Anne of Green Gables, at last!

IMG_2261This is my L.M. Montgomery collection. I’m a fan. I remember the day my mother put the library book Anne of Green Gables in my hand. “You should read this,” She said. “It was one of my favorites when I was a girl.”

I remember thinking something like, Yeah right. I’ll humor her. I wasn’t really an adventurous reader when I was young. I tended to find certain books I loved and read and re-read them. Little Women, the Trixie Belden series, Chronicles of Narnia, Thornton W. Burgess’s series of animal books—those were my jam. Like Frances and her bread and jam (Google it), I knew what I was getting when I read and re-read those books. There were no unpleasant surprises.

Anne was a leap of faith. It took me a day or two to pick it up. I opened that cover with trepidation, not knowing the beauty and magic that awaited me. Nor that reading about her would later lead me to reading about her sister in literature Emily, who had the same “flashes” that I sometimes did—and then I’d realize that I must be a writer like Emily and Anne.

When our local community theater decided to do a play based on Anne of Green Gables, I knew I had to be involved somehow. Fresh off the success of A Christmas Carol (in which I played one of the only non-singing roles of “Woman 3”), I gathered my courage and, for the first time ever, auditioned live for a part in the play. It paid off and I got the part of Mrs. Barry, and now I’m living some of the scenes I once read and dreamed about as the overbearing mother of Anne’s best friend Diana. My favorite has to be the iconic scene in which Diana drinks currant wine by accident and comes home drunk. I also have a wonderful bit where I trade gossip with Mrs. Lynde.

IMG_2249

Anne’s Snow Queen is an apple tree. Mine is a dogwood.

Seeing Matthew and Marilla in living color has been a treat, but most lovely of all has been watching Anne and friends really come to life through the efforts of the talented young actors playing them. Anne is dreamy and creative, Diana is sweet and loyal, Ruby is beautiful and histrionic, Gilbert is earnest and competitive, and all the others of the Avonlea gang are brought to life in true form. Avonlea has already appeared in all its magic to me on that stage, and costumes and set haven’t even been finalized yet!

My dream is that our little theater performance of Anne will bring others to go on adventures with her. Other mothers may put that beautiful book into their dreamy daughters’ hands. “Read this,” they’ll say. And the dutiful daughters will reply, “Sure, Mom. Whatever.”

 

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Today is another test for civil disobedience

pexels-photo-905191.jpegToday, all over the country at 10 a.m., school children will exercise one of America’s most fundamental rights. In an act of (hopefully) ringing civil disobedience, they will walk out of their classrooms for seventeen minutes in protest of the lack of government action on sensible gun control. In the wake of the Parkland shooting and our national government’s subsequent groveling at the feet of the NRA, students across the nation will seek to make themselves and their opinions heard through this act.

Good for them.

Today of all days I think it is important to remember that civil disobedience has shaped our country in some wonderful ways.

  • Without civil disobedience, women would not have the right to vote.
  • Without civil disobedience, African Americans would still be enslaved.
  • Without civil disobedience, we’d all be paying taxes to Great Britain.

And yet, this week alone, I have seen some horrible reminders that civil disobedience can (and usually is) forced to become militant.

Consider the case of the two Seattle Seahawks football players going to practice who were followed by a woman who screamed at them that they better not kneel during the national anthem because her tax money paid for them to play football. I won’t even address the tax money fallacy or even that she was screaming obscenities at two men who aren’t actually known for kneeling during the national anthem. My problem with this is that they have every right to kneel during the national anthem if they want to and feel the need. Hell, the way things are in our country right now, I have a hard time keeping my knees from buckling during the pledge of allegiance and national anthem rituals I once embraced wholeheartedly.

But worse than that were the comments I read on a local news story about how school systems in our county are dealing with the school walkout. Two school systems issued statements promising to support the students in peaceful protests and to provide safe spaces for them to do so. Comments on the online story ranged from supportive to a some really ugly sentiments like the students were making themselves targets by walking out of the school and one from a parent who said no kid of hers better take part in such a display.

Are today’s young people willing to make their peaceful cause a militant one? Women were imprisoned and beaten for demanding their right to vote—and they kept marching and demanding. In the 1960s, some—not all—African Americans fought back against similar treatment when their peaceful sit-ins and marches were threatened. The Black Panthers were a frightening and militant group who were ready and willing to kill for their cause.

And, possibly the most poignant history lesson of all to every American citizen out there, when throwing tea into the Boston Harbor in protest of British taxes didn’t have the desired effect on the British government, war was the result.

So listen to your children. They aren’t tomorrow’s voices anymore. They are today’s, and you ignore those voices at your own peril.

