Thursday, May 24, 2012



One of the modern paradoxes is knowing someone you don't know. The enigma of social media being social, but not necessarily personal does not escape me. I don't know Antonia Crane. She is a "friend" on Facebook - though the likelihood we'll ever even meet is as unlikely a scenario as the one where we find ourselves plotting a bank robbery together. By the way, with her movie star looks she'd make a good Bonnie in a remake of the classic film from 1967. I, on the other hand, would not make a good Clyde, although I can definitely handle the wheel in a get-away scene. So, when author Anna March suggested Antonia might serve up an interesting Lost Weekend 6-Pack, I literally had to use the little search box on FB to see who she was and if we were even "friends" yet. We were, but that did not keep me from feeling like a stalker when I sent the initial personal message through FB to her... "Hi, you don't know me, but we're friends." I sat around for five hours staring at my FB page, the box with the friend count specifically, just waiting for it to go down by one. It didn't. I got a personal message back instead, one with a sense of voice that suckered me into believing we played tennis together back in high school. I found myself wanting to challenge her to a game of doubles, but had a weird feeling she would win.  Turns out, Antonia does hit some balls, because her dad coaches tennis. I wondered if she flirted with endorsement deals like Maria Sharapova.  I still don't really know Antonia, but I know her better now that I've read her Lost Weekend 6-Pack... and I'm happy to be able to call this talented writer a friend... whatever that means.

Enjoy, but watch out for her top spin serve... she's aiming for your privates. ~ J. Goertel

Lost Weekend 6-Pack / 2 movies, 2 books, 2 drinks:
Yeah Right.

Asking an ex-drug addict to choose only two of her favorite things is torture- like dangling one potato chip in front of her face. I’m a book slut, movie junkie and music whore.  I need more than a six-pack. You need more. Admit it. So, I’m shirking the rules by arranging my picks according to theme. 

Let’s begin with vigilantism. I’d start with Tarantino’s women. His lethal, gorgeous, driven protagonists enjoy totally justified revenge in “Kill Bill” and “Inglorious Bastards.” Where there’s vigilantism, there are bank robbers with sideburns in polyester suits flanked with hot stripper girlfriends. I love Mesrine: Killer Instinct (and Part 2: Public Enemy #1).  What’s not to like about a “girl on fire?” I thought I died and went to feisty heroine heaven when I saw “Hunger Games” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Delish. Two Books where hicks take the law in their own hands are Donald Ray Pollack’s, “Knockemstiff” and Sam Lipsyte’s hard and ever-clever characters in “Venus Drive.” His characters are lovely and creepy. I’d turn up L-7’s “Shit List” and dance in my underwear slurping Diet Dr. Pepper. Lots of lemon.

I’m a sucker for tender devastation of the heartbreak variety; a sadness so searing it looks like madness like the movies “Biutiful” and “Blue Valentine.” Two books that echo poignant ache with wonderfully flawed characters that overcome insurmountable obstacles are Cheryl Strayed’ s “Wild” and Rob Roberge’s  “Border Radio” (from his collection “Working Backwards From the Worst Moment of My Life”). "Border Radio" will send you sprinting to the dentist for enamel fillings. As for music,  I love all of Jack White’s projects (White Stripes, Dead Weather, Raconteurs) but the song that tears my heart out is his rendition of “Jolene” live. A  sad drink? Berry Hibiscus Kambucha. Gross. Why would anyone drink a mushroom? Bottoms up. 

   The frayed American Dream and the crisis of identity is my last theme. I loved the under appreciated film “Frozen River,” a bleak narrative about desperate alliances made between complex women for a singular purpose. I’ll never get over Mickey Rourke’s beautifully desperate, aged-out performer in “The Wrestler.” He painted a portrait of the American dream charred at the edges as it turned to ash and blew away. I love books that, by their existence, demand more of me as a person and as a reader, like Lidia Yuknovitch’s “Chronology of Water” and Bernard Cooper’s “Truth Serum.” Both will stretch you as a human being.  I’d listen to “Hold On” by the Alabama Shakes and Lucinda Williams’ “Side of the Road” and drink water. Lots and lots of water.

photo by Romy Suskin

Antonia Crane teaches creative writing to incarcerated teenage girls in Los Angeles. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Akashic: The Heroin Chronicles (edited by Jerry Stahl), The Rumpus, Black Clock, Slake, PANK, The Los Angeles Review, ZYZZYVA and other places. She wrote a memoir about her mother’s illness and the sex industry, Spent, and is currently seeking representation for that memoir. Check out: for more.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012



I thought I'd turn the tables a bit this week by starting the weekend early - real early -  but more so by tapping Randy Becker at NexTv Entertainment for a Lost Weekend  6-Pack. After all, it was Randy who tapped me to put together the literature blog for his NexTv's website. It's been an amazing partnership and I am indebted to him for the opportunity and for being such a champion of my writing - he was one of the first people in Hollywood to notice my screenwriting and among the first to work to promote it. That said, I thought I was the writer and he was the Hollywood wheeler and dealer... I mean, damn, when I asked him for a 6-Pack, I thought I'd get a list of "suggestions" for changes to the blog, you know Hollywood-style notes... "Maybe the blog could be a website?" / "Lost Weekend Wine List is polling better as a name with the 35-55 demographic than Lost Weekend 6-Pack." / "We're bringing a few people just for a 'polish' on the blog." Instead, I got something passionate and heartfelt - just like Randy, who's NexTv Entertainment has been hooking up talented filmmakers, directors, and actors with the the top players in Tinsel Town for the past few years. I love Randy's 6-Pack so much, that I am declaring a long weekend to enjoy it... starting right now. Cheers - J. Goertel

A lost weekend 6-pack, eh?  Wow…with 2 kids and a business that kicks and screams all day every day, the idea of filling a lost weekend with movies, books and alcohol, while deliciously fun to imagine, is simply not going to happen. But even before I indulge my imagination with this exercise, I need to step back and look at the great accomplishment of James Goertel.  When I first asked James to consider creating the lit blog for us at NexTV, I figured that he’d provide a few excellent articles and then we’d slowly feel our way forward.  

Instead, he has created this incredible experience for writers both to participate in and to experience as readers.  With some of the hottest authors and poets generously donating work, simply because James asked them to, I have been BLOWN AWAY by ALL ‘LIT’ UP.  Blown out of the water, in fact.  It’s not often when you find someone to take ownership over an idea, then take it to the next level (and 17 levels beyond…18, even). The LOST WEEKEND 6-PACK is one of my favorite examples of James’ great ability to provide a sandbox for others to play in. THANK YOU JAMES!  

Having said that…curse you James Goertel…CURSE YOU AND THIS BLOG! That’s right, I said it…Since I founded NexTV in 2009, I have read over 1,500 scripts, watched over 3,000 videos and taught one 4 year old how to ride his bike without training wheels (two days ago, in fact…an incredible sight).  But you are asking me to identify my 2 books, 2 movies and 2 drinks for this mythical lost weekend.  Well, James…let’s see…I’ve read 1 book in the past 3 years, I’ve seen 4 movies in the theater, each of which came with disposable glasses and, as for alcohol?  Well, I wish I was drunk now, but instead I sit here at 2:38am, intoxicated by the tingly sensation in my ass from having 185 pounds of sagging body weight pressing down on it for the past 15 hours….so this task is more an exercise in remembering who I’ve been, than a genuine look into who I am today.

