Essays

Mondays with Martin: My Child, My Journal

Mondays with Martin: My Child, My Journal

A person’s writing may develop into many things. My attempts at creative writing take the form of a journal, a personal warehouse of ideas and feelings. These bits and pieces expand into larger ideas or are used to support other thoughts that come later. My journal began as a skinny, empty, three-ring notebook and evolved into a robust creation with a personality of its own. My first attempts to originate something from a non-artistic life, bound in the past to mediocrity, surprised me. Without a conscious effort on my part, this unassuming notebook began eating pages scribbled with pathetic sentences, mostly unconnected, didactic, and plain. A few pages held feeble attempts at poetry, stilted, forced rhyming patterns on the most boring topics and secretly hid some scattered, embarrassing attempts at describing the passions of a mid-life crisis or two. Without knowing what I was seeing, the birth of a journal took place before my eyes. The thing increased its appetite. From a page a week, it soon demanded a page every couple of days. As it got bigger, it enjoyed eating more. It wanted to be fed daily, then ten or twelve times a week. What began as a weak, scrawny creature developed muscles and a healthy attitude towards survival. Each time its covers opened to consume more pages, I sensed the bellows of lungs expanding as though it aggressively inhaled new life. With increased bulk between the covers, its lips pushed wider apart. It began to smile at me, as it sat on the shelf across the room. I imagined it standing up and strutting in front of those other notebooks that kicked sand in its face when it was just a little child. Now that it became aware of its own mortality, it insists on the four basic health groups for good writing; literature, spelling, grammar, and composition. Like a parent, I am learning a lot about myself by watching my new child at play, and I think I see the time coming shortly when I will have to find it a name. What would other people think if I did not have a name for my new baby? When it begins to talk, will it develop a psychological problem stemming from a lack of self-confidence without an identity of its own? Nicholas Notebook? Julia Journal? Danny Diary? Bradley Biography? Ashley Album? Pilar Page? Elizabeth Exposition? Imogene Imagination? Karma Klassic? Big Bubba Book? At times, I think my journal is a gold fish in a bowl swimming around in circles without much room to explore or opportunity to develop, while others watch me from a position outside my vision and feel a sort of pity at my...

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Friday From the Journal – Did That Hurt?

Friday From the Journal – Did That Hurt?

This short essay from the winter issue of Fine Lines was written by Joseph Bushey.  The artwork with it was shot by Cindy Goeller. The current issue is online and available in print and on kindle at this link....

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Writers and Other Liars

Writers and Other Liars

This is a #TBT. Originally Published October of 2010. Writers and Other Liars By Deb Carpenter-Nolting I was five, and I knew how to write. I stood in the living room, fondling two new red pencils. “There should be one pencil for everyone. Did you take an extra pencil?” my mother called from the kitchen. “No, I just have one,” I answered, as I quickly hid the other one behind my back. When she entered the living room, I extended the one pencil for her inspection, while keeping the other behind my back. “Are you lying to me?” “No, Mommy.” “I know you are lying,” she said in a hurt voice, taking the culprit hand from its hiding. The evidence was right there, a second red pencil clutched in my naughty writer’s hand. Her voice sounded different. I caught the disappointment in it. The pencil wasn’t an expensive item. It wasn’t so important that I had taken an extra one. The issue was I had knowingly lied. I felt so guilty that I disappointed my mom, the truest and best person I’d ever known. I’ve tried very hard to never lie again, and for the most part I’ve succeeded, but there’s just something about a shiny new red pencil that still beckons me to lick the lead and be wicked....

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The Importance of Writing – Noni Williams

The Importance of Writing – Noni Williams

I prefer to write poetry, but I hardly ever shy away from a literary challenge. My interest in writing began when I was three years old. This is one of the main milestones in my life, because I started to read at this age. By the time I reached the fourth grade, I was reading on a college level and had started writing my own short stories and poetry. The summer after fourth grade ended, I turned nine. That summer, like many other summers, I got into trouble for fighting with one of my brothers. My punishment was to write a two page paper on why what I did was wrong and why I would not do it again. In the midst of my nine-year-old anger, I wrote an entire page about how I was mad at my mother for giving me an assignment as a punishment and how unfair the entire situation was. On the back of that piece of paper, I simply wrote what I was really feeling, and as I wrote, the anger and the sadness fell away and I realized not only had I finished the assignment, but I created something meaningful. I showed the sheet of paper to my mom, and she said, “Noni, this is good.” I thought, “Sweet. I’m done. That means I’m not in trouble,” but she insisted that it was more than just a completed assignment. Near the end of the summer, at the North Omaha Boys & Girls Club, a poetry contest was held. I apprehensively entered my writing into the competition. When it was my turn to present my piece, I stood in front of all of the other kids in the summer program, shaking and scared, and began to read. As I read, I noticed no one was talking like they did during other people’s turns. Every person in the room was watching me, and they were listening. Once you realize that you have the power to command attention in a room, things change. Confidence is a powerful thing. I ended up winning that poetry contest and other contests in the future. When I was eleven, I won the If I Lived in a White House contest and was published in the book that followed. To make a long story short, since I began writing in earnest about a decade ago, I have written countless songs, stories, and poems. My senior quote was one of my own poems. I write often, but not at the behest of another. I write when I become overwhelmed with emotion and when I need to share what I am going through but lack the wherewithal to approach a friend to discuss...