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Lessons of a Favorite Teacher: Like a String of Christmas Lights

pexels-photo-632205.jpegToday I found out that my favorite teacher passed away. Mr. Goins was 75 years old, and I never told him he was my favorite teacher. He was the first to teach me the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of journalism, the first to encourage me to check my sources and back them up, the first to impress upon me that journalism is facts only—my opinion and my point of view do not matter in true journalism.

Mr. Goins was too kind-hearted to be a journalist, but he was the best of the best at teaching it. He led the little band of would-be journalists who made up our high school newspaper The Broadcaster to multiple awards. In fact, it was while attending a ceremony to receive one of these awards that I first stepped foot into Howell Hall of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And I knew I would go there and get my degree in journalism. And I did.

I’m luckier than most. I managed to finagle my way into the job of editor of The Broadcaster during my senior year and I helped found The Purple Fridge, the literary magazine of our high school, which Mr. Goins also agreed to sponsor. So I worked closely with this gentle soul who guided and advised and helped, but never ordered. He never yelled, though once or twice I think we all saw those bushy eyebrows flare over the gold-rimmed spectacles he wore. And sometimes he’d take those glasses off and rub the tear-drop shaped indentations on his nose very wearily.

I’ll never forget going into The Broadcaster office—Mr. Goins’s classroom—after school to ask him a question and find him, more often than not, kicked back in his chair with his feet up on his desk smoking his pipe. He’d drop his feet to the floor and motion for me to take a seat nearby, puff on his pipe and listen, think, and answer. He was never to busy for a student.

I never thanked him for that. I never told him he inspired me to pursue my writing career or that I still remember his journalism lessons like they are Christmas lights strung along the journey of my writing career, lighting my way. But they are. His lessons live on in my life, and I treasure their light. Thank you, Mr. Goins.

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Poem: Next Time

imageNext Time

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Save us, they whispered.

She barely looked up from work.

“You’re fine,” she said.

“Don’t worry so much.”

 

Save us, they pleaded.

The man in the suit waved them away.

“Make an appointment,” he replied.

“I’m too busy now.”

 

Save us, they screamed.

Their parents heard and wept.

“We’re sorry,” they mourned.

“So sorry we failed.”

 

Avenge us, they demanded—

And their peers raised their heads.

“You shouldn’t have died,” they declared.

“We’ll stop it next time.”

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Begin at the Beginning

IMG_5147You know how you have a story to tell sometimes and you can’t figure out where to start? And then some smartass says “Begin at the beginning.” That’s not always easy, is it? Because maybe you start with waking up that morning and then you realize that you were late because you had a hangover and you had a hangover because your best friend from college was in town last night and you met and had drinks, but to begin with she was in town because she’s getting married… Well, maybe you get the idea.

My point is, finding the beginning of a novel is sort of like that. Sometimes you kick off your novel with a great first line. Like I had this awesome first line for my current work-in-progress. At least, I thought it was pretty good. Want to hear it? “I’m doing Dickens.” So I started there and proceeded…and realized pretty soon after that, damn it, that’s not the beginning of the story. It’s actually about a chapter in.

I tried flashbacks and having the characters discuss how they got to the point they were at, but I knew it wasn’t going to work. I would just have to sacrifice that perfect first line.

So now I no longer have the perfect first line. However, I do have what I feel is a pretty good beginning. I thought I might share it with you. This one will be a Christmas romance. It’s tentatively titled Dickens Magic, and may or may not be a part of the Sleight of Hand series. It’s still early, and I’m toying with making it a standalone. Tell me what you think in the comments!

Kate Joiner pulled another tray of hot biscuits from the oven, tossed four into a basket, and hit the bell for the waitress to pick up before turning back to make sure everything was running well in the rest of the kitchen. It was. Like a well-oiled machine. Her well-trained kitchen staff knew the drills perfectly. Even a busy summer brunch rush couldn’t throw them off.

If only her wait staff were as dependable. She frowned at the basket of biscuits still sitting on the counter, picked it up and stalked around the partition ready to scold whichever teenage waitress was neglecting her duties. However, as she rounded the corner, a young girl dressed in jeans and a “Book Marker Café” t-shirt almost ran into her.

“Quinn!” Kate gasped, stumbling backward and catching the girl in the same movement. “What’s the meaning of this? You guys all disappear during the busiest hour—”

She stopped, her eyes narrowing. “Why are you giggling?”

Quinn was undoubtedly laughing, but her eyes wore a more cautious, almost shocked look. As if she were amused but wasn’t sure she really should be. She got control of herself at Kate’s stern look, however, and swallowed hard. “It’s just—the…out there. There’s a woman in her nightgown.”