Still, I’m up for it, so what the hell…lets’ give her a shot.

2 Drinks:  

Vodka on the rocks with onions…and a straw.  Any brand of vodka works for me.  They all feel like a poke in the eye going down, but I love ‘em anyway.  And I like to fantasize that my wife thinks I’m still a bad-ass for going mixer-free.  Which brings me to drink #2.  Wine Coolers.  Okay, not exactly, but the acceptable male euphemism; Mike’s Hard Lemonade…the purple one.  

2 movies: 

MIDNIGHT RUN and QUEEN MARGOT.  The former because it’s awesome.  If you haven’t seen it, I think it’s Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin at their best…really.  Just brilliantly executed on all levels and a blast from beginning to end.  I force myself to NOT watch it for at least 4 straight years, just so I can enjoy it when I stumble upon it.  #2…Patrice Chereau’s QUEEN MARGOT is everything I love about cinema (aside from the subtitles, but Isabelle Adjani makes even that worth it).  Historical fiction at its best.  Rich characters, gripping love story, awesome performances, but more than anything else…a great, edge-of-your-seat story. If you haven’t seen it, it’s so worth renting or buying or, what, downloading?

2 Books: 

This is a tricky one.  Of the books that have stuck with me, I’ll choose two that are particularly meaningful…even after all these years.  GROUND BENEATH HER FEET by Salman Rushdie.  One of my favorite books ever.  A great story about an Indian Female Rock Star, but what Rushdie does that I just love, is he gives you an experience that can only be had with a novel. He makes you work hard, at first, to keep up or even to understand what the hell he’s talking about, but when you finally break through and the challenges of his style fade away, you start to experience a tonal sense of his particular India and these particular characters.  The smells, the point of view, the irony, all of those ephemeral, underlying things that are essential to the real experience of a specific life in a specific context…I close that book and feel like I’ve been on a ride through someone’s perception of a place and time and a people.  I love so many Rushdie novels, but this is the one that I just keep going back to. 

WATER MUSIC by TC Boyle would have to be #2.  Boyle is simply a great story-teller, and since I’m always partial to historical fiction, this is my favorite of his.  It’s an adventure story that follows a petty criminal in Scotland and a famous British explorer as he seeks to find the Niger River in 18th Century Africa.  I used this book as an example when working with a writer on his action-adventure film, yesterday, in fact.  If you want to go on a ride, an ever-escalating, nearly exhausting, rollicking tale…this is it.  Purely for story, this book covers so much ground.  I mean, you are literally out of breath halfway through the book and Boyle just keeps amping up the trouble his tainted heroes find themselves in.  Pure fun.

So, for a Randy Becker Lost Weekend 6-Pack, you’ll be transported back about 10 years to a time when he actually read books and watched movies.  Don’t pity me, though…my life is awfully good.

For a lot more information on all the good things Randy is doing with NexTv out in L.A., please feel free to visit here:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Well, well, well... the tables got turned this week a bit when YAREAH Magazine out of Madrid, Spain interviewed me about my short story collection, Carry Each His Burden. Author Martin Cid conducted the interview which was put together by Isabel Del Rio Yareah. Martin's questions were wonderful and pulled some insights from me concerning the book I don't think I was aware of before the interview. Martin and Isabel are passionate about YAREAH Magazine and about the arts. If I am fortunate they will allow me to turn the tables in the future on both of them for some features here at ALL 'LIT' UP. Thank you to YAREAH Magazine, Martin Cid, Isabel Del Rio Yareah, and all the folks at YAREAH working behind the scenes. La luna estara llena en mi corazon esta noche. no importa su cara. The interview is here.

Isabel Del Rio Yareah & Martin Cid

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


I say author essay because that's the feature... but, how do you define someone like Betty Rodgers under a one word moniker? You don't and you can't. First and foremost, she is a  filmmaker and an extraordinary one at that. Her passion for her documentary project "Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor" is evidenced by the results her and her husband, author Ken Rodgers, have produced. The trailer alone is at once chilling, captivating, moving, and momentous. It is documentary film at its best. "Bravo!" is currently being prepped for the film festival circuit. Did I mention she's also a world class photographer? Then there's also her work producing and editing the Idaho Writers Update, which if you've been living under a rock, you might want to check out considering two of the country's up and coming writers, Alan Heathcock (VOLT) and Anthony Doerr (Memory Wall), are Boise residents. Well, as they like to say, there must be something in the water out there and I believe it's inspiration, determination, and pure talent. Betty Rodgers has obviously drunk deep and long from the those waters, for she has all three in spades. I am happy to have filmmaker, editor, writer, and photographer Betty Rodgers for this week's Author Essay Feature
Enjoy - J. Goertel


A parent can set the tone for how we view individuals.  Mother helped me adore my Auntie Kay by making sure I knew how she had triumphed over the life-long effects of breaking her legs as a child.  (In the early 1900s she was confined in a cast and bed for weeks.) How brave she was for serving in New Guinea as a WAC officer during WWII.  Instead of pointing out any shortcomings, Mother taught me to see the worth in this tall, intelligent, attractive brunette. This woman whose long, graceful fingers nimbly played concert-level classical piano. This woman who frequently engaged in passionate conversation about the cosmos, politics, and philosophy.

And there was my Uncle Harry, Kay’s husband.  This easy-going, handsome, fun-loving man, known as the “Long Tall Texan” although he hailed from Oklahoma, was respected and admired for his strong work ethic, common sense, humor, and cooking skills.  He too served as an officer in the Pacific during WWII.  That’s where the two met and married.  Both of them returned home, raised fine sons, and gave themselves as advocates for male and female veterans through their affiliation with the American Legion.

Mother made certain we attended every special event involving my aunt and uncle, such as Harry’s installation as the California State Commander of the American Legion, Kay’s speeches championing better conditions at veterans’ hospitals and equal rights for female veterans.  In some way, I knew they were fighting for me, too.  Yes, I admired and adored them both.

As the years went by, this background of respect and honor for veterans stayed with me.  When Auntie Kay passed away, Mother helped sort her belongings and showed me her writings about World War II.  From her book, “New Guinea, A Magic Name and A Magic Isle,” some insight into my aunt’s experience upon arrival at the American cemetery in Sapuda:

“I can’t begin to describe the emotions that filled our hearts and eyes, and overflowed onto our cheeks, as we stood there.  We thought of the heartache of the parents and wives of these boys, we thought of the tragedy of their having to die so young, and we thought of the magnificence of their courage and the firmness of their faith and belief in what they were fighting for, in what they gave their lives for; the ones they loved, the flag they loved, the God they worshipped, in two words, THEIR AMERICA!  We swore that we would never betray that faith and belief, or betray their trust in us to preserve the things they loved and died for.”

And on anticipation of returning to American soil:

“We will have…the exaltation of having done our part in winning the greatest war of all times.  However, the greatest gift that we will take back with us is the knowledge of what war is, what it can do, and an appreciation of the great faith in America that inspired the magnificent courage in our boys.  We are determined that their sacrifice will never be repeated by their sons, that what they fought for will be preserved, it will never die or fade—THEIR AMERICA.”