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Making the Great Novels into Your Own

Making the Great Novels into Your Own

*Today’s essay is from Fine Lines Senior Editor Stu Burns Writers Read, Right? A while back I read the first draft of a friend’s novel then punched out my critiques and advised her to read more novels. This would give her a sense of how she could finish her work and take it to a more mature conclusion. That was the diplomatic version. Privately, I was wondering if she had ever read a novel. As I typed, I looked at the reflection in my monitor’s glare and realized I was staring at a hypocrite. I was trying to write my own novel at the time, an entry in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) creative project I’d floundered on the previous November. I am a voracious reader, but mostly of nonfiction; I will argue all night that the life of Moe Berg is more interesting than anything J.D. Salinger ever wrote. Novels had never been something I looked forward to. When I read them, it was out of obligation, either for school or after years of prodding. If I was going to be able to write my own fiction, I had to read novels and like them. In other words, it was time I indulged in outright thievery. There is a much-abused quotation from T. S. Eliot: “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” Cynics often cite the great poet’s line out of context. In isolation, Eliot does seem to be encouraging plagiarism or worse. In perspective, this clever sentence is part of a complementary sketch of English writer Philip Massinger praising that Renaissance playwright’s use of material from William Shakespeare. As Eliot continues, “Bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion.” Eliot was a great example of this himself. He freely admitted that his masterpiece, “The Waste Land,” was drawn from several influences, including one of my favorite books, James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. Even with this confession, I have a hard time seeing anything from Frazer in Eliot’s lines. The poet has done such a complete job digesting the themes of death and rebirth that they no longer belong to the anthropologist who strung them together. This is the kind of heist I was after. Trying to reinvent the wheel in the shape of a novel was a fool’s errand. I was out to steal. Reading for Style I was luckier than most writers who haven’t read enough novels. Between conversations with friends...

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The War for Me – Jennifer Peterson

The War for Me  Jennifer Peterson The day I came upon Linda Ellen’s mother crying in the kitchen was the day the war became real for me. Before that moment, it was just parties and parades, fundraisers and patriotism. The soldiers were young and vibrant and strong. It wasn’t death. It wasn’t pain. It wasn’t real. It was not real until that afternoon when I found straight-laced Mrs. Eleanor Pineberg, who was quick with a Kleenex if I so much as sniffled in church on Sundays, standing with her hand pressed painfully against the green linoleum countertop, as silent tears poured down her face. The phone hung off the wall, the receiver dangling from its curly cord, bouncing up and down, up and down, in tune with the silent heave and fall of Mrs. Pineberg’s shoulders. I’d only come up for a glass of water. Linda Ellen was still downstairs, hunched over the checkerboard, scrutinizing the pieces, trying to outmaneuver me this time. I knew my way around the Pineberg house, being Linda’s best friend and all. I’d taken the rickety old basement steps two at a time, thinking I’d burst through the door into the small neat kitchen with the floral curtains and a proudly displayed new dishwasher. The Pinebergs had a pastel blue phone with a black dial track. It wasn’t like ours. Ours was a dismal custard yellow with enameled numbers more rubbed off than on. I’d always thought of the Pineberg telephone as blue like the ocean, blue like the sky. But when I saw Mrs. Pineberg clutching the counter as her blank eyes blinked desperately, all I could think was that it was blue like sadness, blue like tears. “Mrs. Pineberg…” I said slowly. My voice was almost a whisper, but I don’t think she would have heard me if I’d screamed. “Mrs. Pineberg, are you okay?” I asked, stepping closer, but her eyes looked right through me. I blinked, trying to figure out if I was hallucinating. My carefully rounded fingernails pressed into my palms, hard enough to leave little half-moon marks behind. My heart was pounding in my ears and I was terrified. I knew it was something serious. I knew there was something very wrong. Mrs. Pineberg’s face was… desolate. Just empty. Crushed, broken. Her carefully curled hair was slipping out of its rigid, familiar updo. I knew she must have been pulling her fingers through her hair because the carefully sprayed blonde beehive was skewed and frizzy, as if all the bees inside had suddenly gone into a frenzy, swarming out towards the walls. I stood there staring at her, watching her stare right back at me without seeing. “Linda...

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