“Her nightgown?” Kate peered past the girl and her heart collapsed. There was indeed a woman in her nightgown. Alex’s mom. Mrs. Lawrence. One of the most fashionable women in town who seldom ever left her home without lipstick now sat at one of Kate’s front tables in a lace nightgown, her hair unbrushed and no makeup at all on her translucent skin. Kate nearly dropped the biscuits. “Oh my God.”

“We didn’t…know what to do. The other customers are pointing and whispering and some of them are leaving.” Quinn’s voice held no trace of laughter now. Evidently Kate’s reaction had convinced her which side of amusement she needed to come down on.

Kate took a deep breath. “Get the others in line. Take care of the other customers. Pack up orders to go. Give it to them for free if they don’t want to pay. I don’t care. Just, for God’s sake, don’t let anyone else point and laugh at her.” A lump rose in her throat and she swallowed hard. Then she straightened her back and hurried over to Patty Lawrence’s table, thinking the whole way about the mother of her best friend who’d made her chocolate chip cookies and given her rides to play rehearsals with Alex and had, more than once, organized a cast party for them. The sweetness of the memories gave her strength.

“Mrs. Lawrence.” She smiled as she set the biscuits on the table in front of the woman. “It’s so good to see you.”

Mrs. Lawrence looked up, blinked once and then smiled back. “Katie! It’s been ages.” She looked around. “What are you doing here?”

She doesn’t know where she is. She doesn’t know this is my café. Kate struggled for control. “Oh, Mrs. Lawrence. Don’t you remember? I went in on the business with my mother. She runs the book store and I run the café?”

“Oh. Oh, yes. Of course.” Mrs. Lawrence nodded, but she still looked a little befuddled. “Strange, isn’t it? Having books and a café? All…mixed up. Sort of like New York.” She spread her napkin primly over satin lap. “Well, I’ll start with coffee. The biscuits smell wonderful. Did I order them?”

Katie reached across and touched the woman’s hands. “Those are on the house. My specialty, Mrs. Lawrence. Tell me, have you spoken to Alex recently?”

“Oh, he’s so busy with his plays and things on Broadway.” The older woman fluttered her hands as if speaking of her son’s foibles and hobbies and not the Broadway career he’d built for himself. “I keep saying I’m going to go up and see this last one.” She leaned across the table, lowering her voice confidentially. “You know he plays a gay man, don’t you? But he’s not gay.”

“No, he’s not gay.” Katie squeezed her hands gently.

“This is a very nice place you have here, dear. It’s a little drafty, though.” Mrs. Lawrence shivered. “Maybe you could turn up the heat?”

“Turn up the heat?” Katie blinked. It was June and the thermometer was already at seventy-five degrees when she got up that morning. “Um…sure.” Seeing her chance, she half rose. “But maybe I can get you a sweater or something, Mrs. Lawrence. To keep you warm until—”

“A sweater? Don’t be ridiculous. I’m wearing my winter coat.” As she spoke, Mrs. Lawrence looked down and a horrible change came over her face. She looked back at Kate, then back down at her nightgown, covered her face and began to sob quietly. Kate helplessly knelt in front of her, put her arms around the woman and held her. And even as she did so, she thought, Now I have to call Alex.

****

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Prose Poem: Here Goes by Michelle Garren Flye

pexels-photo-533671.jpegHere Goes

By Michelle Garren Flye

Time for you to take the wheel. I’m tired and lost. You can find the way out. You have Snapchat and Twitter and the iPhone X—all I have is Goggle. I mean Google. And Amazon. Hey, I can buy us a Garmin. Maybe that would help. You know when I was your age, we had Rand McNally Road Atlases.

I don’t know when we got to this point. You an adult and me old. I remember when I looked at the world the way you can now: like it was mine to take. It’s not mine anymore. I failed. I didn’t do any of the things I meant to do. I didn’t fix the environment or get rid of guns or stop wars or any of the stuff I thought I would do. I don’t know how I got lost. Do you?

Can you see the road? Of course you can. Your eyes are young and your gaze is clear. I bet the way ahead looks straight to you. It gets harder later. Find your way now before your vision is clouded with smog and illusion.

Here goes. Take the wheel. Take the wheel and drive.

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not my child, a poem for yesterday’s lost

IMG_1763not my child
by michelle garren flye
not my child
screaming
crying
pleading
helpless
not my child
hiding
praying
cursing
alone
not my child
listening
waiting
hurting
lost
not my child
this time

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