As we know, there have been many wars since, and my cousins did serve during the Vietnam War.  My husband, Ken, also served.  He didn’t talk about it a lot after we met, but one of his best friends told me what a hero he was because of where he served and what he lived through.  I only knew that March 30, 1968, was a day that had imprinted his life forever, but I knew none of the details. 

When we began to attend Khe Sanh Veteran reunions in recent years, I became keenly aware of the stories I heard and of what Ken had experienced, in part because of my aunt and uncle’s example.  Through them all…my aunt and uncle, my mother, my husband…I had learned to pay attention to the significance of history, service, and sacrifice.

This is what led me to a sense of urgency in recording the history of the men in Bravo Company, First Battalion, 26th Marines...the men with whom Ken served.  As they sat around the tables and reminisced, it reinforced what I instinctively knew…that theirs was also an incredible tale of courage and sacrifice for our country, and that we couldn’t afford to let the Khe Sanh veterans’ experience fade into oblivion. We needed to preserve it for their children and grandchildren, for American history, for mankind.

And so, that seed of adoration instilled in me by my mother, along with the men like Ken and his Bravo Company brothers who lived their story and were willing to tell it, have resulted in our new documentary film, “Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor.”  After viewing the film, a common response is, “I care about these men…I love them.”  Now, after forty-four years, their story is told and their service acknowledged.  It is a testimony to the human spirit.  It is the direct result of the power of adoration.

An avid birder, Betty Rodgers is also a filmmaker and photographer living in Boise, ID, with her husband Ken. Her images are exhibited in homes, businesses, and private collections around the west. She also publishes the Idaho Writer's Update, the state's primary resource for literary information and events.  For recent news of Betty:

To follow "Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor":

Friday, April 20, 2012

ALL 'LIT' UP LOST WEEKEND 6-PACK with MEG ZUCKER (Don't Hide It, Flaunt It)

Lost Weekend 6-Pack

2 Movies, 2 Books, 2 Drinks  

It's been a long week. I know, I know, yours too. I considered skipping the LOST WEEKEND 6-PACK segment for this week when a writer friend out in California had to pull out due to a family crisis. But, the 6-PACK seems to be a lot of folks' favorite feature here at ALL 'LIT' UP. And I knew I could use a lost weekend right about now myself. 


Once again, through the beautiful machinations of putting this blog together for Randy Becker at NexTv, I have come to know another writer who has opened a door in my heart, mind, and soul. Isn't that what writing and literature is supposed to do? Of course it is, so when I came across Meg's "Don't Hide it, Flaunt It" blog I found my heart in my throat, my mind reeling, and my soul smiling. It's been a challenging week... I'm sure for more than a few of us, but Meg knows a little something about challenges. But first, her LOST WEEKEND 6-PACK for ALL'LIT'UP. It's inspiring. She's inspiring. Enjoy ~ J. Goertel  


I am both grateful and laughing at the fact that James asked me to do a six-pack that includes two movie recommendations when for the past several months I’ve been encouraging my husband, John, to put his sharp, dry wit to use as a movie reviewer, which is something I’ve never tried. His goofy angle is always to ask, “Is this movie good for the Jews?” I’m always so amused to look for that answer now that I think I’ll steal the theme for this piece. It doesn’t hurt that I’m already in the mode because the Jewish Daily Forward is also publishing one of my articles shortly.  

Incendies. Last year we went out with friends to see this film on nothing more than the typical vague recommendation of someone we knew who said they heard it was great. That doesn’t really prepare one for such a powerful anti-war film that revolves around murder, rape, incest, torture and decades of hidden heartbreak. So emotionally gripping was this story and its surprising conclusion that we couldn’t stop analyzing it for days afterward. The plot is centered in Lebanon beginning with the civil war in the early 1980’s, with the Israeli invasion only as a backdrop, and concludes in present day, where the villains and victims of that era deliberately bury their memories and live together as best they can. Until they can’t. I can only apply the “Good for the Jews” analysis to the fact that I kind of waited on pins and needles for the scene where the Israelis would contribute to the mayhem and that moment never came (at least in this film).  

Tropic Thunder. On an equally serious note, uh, okay maybe not so much, this 2008 send up of the intelligence of leading actors, the way Hollywood makes its blockbusters and the studio machinations that drive the business had my Good for Jews/Bad for the Jews meter clicking like a metronome. But despite all the laughs, it was Tom Cruise’s portrayal of the overweight, balding, hairy-chested, loud, obnoxious, heartless, Jewish studio boss that was truly unforgettable.It pained me to be laughing so hard at something so blatantly bad for the Jews. 

On to the books. In 1999, before leaving on our honeymoon, John and I made a pact to read each other’s favorite novels on the beach. In hindsight, I won’t comment on the fact that we were so happy to go to beautiful Maui and….read. Yet, we took great pleasure in seeing each other so absorbed. John brought John Irving’s Cider House Rules for me. I gave him Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth. I saw John’s humor and pathos in Cider House and the character of Homer Wells. John Irving’s writing touches incredibly real feelings and experiences but wraps them with such humor that I found myself laughing and nearly crying together. That’s a feat. In Pillars, John followed my love of history that extended even to the building of a cathedral in 12th Century England. Follett’s epic storytelling and historical research took us deep into a long gone culture. I loved the fact that John couldn’t put down this 976 pager, just as I couldn’t. 

What to drink? The “Avatar” Martini was a hit at my 2010 Oscar party and my friends still remind me how much they loved it. Vodka, vermouth, blue Curacao and lemon juice – colorful, delicious and strong enough to keep everyone happy so that no one noticed that I never saw Avatar. Also, my favorite pairing with sushi continues to be a Frogs Leap Sauvignon Blanc. Dry and crisp, it is perfect (even without the fish…). 

As I close, having just learned of Dick Clark’s recent passing, I will channel him and end this fun Six-Pack experience by not saying “good-bye,” but instead, “So long.”
Ever since Meg Zucker can remember, others have been turning to her for guidance. Meg was born with a rare condition known as ectrodactyly, leaving her with only four digits on her body and shortened forearms. Unlike others who have quietly overcome many stumbling blocks to reach their goals, Meg has navigated life’s challenges wearing her limitations on her sleeve, literally. Most recently, Meg has published in Parents Magazine(December 2011), worked with Scholastic on a Storyworks article about her family (October 2011) and was a guest on Today (NBC) in January 2012.

She also runs a weekly blog called, “Don’t Hide it, Flaunt It” (, and often speaks publically in support of her self-help message. Among other engagements, next month Meg will be delivering a corporate diversity presentation to employees of Viacom/MTV. Meg completed her undergraduate studies in History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and received her law degree from New York University. In addition to her literary activities, Meg is currently the Global Anti-Money Laundering Officer at a financial services firm in New York City. Meg lives in New Jersey with her husband, John, and their three children, two of whom also have ectrodactyly. Meg is in the process of writing a self-help book working with literary agent Lisa Leshne of the Leshne Agency.

