Nelson

It was time to go back home. Following rainbows to the once familiar towns of Kankakee and Bradley, Illinois wasn’t the same. The old days remembered were gone. Perhaps that old saying’s true after all – “You can’t go home again.”

So Michael, the perennial hippie, and his 17-year-old son, Travis, made a hard decision. Could they make the 2000-mile journey in the old 1969 Chevy van, which held all their worldly goods? Not only clothes and mementoes Michael couldn’t part with, but the cherished ‘63 Harley? Mom and Dad would help out with some extra cash, but could the two of them actually make this trip?

It’s one thing to travel alone, as he’d done so many times before, but now his boy was along and it wasn’t the late 70s or 80s anymore. Yet, they had to leave. There was nothing for them there; no work, except odd jobs. And so they left one afternoon when the wind blew softly and the sun shown down on them as if to say, “Be on your way. Bon voyage.”

The old buggy cruised along for several hundred miles. Oh, not perfect, but good enough. His childhood friends said it wouldn’t go a hundred miles, but they were wrong.

Goodwill Industries in Tacoma originally owned that old van and Michael was the second owner. Except for having to paint over the words Goodwill, it was a good buy for three hundred bucks two years before.

It made the trip to Kankakee and then over to the next town of Bradley and was now carrying them back home to Tacoma. They stopped to eat at fast food places along the way and even spent one night in a motel, not wanting to spend any more than absolutely necessary. Otherwise, they slept in the van.

“It’s good being out in the fresh air with clouds that paint pictures, if you think hard enough, and the wind makes your hair cover your eyes a little,” said Michael. “People are mostly friendly, too.” And Travis nodded.

He used to travel with a scruffy black dog, Jake, years back, but now he was with his son. Maybe the old dog made some treat him better than they normally would have on those wayward treks over the road when he was young. He didn’t know for sure. But now Jake was gone.

Oh, they had to stop from time to time to let the engine cool off and add some oil, but that was to be expected. He’d phoned Mom and Dad collect from various places, so they wouldn’t worry too much about him and Travis. Michael thought he knew what Moms and Dads felt because he was a parent now, too.

The inevitable did happen. The old van broke down as they rolled into a whistle stop of a place called Murdo in South Dakota: population 679. Lucky for them they weren’t out in the wilderness. They could see a small motel in the distance and hiked there after locking the van.

Michael told the motel manager, a fellow named Patrick, his tale of woe; how they had to get the van running again and didn’t have much money left for the long trip ahead and maybe he had some work they could do. “I’m a roofer,” Michael said to Patrick, “and a darned good one, too.”

Patrick listened hard to all Michael had to say. “Tell you what,” he sighed, “there’s a guy down the road who needs somebody to finish a job on his RV roof. Seems the fellow he had doing the work just walked out on him yesterday, no warning, just walked out. Go on down there and see what he says.”

Michael did just that and, lo and behold, the man hired him on the spot, a total stranger, but then if you looked into Michael’s earnest green eyes, you would understand why. He and Travis started the very next morning real early and worked all day. The rickety old van was examined by the man at a near-by garage and it was determined it needed a new engine.

“It will take some doing for one to be found for such an old model in this out-of-the-way place,” the mechanic said. Michael worried how much it would cost, if one actually could be found. The search was on. In the meantime, Patrick worked out a deal for them to stay half-price at the motel.

It would take several days to finish the RV job, enough time to fix the van, if they  were lucky. The first day, the RV owner even gave them lunch money. Another man staying at the motel overheard them talking to Patrick and took them to dinner. “People ARE good, there’s no denying it,” Michael said to Travis in a quiet voice.

Patrick had some wood out back he intended to use for a utility shed someday. “If you can put it together on the week end,” Patrick said, “I might be able to work out a few days no rent.” Michael jumped at the chance. With Travis’ help, they did a fine job, too.

A few days later, while at the local Laundromat, he and Travis struck up a conversation with the manager. They told him they had no transportation. The fellow offered to take them to a junkyard that might have what they needed. The three of them went over there a couple of hours later, when the Laundromat was closed, and it was like a miracle! Sitting on the shelf was the exact size engine they needed and for only $175.00.

It would take a day or so to get it installed, however, and Patrick was going away. They had to move out of the motel. Patrick told them to walk uptown a few blocks and see the lady who ran the only other motel in town.

“I’ll call her first,” he said, “sorta set things up for you. Maybe she can find it in her heart to help out.” And then Michael and Travis met Ella. She needed bushes trimmed and some other odd jobs done around the place, which was in pretty sad shape. They could stay there half-price, a real bargain.

“You won’t believe it, Mom,” Michael said long distance, “the best people ever live here in Murdo, South Dakota. I even met a guy who has been here four years from Alaska. He said he broke down and never left. The people made him feel like this was his home.”

On Day Eleven in this town of Good Samaritans, the old van finally ran, almost like a top. Michael and Travis packed their gear and said their good-byes to Patrick, Ella and the other assorted friends they came to know in not quite two weeks. It was a bittersweet ending to a piece of life they would never forget.

Driving slowly out of Murdo, Michael glanced at his son sitting beside him and, with a faraway look in his green eyes that glistened just a little, he murmured, “Remember this place, Trav. This is what the world can be like. Never give up or lose faith. Like my mom always said, ‘Look for the good in people and you will find it.’”

 

Some years ago I wrote a story about my son and grandson’s short stay in the tiny town of Murdo, South Dakota. Their old van broke down, and they were stranded with a long trip ahead of them. I’ve thought about it so many times and felt I should let that town know how much their kindnesses meant to them and our whole family. Finally, I looked up the name of the local newspaper (The Mundo Coyote) and sent them the story. I received a response almost immediately. They said the story was “awesome” and they planned to publish it in their next edition. When they sent me copies, I was taken aback that they printed it on the front page taking up one-half of the entire paper. My son Michael died a year after that stay in Murdo. How proud he would be to have a story about him and his son featured in the town of truly Good Samaritans.

Pat Janda

See story here.