For more information, feel free to visit:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ALL 'LIT' UP : From The Editor's Desk

This week there was no Pulitzer awarded for fiction. I am as disappointed as the rest of my writer friends, both established and those still toiling to have their voices heard. Most writers are of this latter category, but what is unique about the community of writers is their ability to root for one another. Writers are outraged by this year's non-Pulitzer for fiction, because we have a sense of community which allows us to put aside our own personal dreams and ambitions to champion other authors, poets, and publishers. The decision to not award a Pulitzer acts as a collective slap in the face to all those who dream to simply have their work read. Seeing writers around the country and around the world rally to the defense of the finalists, whose work was not deemed prize-worthy, is evidence that the written word is alive and well and reinforces the notion that we have always been our own best advocates. Writers are readers and in the end it is this audience we feel not sympathy for, but empathy with for this missed opportunity by the folks at Pulitzer to be with us, not against us. Each year brings a new variety of fiction which manages to cater to a wide audience with increasingly eclectic tastes and the message that not a single work of fiction was good enough to be acknowledged says more about the process and the people behind it than it does about the books that didn't win. The authors of those books won something more important than the acknowledgement of a few outsiders, they won the admiration of readers and writers everywhere who at a minimum may just be curious enough to seek out these three very different works ("Train Dreams" by Denis Johnson, "Swamplandia!" by Karen Russell, and "The Pale King" by David Foster Wallace) just to see what all the hub-bub was all about or not about in the case of the Pulitzer board which chose to simply not champion fiction for readers everywhere. Three very deserving writers lost out in this year the people at Pulitzer yawned rather than shouted for fiction writing and writers, but I believe the community of writers and readers, who are one in the same, won anyway. Read these three books and judge for yourself - that is the only measure of worth that matters.

"Train Dreams" by Denis Johnson

"Swamplandia!" by Karen Russell

"The Pale King" by David Foster Wallace

Friday, April 13, 2012

THE LOST WEEKND 6-PACK with Jen Tucker (The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out)

Lost Weekend 6-Pack

2 Movies, 2 Books, 2 Drinks

I've got to come clean. Author Jen Tucker won my fiction debut, CARRY EACH HIS BURDEN, on a GOODREADS' giveaway. She also loved the book. Her review of it was gushing. She also interviewed me at her blog. But these are not the reasons why she's this week's LOST WEEKEND 6-PACK feature. It may in fact be simply that she has one of the most provocative book titles I have come across since looking for talent to provide content for All 'Lit' Up: THE DAY I WORE MY PANTIES INSIDE OUT. And I was worried about giving my mother my book? Truth is, she's a great writer with a fresh perspective and doing it all while raising three children with her husband. I'll toast to anyone who can write anything while balancing all that. Cheers ~ J. Goertel


I have to thank my buddy, James, for letting me spend time at All “Lit” Up today. He is really putting me to the test with my six pack choices. When he first asked me to stop over and list two drinks, two movies and two books to loose myself in over a weekend I thought it would be a snap. I lived in that moment of ease for about five seconds. Then I realized that my choices are dependent on a few things. First being my mood (Am I feeling zombie apocalypse or lovey dovey?). It also hinges upon my current location and its scenery (Am I lazily lounging in a hammock on the beach, or am I in an igloo investigating the mating habits of polar bears?). Finally, if Nostradamus made a prediction that should cause me worry and these are my last moments on earth, would that information impact my decision? Then I remembered that I don’t worry about freaky predictions, and almost all was well again with my soul.

So let’s pretend that this is the scene. We are pretending due to the fact that so far this scenario has never happened. My husband, Mike, our three kids and two golden retrievers have all gone off to parts unknown for a weekend away. I am alone. I am alone in my house. I am alone in my house and smiling ear to ear. I love them, and miss them, but right now it’s all about me.

Let’s go first with the beverages of choice. For my birthday in January of this year, Mike and I met friends in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. On our way to dine at Harry & Izzy’s, we walked by The Canterbury Hotel. Legends have stayed there. Its richly grained wooden walls hold many a secret, I’m sure. I grabbed Mike by the arm and suggested that we wander in, sitting belly up for a quick drink at the bar. Our bartender was young, and witty. I called him Mr. Sensitive Ponytail Guy. He made me a margarita that knocked my socks off. Rather than fill the glass with the usual sweet and sour mix, he used red grapefruit juice. Married with the salty rim, this beverage had me in heaven. I must consume this drink first. It is a need, not a want.

My other go-to thirst quencher would be my favorite $4.99 bottle of Sutter Home Pink Moscato. Hey, gasoline costs over $4.00 a gallon! We all have to make sacrifices, right? If I am being truthful, I cannot stomach paying a senseless amount of money for something that I will be drinking. The shelf life of wine is not long in my home.

I am shuffling through a few different movie choices in my head. Do I go with my favorite or do I branch out and watch that one film on my “must see” list? Decisions, decisions… I want to watch an oldie, but goody! I love the 1963 movie, Charade starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. Regina is a little unhappy and as a result she is contemplating divorcing her husband. After her hubs is murdered, she realizes their savings is gone and tries to piece together what happened. This film keeps you guessing “whodunit” until the very end. Mystery and laughs abound in this silver screen gem. Did I mention again that it stars Cary Grant for gorgeousness sake? Let’s start the movie-a-thon with that classic.

I feel the need to go “old school” again for my second flick of the weekend. The 1986 film, About Last Night, stars Rob Lowe and Demi Moore. I think it one of the quintessential films created in the 80’s. It’s about romantic relationships, growing pains of entering adulthood, best friends who meddle in one another’s romances, and how the choices we make impact others. I have a slight adoration for the director, Edward Zwick, who was one of the creative forces behind the television series, Thirtysomething. I still carry a grudge that it went off the air. I am just being honest with you.

Oh to flip through the pages of a book undisturbed! I am so excited! It took me a few years to jump on the Hunger Games train, and I am now one of “them.” I have the first book under my belt and the others in the trilogy, Mocking Jay and Catching Fire, are perched on a shelf in my office, just waiting for us to spend quality time together. We will finally have that long awaited date! I have to find out what the future holds for Katniss! Please don’t tell me what happens, please?!?

I believe that my previous reading selection is really one book. It had a mishap at the printers so it morphed into two books on accident. It’s so crazy how things like that happen. That is my story and I am sticking to it. My second book selection is going to be 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Sounds uplifting, doesn’t it? This dream list of destinations has been waiting for me to read it since my mom bought me a copy for Christmas in 2003. I want to pour through the pages, looking at locations near and far. I am excited to see if there are any suggestions listed that I have already visited. It could give me an idea for an excursion with my husband, or a place to journey to as a family. Armed with my pencil and yellow highlighter, this book and I will have a marvelous time.

And just like that, my six pack weekend has come to a close. It was phenomenal while it lasted. Now if only I can make this happen in real time. Anyone want to hang out with a gorgeous bald man and his three kids for the weekend? They are all potty trained… Anyone?

Jen Tucker has never met a gluten free cupcake that she hasn’t liked. A former teacher and educator, she worked with children in school, hospital, and enrichment settings for many years. In her years at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, it was Jen’s job to bring the “hands on fun” into the visiting exhibitions in the galleries. She broke away from writing children’s books and thematic units last year with her memoir, The Day I Wore my Panties Inside Out, which was a semifinalist in the humor category in the 2011 Goodreads Book Awards. Jen’s newest tale, The Day I Lost my Shaker of Salt, will be released in 2012. She lives in West Lafayette, Indiana with her husband, Mike, and their three children.

Some days are better than others. Have you ever had one of those days where you felt like you just could not catch a break? Author Jen Tucker had one of those and shares every bit of it in her new memoir, The Day I Wore my Panties Inside Out.” Her tales of escapee pets, missing dry cleaning and her own Mommy Dearest moments will have you laughing and relating. Her fierce love of her son with special needs and reflections on her battle accepting her father’s “C WORD” diagnosis will have you in tears. Sprinkled with bits of reflection and fun, this is a story that will make you always double check to be sure no day will contain a wardrobe malfunction.

For more information feel free to visit the links below:

on amazon

Monday, April 9, 2012

ALL 'LIT' UP's ON THE ROAD AGAIN with JENNA BLUM (The Stormchasers)

JENNA BLUM is a force of nature. She's an international bestselling author and a stormchaser. She not only talks the talk, she walks the walk - following severe weather all over the country, but especially in the Midwest, while still finding time to write, not only her bestselling novels, THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS, but also for her own blog and as a guest postress at many others - such a grub street daily. She has even graced ALL 'LIT' UP - her OSCARS EDITION LOST WEEKEND 6-PACK was one of the most popular posts so far for me and NEXTV. I am always looking for the connections between writing, authors, books, and movies. So her "Writer On The Road: Holcomb" piece, with its touchstones of TRUMAN CAPOTE and IN COLD BLOOD, really struck a chord with me. These touchstones coupled with the fact that she is now adapting one of her own novels for the screen - THOSE WHO SAVE US, only further sweetened this writing/authors/books/movies connection. Good stuff here. Enjoy - J. Goertel


In the late fall of last year, I very gently broke my left thumb by catching it in a screen door handle. The door, yanked open by the Kansas wind, took my thumb with it. Too embarrassed to provide yet another anecdote proving my characteristic accident-proneness, I didn’t confess what had happened until weeks later when, at a routine physical, I realized it was probably pretty bad that I still couldn’t bend my thumb. The physician immediately referred me to a specialist for x-rays, so I found myself one gray November morning in a Wichita orthopedist’s office, discussing literature before breakfast.

“What is your profession,” the doctor, Jean-Louise, asked me as he manipulated my injured thumb, maybe attempting to assess what line of work would enable a woman to break a bone in a screen door.

“I’m a writer,” I said.

“Ah,” he said, nodding. He was a gentle man with a French accent and certificates attesting to his education in several European countries. ”What brings you to Kansas?”

“My partner lives here,” I said, “and I’m researching my third novel.”

“Love and work, good reasons,” said the doctor. “So you are going to be the first important novelist to come from Kansas?”

“No,” I said, a little indignantly. “There are lots of great writers from Kansas.”

The doctor looked up at me, light glinting off his glasses. ”Oui?” he said. “Who?”

“Well,” I said. “Frank L. Baum.” Then I remembered that the author of THE WIZARD OF OZ, practically a Pavlovian reaction whenever you mention Kansas, was born in Chittenango, NY.

“Um, Willa Cather?” I said.

In fact, Cather was born in Virginia, and I wasn’t all that sure she had written much about Kansas in the first place. I left the doctor’s office with an official diagnosis of broken thumb, a prescription for steroidal-level Tylenol, and an ongoing argument.

Nursing The Broken Thumb

Which I continued with the doctor in my head, the way you do. Of course, once in my Jeep, I recalled a whole list of favorite novelists from Kansas. Laura Moriarty, whose debut novel THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING grabbed me and didn’t let me go, whose second and third novels I greeted and devoured with joy, whose fourth novel THE CHAPERONE I was lucky enough to read in ARC form (and which will be out June 5 of this year). Scott Heim, whose MYSTERIOUS SKIN had been made into a movie and whose WE DISAPPEAR is one of my favorite books. I’d had the pleasure of meeting Scott at Grub Street Writers when we were both teaching there. And NYT bestseller Sara Paretsky, whose novel BLEEDING KANSAS I listened to on audio when, on the East Coast, I was lonesome for the Sunflower State’s panoramic skies… The list continued, and I reeled names and titles off in my head as I drove.

But, I realized, many novelists came to Kansas, wrote about Kansas, and left again. It’s one of the things I love about my new adopted state: it’s the American Istanbul, the crossroads between East & West. I thought of the pioneers coming here in their wagon trains, loading supplies at Independence, KS, then sealing their geographic fates and those of generations to follow by deciding to go north, on the Oregon Trail, or south, on the Santa Fe. I thought of the Ingalls family, whose most famous daughter Laura chronicled her family’s stint in Kansas in a book called LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE that inspired thousands of girls, myself included, to run around in sunbonnets and call their parents “Ma” and “Pa” even if they happened to come of age in 1970s New Jersey.

And I thought of perhaps the most famous novelist of all to come to Kansas for a story: Truman Capote.

You couldn’t grow up in my family and not love Truman Capote. My dad always said when he met my mom she was a dead ringer for Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” My sister and I both went through our Holly GoLightly phases (my sister with her dark glossy hair being more successful, though I was the first to break in the long black cigarette holder). We argued over which was the better book, MUSIC FOR CHAMELEONS or OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS. My favorite, though, was:

I loved–and love–IN COLD BLOOD. It’s the only work of nonfiction I read for pleasure. It’s the only nonfiction I reread every other year. It’s the book whose writing is almost as mythic as the story it contains: Truman Capote leaving the glitterati in New York City and coming out to tiny Holcomb, KS, dragging Harper Lee to play Ethel to his Lucy, charming his way into the ranks of Kansas law-enforcement who very likely had never seen the likes of a tiny fur-wearing man before–and eventually into the jail cells of the men who had murdered the Clutter family on their ranch, for a monetary prize that didn’t even turn out to be there, in cold blood.

Maybe Truman hadn’t come from Kansas, but like many writers before him, he had come to Kansas for inspirational succor. And he’d left with a tale so apocryphal and chillingly reported that it not only changed his life but invented a new genre: creative nonfiction.

How was it I had never been to Holcomb before?

Thanks to my alternate life, stormchasing (which I did to research my second novel, THE STORMCHASERS, but really, in that chicken-and-egg game familiar to many writers, I’d written a novel featuring stormchasing because I loved big weather in the first place), I knew the geography of Kansas better than I did Massachusetts. Back at the house, I looked up Holcomb on Google Maps.

It actually exists, this place Capote describes, in the opening lines of IN COLD BLOOD, this way: “The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there.’

It shouldn’t have surprised me that Holcomb is real, given that IN COLD BLOOD is, famously, a true story. But in the way you imagine things you love in books can’t be real simply because you’ve given them life in your own mind, I was surprised. And a little awed. And amazed that, as much and as often as I’d chased severe storms near Holcomb, I’d never been there. I’d skirted it on several occasions, and I knew that in clement weather, the land around Holcomb looks like this:

and in less clement weather, like this:

But I had never been to the town itself.

What better place to visit for Writer On The Road?

I would make a pilgrimage to Truman Capote. I would go to the town he had gone to. Stay where he’d stayed with Harper Lee. Visit the Clutter ranch. And write about what it was like 47 years later.

Thrilled by the prospect, I did my due diligence. I set aside days on the calendar. I charted the drive to Holcomb and back. I looked up hotels and discovered that, disappointingly, there were no longer any accommodations in Holcomb, so I’d have to stay in the nearest town, Garden City, whose motel reviews said things like, “Pretty good except for the smell of the meat0packing plant across the road.” I made reservations at the hotel farthest from the meat-packing plant. I reread IN COLD BLOOD. I watched the movie versions: “In Cold Blood,” “Capote” and “Infamous” (liking the latter Truman bio the best). I tried to convince my partner to be my Harper Lee, to no avail (he had to work).

I was all set to go–and then.

I remembered I have a deadline.

Not for this column, which after all I intended to write on the road. But for the screenplay based on my first novel, THOSE WHO SAVE US.I’d told the producer I’d hand the screenplay to her around the end of February. Which we both knew really meant the end of March and maybe a little bit into April–since I’ve never written a screenplay before, and it’s a kindness on my producer’s part that I’m being allowed to take a crack at this one, and the process is something like singing country western your whole life and waking up one morning to be told you have to sing an opera. It’s all music, but the forms and skills required are very different.

Running off to Holcomb to visit with the ghosts of Truman and the Clutters seemed a much easier prospect.

Once I realized this, I shelved my copy of IN COLD BLOOD, broke off winning my mental argument with Dr. Jean-Louise, and returned to the decidedly unglamorous work of hammering out architecture. I felt sure Truman would understand. After all, he had sacrificed many a gala and gossip session over Manhattan martinis to stay in a Holcomb hotel room and create things that looked like this:

Screenplay On A Wall

–although Truman’s notes were written on legal pads instead of on a wall.

And he had probably relinquished many a Kansas Manhattan with Holcombites, not to mention more running around the High Plains with “foxy” Alvin Dewey, the prosecutor on the Clutter case, to stay in and file sections of IN COLD BLOOD to The New Yorker, which originally serialized the book. Truman understood sacrifice. It’s probably why he looked like this:

Truman, Somber and Grave

All writers get this: sometimes, to get the work done, we have to give up what we want to do and instead write what we have to. Because our first obligation is to the story and the people in it.

For me, for now, Holcomb would have to remain what in my head it had been for decades: an idea.

Until next time, when my deadline will have been met.

Truman fans, please stay tuned.

JENNA BLUM is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS. Jenna is also one of Oprah's Top Thirty Women Authors. Jenna writes writing and advice columns for Grub Street Writers in Boston, where she has taught fiction workshops for over 15 years, and she currently lives with photographer Jim Reed in Wichita, KS, where she's working on the screenplay for THOSE WHO SAVE US and her third novel. Please visit Jenna on Facebook, Twitter (@Jenna_Blum) and at

* this essay first appeared on grub street daily.

Friday, March 23, 2012


A'L'U Lost Weekend 6-Pack

2 Movies,2 Books,2 Drinks

March has indeed been full of its own wonderful madness so far, what with AWP, the publication of my debut poetry collection (Each Year an Anthem), a round of new readings kicking off, and my weekly editorial duties for ALL 'LIT' UP. Speaking of those duties, the interviews, essays, features and Lost Weekend 6-Packs I have been receiving have been outstanding. It's both humbling and heady to think the blog already includes pieces from Alan Heathcock, Anna March, Anne Leigh Parrish, Ben Tanzer, Donna Hilbert, Ellen Wade Beals, Frank Bill, Imogen Robertson, Jenna Blum, Jonathan Evison, Myfanwy Collins, Patricia Ann McNair, Shann Ray, Tamara Linse, Ken and Betty Rodgers - and the blog is only two months down the line from its kickoff as part of Randy Becker's NEXTV Entertainment blog series out in Hollywood. It's all been a lot of fun so far and I wanted to get in on the fun this week myself and offer up my own Lost Weekend 6-Pack. Enjoy -J.


I have to go seasonal on this - the winter 6-pack looks nothing like the summer one. Having just come out of winter here in the Buffalo area, let's start there. In the winter I stick with beer and like to go heavy with stouts, porters, and black & tans: Guinness Stout, Otter Creek Stovepipe Porter, Yuengling Black & Tan. I have read a Per Petterson novel every winter for the past few and this year it was "In the Wake." The movies are always Oscar or Golden Globe nominated films. Although this year, the un-nominated "Bridesmaids" knocked my socks off.

In the spring, I switch to ales - particularly Bass Ale - and start using Netflix for documentary fare such as "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" and the PBS series "American Experience." Spring is all about poetry for me - and in this case finds me reading Jim Harrison's "Saving Daylight."

Summer is summer and very beautiful and ephemeral here on Lake Erie - so I make the most of the sunshine. I like to have cocktail hour a few times a week and favor a classic margarita - on the rocks with salt - never frozen. My beer taste moves to pale ales and lagers - something clean that goes with fresh fish on the grill or sushi out. No movies in the summer - there's no way I'm sitting in a dark theater with Lake Erie right outside my door. Long hours in a comfy chair on the beach will be spent this summer reading John Jeremiah Sullivan's "Blood Horses," Christopher Dickey's "Summer of Deliverance," and Lars Saabye Christensen's "The Half Brother."

Fall is my favorite season and finds me leaning back toward the darker beers but not quite all the way - I'll go with ambers and nut browns - especially Sam Smith's Nut Brown Ale. Red wine is a biggy for me in the fall and lately I've been favoring a ten dollar bottle of Don Ramon - a tasty, Spanish red. Books will tend toward short stories or some non-fiction with a science or nature tone. This past autumn it was John McPhee's essay collection "Silk Parachute," John Jeremiah Sullivan's "Pulphead," and Alan Heathcock's "Volt" along with Shann Ray's "American Masculine." Finally, the autumn is when I try to catch up on the movies from the past six months either through Netflix or at the two dollar film houses doing last run stuff. I've been known to sneak off with my wife, Rachel, to a triple feature to start to hit some of what I've missed while playing and working in the sunshine, especially before another Buffalo winter is upon me.

Born in North Dakota, James Goertel spent twenty years working in television for ABC, NBC, and ESPN, among others. He currently teaches writing at Penn State Erie.
"Carry Each His Burden" (2011) is his fiction debut. "Each Year an Anthem" (2012) is his poetry debut. His writing has appeared in Ascent Aspirations, TNBBC, Manifold, LucidPlay, and The Quivering Pen. He is the editor of ALL 'LIT' UP - NEXTV's literary blog out of Hollywood. For more information, please feel free to visit here.



Wednesday, March 21, 2012


As editor at NEXTV Entertainment's literary blog, I am the fortunate recipient of wonderful essays, interviews, and features from a broad spectrum of talented writers. This week is no exception considering author and poet Donna Hilbert's essay 'Making Poetry, Compost and Soup' landed in my inbox a few days ago. I thoroughly enjoyed this literary soup for the soul and am once again pleased and humbled by the variety and quality of the submissions coming into ALL 'LIT' UP. I look forward to exploring her work, but couldn't help but be struck by this poem right off the bat from her recent collection, The Green Season. Enjoy - J. Goertel


A portion of ashes we buried,
the portion remaining to be scattered
sits on a shelf
in my office, the container swathed
in a flannel bag, like the bag
protecting your tuxedo shoes.
How handsome you were in formal clothes!
Strangers often asked if you were someone.
Should they ask for your autograph?
The irreducible things that make up a person--
ashes, bits of tooth and bone--
transform from one noun
into another.
Before your death, Dearheart
I didn't know
that physics and grammar
are the same sad subject:
the transformation of matter,
transforming what matters.

THE GREEN SEASON by Donna Hilbert

by Donna Hilbert

I once lived in a house with a big backyard. I planted a garden; I kept a compost pile. I spent hours every day, digging in the dirt with the same joy I felt as a child making mud pies. I took equal pleasure in planting seeds and in pulling up spent plants to make room for the next season’s growth. It seemed that the whole world of nourishment, death and regeneration lay before me. When not digging in my garden, I sat in my office, digging through my life.

I grew tomatoes, basil, peppers, eggplant, parsley, cilantro, rosemary, sage, and lavender. I sliced, sautéed and roasted and dried—transforming my harvest into pastas, curries and soups, then returning the scraps to the compost pile, which I turned and watered every day. Amazing creatures emerged from the pile—caterpillars fat with the promise of flight, Japanese Beetles as green as emerald, the Earth Child, or potato bug, which looked to me like an extra-terrestrial’s abandoned baby.

Now, I live at the beach and have no garden of my own, but I still feel connected to the days of turning the soil when I cook, particularly when I make soup. I make soup from what I have on hand—whatever is in the refrigerator by chance, and also from what’s there by design, bought at Farmer’s Market the Sunday before with an eye to the pot of soup come Tuesday—a head of cabbage, a turnip or two. Piquant vegetables make for a tasty broth. I add fresh herbs, a bunch of basil, perhaps cilantro or Italian parsley, the juice of one lemon.

I enjoy the peeling, chopping, squeezing, and slicing. I love the comfort and security afforded by a pot of soup simmering the afternoon away on the stove’s back burner. It’s like money in the bank, back in the era when money in the bank drew interest. After a few hours, I will add the rinds from a hunk of Parmesan cheese and a few pieces of stale sourdough bread to give the soup some heft and ballast. There is a smug pleasure in not being wasteful.

Perhaps it is no accident that I routinely make soup on Tuesdays, the day of the week my evening poetry workshop meets at my house. If I make soup, I will have a simple late supper waiting on the stove to share with my beloved after my students have left for home. The more I practice the life of poetry, the more convinced I am that writing poetry is like keeping a garden, with its composting, planting, harvesting—the seasons’ continual revision of life and death.

And in the same way that I enjoy peeling carrots, chunking potatoes, quartering tomatoes, I like the feel of the poem taking shape in my hand: the weight and balance of the pen, the whiteness of the paper, the arc the line of ink makes moving words across the page. Later, once I have two-fingered the poem into the computer, I like the neat rows of typeface appearing on the screen. I love making something appear from the void, the comfort of the work in progress, the infinite satisfaction of revision.

And, as in the making of compost, the making of soup, I make the poem from what I have on hand: leftovers from childhood—fears, loves, hates, tastes, smells, injustices and moments of rapture, things imperfectly understood, nightmares and lost ambitions. To this I add what has been picked up along the way—the road kill and sea glass of life—betrayals, disappointments, joy, death, images and incidents from travel, snatches of conversation, the way a certain bird takes flight. Observations written on matchbook covers and cocktail napkins that end up keeping company with the “purse candy” at the bottom of my bag—nuggets that I will be happy to find when I need a little something to suck on.

Practicing a life in poetry is like keeping a compost pile. All the shavings and leavings of life and art go into it—the dark bruised part of one poem, the sprouting eye from another, given time enough and attention, enough turning over and over, the decomposition will bring forth the new poem, the new soup, and the pleasure of making begins again.

Donna Hilbert writes and teaches private workshops from her home in Long Beach, California. Her latest book, The Green Season, World Parade Books, a collection of poems, stories and essays, is now available in an expanded second edition. Ms. Hilbert appears in and her poetry is the text of the documentary “Grief Becomes Me: A Love Story.” Poems in Italian can be found in Bloc notes 59 and in French in La page blanche, in both cases, translated by Mariacristina Natalia Bertoli. New work is in recent or forthcoming issues of 5AM, PEARL, and Poets & Artists. She is at work on a new poetry collection, The Congress of Luminous Bodies, from Aortic Books later this year. Learn more at

Thursday, March 15, 2012

ALL 'LIT' UP LOST WEEKEND 6-PACK with ANNA MARCH (The Diary of Suzanne Frank)

Lost Weekend 6-Pack

2 Movies, 2 Books, 2 Drinks

One of the highlights of the AWP conference in Chicago was getting to meet folks I knew only through social media. One of them was author Anna March. Music and writing are intertwined in my psyche and my work - one informs the other constantly. This is how I first became enamored with Anna's work - her Aural Fixations series for the is one of those ideas-realized that you wish you had thought of yourself. So, when I asked Anna if she would be interested in doing a Lost Weekend 6-Pack for me, I was hoping she would offer to throw in one of her personalized mixes for the piece, so I didn't have to ask and look like a gushing Teen Beat geek - the kind that waits in line for ten hours with his mom to score Justin Bieber tickets. She, of course, came through big time, unknowingly saving herself from a series of last minute and humiliating emails from me begging for a mix to go along with her 6-Pack. Two movies, two books, two drinks, and a mix for the Ides of (Anna) March, a 6-Pack you can dance to. Enjoy - J. Goertel


I like to hole up in my teeny tiny beach cottage with scads of books and movies…I love films about identity, transformation, isolation and how we break it down, underdogs, how we tell stories, unlikely heroes and forgiveness. Favorites include Lost in Translation, The Station Agent, Rashomon, anything by Pedro Almodovar, Fanny and Alexander, Life is Beautiful, Breaking Away, Big Night. I love matching up a slice of Americana with a big foreign film for a great double feature. Seemingly odd juxtapositions have always been a bit of a thrill for me. This weekend it’s going to be Y Tu Mama Tambien and Big Fish.

Books…hmmm, just two? Right now I’m into about six. Re-reading Jack Gilbert’s poetry collection “Refusing Heaven” which I adore and seem to always be re-reading, loving an ARC of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir “Wild” which is so brave and gorgeous – and comes out on Tuesday, Karen Karbo’s non-fiction “How Georgia Became O’Keefe” is tremendous and inspiring, the novel “Girlchild” by Tupelo Hassman is so stunningly well written that it’s keeping me up at night…I’m also reading bits of Foucault (again, always, forever…) and the new translation of “Madame Bovary”.

As for drinking, I don’t really drink at home very often, but I live literally, down the street a couple of blocks from Dogfish Head’s original brewpub, and drinking there is always a good time. It’s such a kick when someone says “You know, Dogfish Head” and they mean the beer and I mean the place and I say, “Yep, I saw Sam [CEO Sam Calagione] drive by in his truck this morning. It’s Thursday, so Lisa’s working tonight…$6 pizza night.” Yeah, I know Dogfish Head. Hmmm…I also still really love an ice cold shot of jager…sue me. I love coming home a little boozy on a weekend night and drifting off to sleep thinking of stories, dreaming of words.

Along with whatever I’m drinking, reading, watching…there’s always a soundtrack, a playlist.
Here’s my playlist of 10 songs for the coming weekend (run time, 38:24):

Lost Weekend 6-Pack from anna march on 8tracks.

**Please note that this mix will random generate after your first listen in order to accommodate copyright agreements.**


1. Dedicated to the One I Love
The Shirelles
For the One I Love

2. Don't Go Breaking My Heart
Frightened Rabbit & Craig Finn
The Loneliness & The Scream

3. Are You Alright?
Lucinda Williams

4. Snow Is Gone
Josh Ritter
Hello Starling

5. Celebrity Skin
Celebrity Skin

6. New York, New York
Ryan Adams

7. Iko Iko
The Belle Stars
Rain Man (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

8. Anchorage
Michelle Shocked
Short Sharp Shocked

9. Anna Sun
Walk the Moon
I Want! I Want!

10. History Repeating
Shirley Bassey
Shirley Bassey: Greatest Hits

Anna March has recently completed her first novel The Diary of Suzanne Frank. Her fiction, essays, reviews and playlists have appeared in Salon, The Rumpus, PANK, Connotation Press, Used Furniture Review, and numerous other publications and anthologies. She has been nominated for a 2012 Pushcart Prize.

You can keep up with her on

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

ALL 'LIT' UP AUTHOR ESSAY FEATURE with Ellen Wade Beals (Solace in So Many Words)

The Windy City continues to amaze me and make my job as editor a whole lot easier. Chicagoland authors Ben Tanzer and Patricia Ann McNair have already done ALL 'LIT' UP a turn via the Lost Weekend 6-Pack segment and the My Dinner With... segment. No wonder AWP held its convention there this year. Chi-town comes through again this week with author/editor/poet Ellen Wade Beals. Having just released my own debut poetry collection this past week, I was super psyched to get Ellen's essay and discover it was about... drum roll followed by resounding gong crash... poetry. You can call it synchronicity or you can call it kismet, but I call it insightful and spot-on writing. Enjoy ~ J. Goertel

Trained as a journalist, Ellen Wade Beals writes poetry and prose. Her work has appeared in literary magazines (such as After Hours, Falling Star, Off Channel, Eclipse, Hip Mama, Eclectic Literature and The Stony Thursday Book (Ireland), in anthologies (such as Kiss Me Goodnight and Take Two -- They're Small), and on the web (Google her).

In 1999, her short story, "Picking," was awarded Willow Springs fiction prize and she was named one of Chicago’s emerging poets by The Poetry Center. Her poem “Between the Sheets” is in the textbook Everything’s a Text (between Sherman Alexie and Billy Collins). Most recently, Ellen started Weighed Words LLC ands its first title is Solace in So Many Words, which Ellen edited, came out in May 2011.

In Service of Poetry

by Ellen Wade Beals

Regardless of whether I am a good poet, I want to be good for Poetry, and that means first recognizing that the artist is subservient to the art. I try to take this service seriously. Writing poetry and getting it published are not enough.

For one thing, I want to celebrate good poetry and share it, and that means reciting others’ work when I have the chance. At Books on Vernon in Glencoe, IL, I shared Witslawa Szymborska’s “In Praise of My Sister,” and at the Guild Complex in Chicago, I read Philip Larkin’s “This Be the Verse” and Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays.” At Woman Made Gallery in Chicago, it was Connie Voisine’s “Dangerous for Girls” and Stan Rice’s “Nearly Dissolving” that I felt compelled to read. The moment I set eyes on Stan Rice’s poem, I had the urge to recite it, and when I first came across Connie Voisine’s poem, I had to look her up and write her a fan email.

When I find something extraordinary, I feel a duty to bring attention to it, like the glorious long poem titled “The Road to Emmaus” by Spencer Reece in the October 2011 issue of Poetry magazine. I have talked it up to anyone who would listen and declared my admiration in a post on Poetry’s Facebook wall. Since composing a blog does not come easily to me, instead, I often use the space on my website to promote other writers. Some time ago, the obit for Patrick Galvin in the Poetry Ireland Newsletter led me to discover his wonderful work. So I told my web visitors about him because I think readers would really dig his New and Collected Poems.

I want to be an appreciative reader. Once, I reached out to compliment a writer on what I thought was a gutsy experimental piece in a university lit journal. My email began, “I am sure you have been hearing how great your poem was,” and she wrote back that she hadn’t heard from anyone but me. How sad to be a writer and never know whether the final step in your art has been completed. Without a reader, our writing is just words on a page.

I try to drop a positive email or note or comment to the writer. If I don’t particularly like a piece, I can still give the author props (even just an atta-boy or atta-girl) for seeing it into print. “Likes” on Facebook or Amazon pages are easy shows of support and non-committal nods to the achievement. I have made it my rule never to review something I haven’t read or to feel there is any quid pro quo at work. After all, I want to be an ambassador to literature, not a shill. My policy is that if I don’t like something, I don’t comment, but I do try to remember to say something nice when I do have a compliment. In short, I am quicker to commend and less likely to disparage.

Overly earnest though it may sound, I aspire to be generous and kind. People have been generous and kind to me, helping me out big time. A question frequently asked of me at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Annual Conference and Bookfair was: “How did you get poems by Philip Levine in Solace in So Many Words?” The answer is that I wrote him a letter. Mind you, this book was five years in the making so when I approached him, he was not yet the U. S. Poet Laureate, but he was still Philip Levine. He was as accessible as his poetry. If you read the table of contents for Solace in So Many Words, you’ll see several other well-known names, and these writers also were generous and kind. For this I am forever grateful because it meant the anthology I assembled had a chance of being a great little book.

I mention Philip Levine because I was able to meet him at the recent AWP Conference. I gushed. To shake his hand was a thrill, and he remembered me and Solace in So Many Words and our dealings, which, I will dish, included a bottle of liquor (just what type of liquor I will keep to myself). It was pretty spectacular to think the U.S. Poet Laureate and I had done business.

Speaking of the AWP Conference, I would bet that among the nine thousand or so writers in attendance, there were diverse opinions on all aspects of our art. But I am pretty certain I know the one answer almost every writer has to the question: what is your least favorite aspect of writing? I’d lay down money that almost every one would answer “self-promotion.” Yes, we all hate it.

Promotion is a necessary evil in the publishing words. Especially in today’s book biz, it is left to the writer to do it. So I want to help my fellow writers and build a community by going to their events, reading their books and getting their names out there.

To me working to promote Poetry makes perfect sense. After all, how can we expect to be supported by the arts if we are not supporters of the arts?


“Each entry feels fresh, as it offers another angle on finding a way to remain intact through life’s complexity.”
— Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul

“The diverse bedfellows who appear here prove artful words can be a balm for pain, one’s own or the wider world’s.”
— Susan K. Perry, Creativity Blogger for, author of Writing in Flow

A mixed-genre anthology of smart literary writing by 52 contributors from 15 states, Solace in So Many Words includes poetry by Philip Levine, Antler and Ellen Bass, fiction by T. C. Boyle, Joe Meno and Joan Corwin and essays by Paula W. Peterson, Patty Somlo, and Michael Constantine McConnell as well as stellar work by writers who are now less known but won’t be for long. How do you find comfort when the world around you crumbles? All the thoughtful work here relates to this timely and timeless theme. The website is:

For more information on Ellen Wade Beals and Solace in So Many Words, please feel free to visit the links below: