Darkness – by DEE LEAN

Darkness

by Dee Lean

A black cloud moves in amidst rolling thunder and thick, heavy droplets of rain. I stand by idly waiting for it to come closer. It will arrive slowly at first; something you can see at a distance  but blindly hope you will be able to shelter yourself from; or that it will pass you by.

But still it comes; you’re unprepared for the unpredictable storm.

It steadies itself upon your head, weighing heavy on your shoulders, crushing your chest, making it hard to breathe and settles in for the long stay.

All around you, you cannot see this formidable gathering that drags you down into the darkness.

You open your mouth to explain what they can not comprehend. They say there is no darkness, that there are no dark clouds or rolling storm. There is sunshine and blue skies and beautiful scenes all around you.

Why can you not see it?

Love becomes a word that means absolutely nothing. A memory of a feeling that lived inside you once; it kept you warm at night and held you close when everything felt wrong. A shoulder to lean on when you felt your legs weak beneath you; hands to lift you up and dust you off when you had fallen. Love was your head against his chest, hearing a heartbeat steadily against your ear.

And then it was gone. And then he was gone. And then you were gone.

It was all replaced with a darkness. A mist surrounds your every thought and move. You can’t shake it or set it free. It’s tied to your soul, it’s tethered to what’s left of your broken and shattered heart.

Everyday is a struggle and a war against the demons that have taken up residence inside your head. They talk to you in muffled ramblings, informing you of your worthlessness.

Unlovable, unlikable and the ugliness manifests.

Days roll into weeks and weeks roll into months and you still can’t see a way out of this hell and the walls that have built up around you. So why do you hold on and keep the hope alive?

Only in total darkness can you see even the smallest slithers of light. And with the light comes redemption. And with redemption comes my survival.

I am a survivor and my story does not end here…

*****

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***Dee Lean believes that a writer that doesn’t write is like a soul without a mate, aimlessly wondering without a purpose. Born in Belfast, Ireland, Lean currently lives in Melbourne, Australia and is a single mother to two gorgeous kids that get her up and inspire her to see and seek the good in all. When people ask her what she does, she simply says, “I write.” She tweets at: https://twitter.com/Dede18 ***

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Love Your Enemy/The Cooking Gene/Poets are ultimately… – POETRY BY PRERNA BAKSHI

Love your enemy

 

 

Love your enemy, they say. So I love them by killing them softly with my kisses, dripping with this unquenchable hate that grows stronger with each passing day. As bitter and rich as dark chocolate, as bright as the color red. Blood red. Trust me when I say my kisses are irresistible. Inescapable. To die for. Killing – quite literally.

My other enemies would attest for it or at least they could, if they were still alive.


 

The Cooking Gene

 

 

He asked if I could cook.

So I asked if he could hunt.

“Hunting? No. Why would I know that?” he said.

“Oh ’cause if you can’t hunt, then what would I cook?” I said perplexed.

“Well, you’re supposed to know

how to cook

for you’re a lady.”

 

I didn’t know there was a cooking gene

women carried innately.

So, thank you!

oh, enlightened man, for letting me know.

I said

wait…

I can smell something…

burning…

 

Oh, that’s the food

for you

I put on the stove.

So much so for

the cooking gene

I was bestowed.

 

Oh well…Time for it to be chucked away.

So say your goodbye

both to the food, and me.

And please oh please

stay miles away!


 

Poets are ultimately…

 

 

Seducers, teasers

who shamelessly seduce and tease

their readers

until they fully

submit themselves.

They talk dirty,

softly,

blow into their ears,

whisper

sweet little things,

tell them about the

sound that the

ocean makes.

The salty breeze,

stars at night,

the full tide,

shells on the sea shore,

moonlight,

footprints

on the sand.

Just then,

they let go off the

readers’ hand,

drown them

in the ocean, and

leave.


 

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***Prerna Bakshi is a Sociolinguist, writer, translator and activist of Indian origin, presently based in Macao. Her work has previously been published in over three dozen literary journals and magazines, most recently in Red Wedge Magazine, Yellow Chair Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, Kabul Press, Misfit Magazine, Peril magazine: Asian-Australian Arts & Culture and Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature. Her full-length poetry collection, Burnt Rotis, With Love, recently long-listed for the Erbacce-Press Poetry Award in the UKis forthcoming from Les Éditions du Zaporogue (Denmark) later this year. She tweets at @bprerna***

Creativity on the go – by BRIAN MICHAEL BARBEITO

CREATIVITY ON THE GO

The nice thing about creatives is that no matter what they are cooking up, they are involved in similar processes. It’s fun to talk shop with artists and writers, photographers and musicians. I find in my journeys that it is rare that one of these makers has never at least dabbled in another form if not taken even two or sometimes three forms of creativity quite seriously.

These birds fly to other fields.

Something in an adjacent landscape calls them.

I primarily write. That happens organically. There is an experience, a happening, and then it reoccurs for better or worse in memory. After that, the subject matter informs the form. If what was seen and heard and then remembered dictates a long form of writing, then that is what comes out. Or, the frame might be small, and there is a vignette.

But what if something is seen right off and it really enthralls? That process can be speeded up to a certain extent. You see it. You process it. Your are already remembering it. You are impressed. You are taken. You have to tell someone. Or even just yourself again. This is where you can take a picture if you have a camera or I-phone.

This is the muse at work though not all people identify it as such. I might not be able to honor it properly, but I have to try. It’s not even me trying to capture what I have seen. Nor is it some magical metaphysical angelic process, – that I know of. It’s just a ‘larger’ process.

It is what happens.

So if I was walking in fields, or being driven somewhere, it is hard to sit and write a short outline, or to even write at all. A camera can work in these instances in seconds.

This is where photography came in. I had been writing over one thousand vignettes in ten years and they were mostly about the trees, the clouds, the fields, a bird, a feral shrub, and the wildflowers being danced by some wind that came across a summit in the late August afternoon. Some people resonated with them. I liked them. But then I just clicked pictures one day. Then I clicked more. That is an actual frame. I didn’t have to write the thousand words anymore.

But I still did.

So I had both. I had a picture and then later, I also had words. I started taking pictures, hundreds and hundreds, into the thousands I think- of rural landscapes. They seem the same but are always changing. I use the frame of writing, when I have time afterwards. And I use the frame of photography in the moment.

I don’t know much about the process of painting, music, sculpture, pottery, dancing, or the many other things. But I know that for me, – the photograph and the written word work well. And some others like what has been written or photographed, which is always a plus, a connective dynamic that is an unexpected gift after the fact. But, as mentioned, – I always write. That is my primary craft for better or worse. It was before the pictures and it will be after the pictures if the pictures end.

Writing is blood and photography is water. Water gives life, sure. But what is it giving life to? To blood. Blood runs deep, as the saying goes. Photography is my great friend. I love my friend, I do. I would do almost anything for my friend. But writing is my family, my blood. And I would do anything for it, not ‘almost’ anything.

But right now I do both. I have a family and friend! I am bringing the whole gang over.

If a picture is a worth a thousand words, that is great.

But with me, you will get the picture and a thousand words.

****

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***Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian writer, poet, landscape photographer, and editor (currently living in Ontario).Current work appears at Fiction International and The Tishman Review. Brian is the author of Chalk Lines from Fowlpox Press (2013) and edits BRLM Bougainvillea Road Lit Mag. Find him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/BrianMBarbeito ***

Welcome to Tragedy/Comedy Week!

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Welcome, welcome, welcome to Sick Lit Magazine’s Tragedy/Comedy Week!

We will have a wide array of work for you to peruse, ranging from poetry to flash fiction all the way over to some truly epic art.

Prerna Bakshi, who bravely kicked off our first Poetry Week, will also be the first up for Tragedy/Comedy week. Dee Lean, Ron Gibson, C.C. O’Hanlon, Cathryn Campbell, Toby Penney (and her breathtaking art), Gavin Hedaux, Rob True, and many, many more artists will be participating this week.

As always, if you are sitting here reading this letter and think you have a piece to submit for this week, it’s NOT TOO LATE! Send it on over to kelly.fitzharris@gmail.com 

I have also decided (LAST MINUTE) to include a three-week long ADDITIONAL, running theme of FLASH FICTION. Again, if you are sitting here reading this and have some flash fiction for me, send it on over. 

Back to Tragedy/Comedy Week! 

Once a theater major at the University of Texas at Austin (I know, I know, I’ve dabbled; I’m sort of all over the place) and long time theater enthusiast, I’ve acted in many plays, one-act plays, excerpts, performed monologues, sang a cappella in a silent room to two people; I have auditioned my ass off. But some of my favorite times onstage were during my two years at Wichita Falls High School (Old High), with whom I deem to be the greatest theater teacher and director on the planet, Doc Wood.

I came to know that Tragedy and Comedy come in many forms. I know that they mean different things to different people.

Tragedy doesn’t always have to mean absolute and utter devastation; in fact, there is one school of thought that delineates that Tragedy and Comedy can be one and the same. In one way it makes sense; I guess it’s like when you laugh at someone who’s just rolled down the stairs. It’s tragic for that person, but comedic gold to you. And, yes, I’m one of those assholes who cannot contain themselves when someone hurts themselves. I can’t help it! (Unless their leg has just been severed. I’m not evil.)

Comedy comes in SO MANY different forms as we know all too well; (“Hey, check this movie out! It is so funny!” I’ve said to my husband a million times. He watched it. He did not laugh) and is made up of so many layers. Timing is oh-so-crucial and it isn’t something that can be taught. Whether it’s slapstick humor (a la The Three Stooges) or dry humor (Seinfeld), laughter will always, indeed, continue to be some of the best medicine. 

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When I was performing in the play The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman, playing the villainous Mary at a Theater Camp in Nacogdoches, Texas, I had to really look inside myself, because this was an extremely difficult role for me to play. Our director said it was why she’d picked me; with my bubbly personality and youthful optimism, she had wanted to challenge me. Mary’s character is destructive, sociopathic, manipulative and sneaky.

There was a scene where I was, of course, the petulant, angry, overbearing child, answering the other character (Rosalie)’s line with, “A lot of people are just ugly.” (This is not an exact quote, by the way). Which, to my surprise, elicited an eruption of laughter from the crowd. What? This was not a funny play. This was not supposed to be a funny line. Oh no! What’s happening? 

It was simply theater happening. 

That was it.

Later in the scene I actually had to slap the other girl in the face. During the performance, I slapped her so hard I busted her lip, eliciting a horrified gasp from the audience. So, there it was. The same audience that laughed, only a few moments later, gasped in disgust.

Tragedy and comedy, together. And as a cast, we had made it happen. 

And that’s what we do here at Sick Lit Magazine: We make things happen.

I truly love the network of authors we have created here. This is a very exciting magazine to be a part of. I’ll say it again after reading all of my Tragedy/Comedy pieces, damn, do my writers have soul.

They do not disappoint.

For any of you who watched the short-lived series My So-Called Life in the 90s, I kind of think of Sick Lit Magazine as the adult version of Angela Chase’s English class’s publication Liberty Lit. I despise censorship for censorship’s sake. I can’t stand pointless rules and “one-inch margin” specifications. Throw it out the window, readers and writers. And write what no one else will. 

So, curl up by the fire (if it’s cold where you are) and don’t forget to…Enjoy the Show! 

Cheers!

Kelly Fitzharris Coody

Sick Lit Magazine Editor-in-Chief

PS: One of my favorite quotes is from Jane Magazine back in the 90s, merely an afterthought that hung in the air above a fashion editorial. It read: “Not famous? Who cares? Star in your own damn show.” And it’s kind of been my motto ever since. 

Unmasked – by ANTHONY SPROUSE

Unmasked

Chaotic randomness fills my mind,       stories,       ideas,         words.

A clammer of different voices – demanding to be heard.

Remember when…

I have a great idea…

Mines better…

Worries creep in, what if…            will I manage…            will she live…

Passion takes over, love, hate, betrayal, fear – will he stay?                                                  Am I enough?

Overwhelming thoughts, discarded memories work up a storm inside

my head.

I wish for peace from the endless torment,

I wish for escape,                                     even death…

Harry Olivia Petunia Auraya We are all in the gutter I dreamed a dream…

A sunset, the crash of waves, a bloody knife…

Characters, quotes, images come flooding in,

sensory overload.

I will never win my freedom,                           I will never escape…

My mind is a constant battlefield of chaotic thoughts.

Let them go…

*****


Me recent

***Anthony Sprouse is a short story author, novelist, and poet. He has several pieces of work appearing or forthcoming in several publications. Currently he is studying a Bachelor’s Degree in creative writing, and when he’s not writing avidly, he’s most likely getting stuck into a new book with a big mug of hot chocolate. He tweets at: https://twitter.com/WolfyWiccan ***

Four Winter Poems – by OWEN CLAYBORN

Four Winter Poems by Owen Clayborn

Child
Precipitous dark,
hungering dark,
I am kept from you
only by her thin hair,
her small head on my chest,
and her smile I would miss
too much.


 

Slaving Pain to Bones
Slaving pain to bones
Our cruel feet
Cannot evolve the promiscuous dark
past duality,
And hands slip from hands
that once depression slaked.


 

The Schoolboy
(With thanks to William Blake)
I used to have a cigarette every morning,
and lie smoking, ignoring the birds;
The traffic on the dual carriageway,
And the trucks would smoke with me:
A miserable fellowship.

But when the bus turned up in May —
God, what depression.
Watched by a tired old fool,
We would sit there
Pissing about.

Slouching around,
Butterflies in my gut;
Getting nothing from the textbook,
Hardly held by their teaching,
Exhausted by the rain.

I never got how a human spirit
Could be trapped like that.
A monkey-soul, full of anxiety,
Losing the elasticity of youth,
Shedding every happy thought!

One dealt hash under the desk,
Another retold last night’s fingering;
All these buds and sprouts
Growing cramped in the dark,
When there should have been light and space, —

But if this was summer,
Then what strange blooms would grow,
And what shapes form in the smoke,
And questing fingers unearth,
In the harsh frost of the year’s end?


 

Dusk, the Thirteenth

Pale blue and pale brown, living latticework
of sticks and clouds, blowing, booming, bending
in the mild gale, seen from my table.
The rattle of the magpie in the oak,
the automatic gunshot from the fields
scaring rooks from God knows what. Pointless noise.
Snaps of hail are wintering up the windows,
a warning of the cold to come, how hard
a frost the world could get. I sip my wine:
the day is ended by the blood of France,
of many nations.
*
I hear children
crying in the wind,
the sigh of sand drifting
on dead shores over
greenstick fractures,
tracing Europe’s bones.
*
Over the airwaves, the crack
of jets; the plume
of war being written large
for the third time.

 


***Owen Clayborn is a British-American writer of poetry, full-length fiction, and short stories. His work usually features roguish characters in unusual situations. Owen is currently working on a picaresque novel. Follow Owen on Twitter at:https://twitter.com/claybornwrites ***

Broken Glass – by COLT PRYOR

Broken glass

By Colt Pryor

 

 

Broken glass lit up my home’s entry hall. It was a gleaming trail of bread crumbs.

I stared down, mouth agape, stepping gingerly, slowly, heartbeat in my ears.

My right hip bone creaked as I lifted my leg up above the sharp edges that belonged to the glass shards and splintered wood, dangerously sprinkled across the threshold that led into the dining room.

Looking left, I saw my birthday flowers turned over on the tile in the breakfast nook, cloudy water pooling beneath the dried tulip petals that now lay sideways, askew, their preciously trimmed stems just a reminder of all that trouble gone to waste.

A timid “Hello?” escaped my lips. It hung in the air untouched.

My pulse sped and sweat beads formed on my face in a light sheen. My hands quivered as my mind’s eye saw broken images that didn’t quite connect.

“Hello…?” my voice sounded again, feminine and squeaky, echoing off the walls and bouncing off of the high, second floor ceilings, coming back to me from my stained concrete floors.

As my foot made contact with the concrete, my second step of terrific progress forward, I heard the sole of my shoe crunching the glass beneath my weight.

I grimaced at the sound.

My jaw clenched.

A scuffle in the breakfast nook took my pulse up another notch; by the time I collected my racing mind, I saw my back door wide open, the breeze blowing haphazardly in, ruffling the drapes in its wake, strong enough to blow the top layers of my hair back from my face and chill the moisture on my skin.

Taped to the back wall was an envelope with “Penelope” scrawled on the front in messy handwriting.

My foot itches…and burns…what…?

I took in a measured breath before I lifted up my left foot. Beneath my flat-soled leather shoe, buried deep into my foot, was a large nail.

I took another breath before the tunnel vision began. I retrieved my phone from my pocket and dialed 911.

Stop shaking. Quit shaking so hard, damn it. Focus. Focus, Penelope.

“Yes, hi, this is Penelope M. Miller. My home has been broken into and I have a nail driven into the bottom of my foot,” I said.

A shadow over my right shoulder made me jump with a start, driving the nail even further into my foot. Shrieking, I stumbled over to the adjacent wall, but remained puzzled as the shadow followed me.

Holy shit…

Only the shadow was actually a knife handle was sticking out from my right collarbone.

“And I’ve been wounded. I’ve been stabbed,” I said quickly before the tunnel vision narrowed.

I leaned over and threw up all over the glass before the black spots took completely covered my field of vision.


 

***Colt Pryor is an American fiction writer currently seeking representation. She considers herself to be an old soul and shies away from social media.***

Fears of Men/Penmanship/In Hollow Bones – by CHRISTOPHER GROSSO

Fears of Men

 

The fears of men leave a greasy smear

on the ground trailing behind them.

For a while, they are bears attacking a bee hive,

ravaging the honeycomb for just

a small taste of something so powerful

that they are raptured into forgetting

why their hands shake, lips quiver.

The bee’s stingers make holes

in the heated men and sizzling fat drips

through the holes leaving

an inelegant stain on the carpet.

That’s how it gets there.

Spring after spring of beestings.

Men squeal in delight rolling on their backs.

Men do not need a carpet

to roll around. They got fat for that.

They growl and do it on the ground.

Pigs in shit. Bulls in china shops.

They only stop at God. Or rather,

the immobility of meeting God.

Of stopping eternal. Just the thought

makes men throw things in the air—

footballs, rockets, fireworks, fingers.

This is praise. This is tongues men speak

in and about. An explosive theology

of castrated desire. With age,

the ‘dos’ of this and the ‘don’ts’ of that

metastasize to everything till men sit

in the rocking chair, doomed. They know

even the chair is doomed to stop rocking.
 

Penmanship

 

He was an admirer

of Kerouac’s liver.

That of Faulkner’s, too.

He dug the penitentiary mind

of Burroughs, all walled-up

behind excuses and denials.

Wanting the fists of Bukowski,

the gonzo of Thompson,

the hunts of Hemingway,

he once attempted to

shave a cactus during a party.

The prickly spines

resemble cheek stubble,

he mused, so logic seemed

to be smiling on his quest

like sun smiles on a

Sunday afternoon party.

It was a Sunday afternoon

as a matter of undisputed fact.

It was sunny. The orange juice

was infused with Russian water.

The air held the sharp end

of the weekend. His pen

was down. His razor was up.

The cactus won handily,

his bloody digits did attest.

A bearded dragon, he called it.

Get my sword, he yelled,

I will slay the mighty beast.

In the hard Monday morning dawn,

after the mind-wet guests had gone

home to wring themselves dry,

the cactus turned out to be just

a thorny rose. Just a mighty red ask

for love, forgiveness, memorial.


 

In Hollow Bones

 

Airport baggage handlers

do not speak of guilt.

The metaphor is too

burdensome on the back.

Besides, they know

what is in your bags.

Without even looking

they know what you’ve

stowed: Sex toys on a

business trip. They know why.

Undeclared fruit. They can

almost taste it. Conch shell

from a protected beach.

They can hear the ocean

right through the bag.

And they don’t judge.

They simply move the bag

from conveyor to cart to

plane belly. They leave it

in the belly. Let you carry it.

Let you carry it up

and away. The hollow bones

of a plane filled with you,

take flight. Carry your bags

and your metaphors

somewhere else, they say.

Just not here. We know bags.

The bags don’t stop coming.

Day and night, relentless,

we do not speak of that.

 

******
Grosso Pic 1
Christopher Grosso is the author of two novels, a chapbook of poetry, and the now-defunct broadsheet zine Off Grosso. His poetry has most recently appeared in Caesura, Apiary Magazine and HOOT and is forthcoming in 3 Elements Review.  He has an MFA in Poetry from Brooklyn College, but resides outside of Philadelphia where he is the Director of Leadership Communications at Cabrini College. He tweets @GrossoNation.

Consensual/Daily Mail Order Bride/So Your Wife – by HOLLY DAFFURN

Consensual

For the man who asked if I condoned paedophilia

because I support homosexuality

So I’d offer you my hand,

but before you grasp my skin

You’ll probably want to know

where my fingers have been

My hands show I’m a cellist, a wife, a writer

but there are no clear signs

of every queer all-nighter

Here I am…so married, so feminine, so straight?

There you are so hardened by your bigoted hate

I would apologise

but you’d resent my tongue and lips

To know how I adore the coastline

from breast to hip

But my past is not the force

behind my fighting words

I write and speak this way

for those who don’t get heard.


Daily Mail Order Bride

I think I was the only Guardian reader in history

to marry someone who read The Daily Mail

& I’d think maybe it’s ironic

& at least it isn’t The Sun

Besides, we all like being the intelligent one

We’d be in bed with my arms thus spread

as wide as my mind and heart

You’d be beside with your paper tight

like your wallet and your pride

I was the perfect trophy wife

All blowjob proof lipstick and self-sacrifice

I think you almost knew that I could write

but you didn’t quite grasp that words were my whole life

I’ve wondered, if I write about you

does that mean you ever mattered?

Or that our brief portrait

was anything but lust splattered?

No-one ever really knew

how someone with my MENSA IQ

could ever even fuck the likes of you

I taught you about the hidden gender

new moves

and new words

You taught me through silent imprisonment

the importance of being heard


So Your Wife

So your wife hates my lips

She reads fellatio

Pictures the swell of your dick

She can’t lip read, she doesn’t know the truth

I put my lips to a much better use

Weaving words to inspire, encourage, delight

To chase out the shadows that haunt you at night

It’s words that I give you

a different relief

Yet, she’s searching for semen

in the glint of my teeth

So your wife hates my hands

The caress of a masseuse

Is all she understands

She’s no musician, she doesn’t know the truth

It’s my fingertips that get the most use

That these thick pads, calloused and raw

Show devotion to the instrument

that makes my heart soar

That my nimble fingers and strong hands

Please you as an artist

and not as a man

So your wife hates my pins

She reads seduction

In my barely keeping it in

She can’t see, she doesn’t know the truth

The way I dress is mania put to good use

My lack of boundaries, my style liberated

Simply means I haven’t been medicated

Matching mental disorders, a different connection

I see understanding

She sees attraction

So your wife hates my youth

I’m not even that young

But I’m younger than you

And she’s even longer in the tooth

She can’t see, she doesn’t know the truth

That my life experience has been put to good use

I’ve lived enough life for six

It’s wisdom I offer, not perky tits

It’s insight I give you, and intellect

She sees firm curves

and marriages wrecked

So.. I hate your wife

She’s taken you from you

and withdrawn you from my life

She can’t see, she doesn’t know the truth

That I only ever wanted

What was best for you

You see a person with depth, light and shade

She sees a slut who’s out to get laid

She doesn’t see

That the biggest threat of all

Is that I’ve got you by the soul

and not by the balls


******

hollyd

***Holly Daffurn is an author and a poet. Her debut poetry collection is out next spring and she is currently working on a collection of pregnancy and birthing non-fiction titles for ecological publishing house Green Books. She is a passionate artist on the spoken word scene with a loyalty to Birmingham (her poetic home if not her literal one). Her work includes political pieces such as ‘For Russia with Love’ a performance poem that addresses sexuality and the situation in Russia. This piece was commissioned to be made into a film poem by CAGED Arts as part of The React Poetry Project (An O2 Think Big Project). As well as attracting international attention (including support from a number of Russian LGBT groups) this film poem was also shown at ‘We’re Here’ a queer film screening and art exhibition as part of Brighton Pride 2015.

Most recently Holly was commissioned by the UK’s leading spoken word organisation Apples & Snakes to write and record a podcast on the theme of ‘Heritage’. The resulting broadcast features a collection of poems especially written for the commission as well as Holly’s insight and candid no-holds barred discussion on inherited mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. This piece has been very well-received including commendation from Ruby Wax’s mental health organisation SANE.

Her work varies from tight rhymes, rapidly changing rhythms and a pleasing mixture of sass and wit to deeply intimate and bleak portraits that are raw in their intimacy. Holly is immensely passionate about giving young people the confidence, skills and incentive to use words to break down barriers, dissolve stigma, express themselves and as a cathartic practice. She has started running workshops that offer young people the space, opportunity and support to get their voices heard.***

To learn more about Holly or see her work, visit these web sites:

Here is a video poem of a piece I wrote about sexuality and

the situation in Russia:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ri0YmdApozE

Here is a video of So Your Wife:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebioIDNyqus

You can find my Apples & Snakes podcast here:

http://applesandsnakesblog.org/blog/sketches-from-both-sides-of-the-sky-by-holly-daffurn

My website is here:

https://hollydaffurn.wordpress.com/

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR – DECEMBER, VOL. 1, ISSUE 3.

December’s Letter from the Editor

Kelly Fitzharris Coody

As you may have noticed, SLM has become quite theme-happy as of late. It’s been a hell of a lot of fun–we’ve expanded our team, publishing talented writers’ excellent, diverse work, officially dubbing SLM an “eclectic and quirky” publication.

Bravo to all of my “Poetry Week” poets and my “Flash Fiction Week” writers!

Since November’s open-submissions-call was such a success, I’ve decided to keep it open through December 31st. Submit to: kelly.fitzharris@gmail.com

I will get to the themes in just a minute. (I know, I know, I’m keeping you in suspense; but I really do have a few important things to say.)

Once when I was 15, on the way to the movies with some friends, the mom driving us there asked, “What’s your name?”

“Mary,” answered the girl to my right.

“No, no, not you. The mouthy one. You! What’s your name?” she asked, meeting my gaze in the rear view mirror.

“Kelly. Kelly Fitzharris. Why?” My voice was steady. My red hair was in its natural state of glossy curls that day as I cocked my head calmly to the side at her question.

Now it’s no big secret that I’m mouthy! I’m passionate and I believe in what we’re doing here, both for authors and for  writing. With the sky as our limit, we are crafting truly brilliant and one-of-a-kind literature that our readers feel a kinship with.

I’ve never been one to “go with the flow” or recede from our cruel world like a shrinking violet. I’ve been questioning the world around me and my own existence since I was old enough to utter my first words; snot-nosed, mop of red hair, chubby legs, clutching a teddy bear. I’d ask my dad, “How long has God been here?”

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He’d reply, “God always was.”

To which I then sat and quietly pondered the possibility of eternity.

As I grew, my questioning of authority became constant: “But why do we have to draw it that way?”

“Why? Why not?”

“Tell me why. Tell me why not.”

You can see why I despise automated rejection letters, canned company jargon, why I quit my job at a large corporation as a peon making no money despite my good degree, and why I chose to start Sick Lit Magazine in the first place.

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I quit my job at the end of August to stay at home with my kids; I’ve never done the Stay-at-Home-Mom thing before. Being a parent can make you wallow in self-doubt—it’s hard not to get stuck there. And the same can be said for us creatives and us writers. If you’re a fiction writer, especially, all you see, hear about and read about is “What NOT to do,” “Why Your Writing Sucks,” etc, etc, etc….

Here are a few gems I’ve found over the last few years:

  • Don’t use adverbs. (Well, why don’t you go fuck yourself?)
  • No longer is it acceptable for a book to “get good” ten pages in. (Courtesy of Writer’s Digest. Thank you for this amazingly shitty advice!)

Am I the only one sitting here thinking, “WHAT THE HELL?”

Whoever makes these lists must also own the publishing industry and control whose work gets seen and heard and whose does not.

If writers had been held to these ridiculous rules 50, 60, 70 years ago, books like Catch-22 by Joseph Heller  would have never been published. Or my favorite novel, Rebecca, by Daphne Dumaurier, would have been veritably tossed out the window by some kid in a suit, sitting tall, proud and brave behind their laptop. Why are we now expected to dumb our writing down and follow guidelines that only exist because of numbers and sales?

Back on December 4, 2014, I received an automated rejection letter from literary agent Jessica Faust from the agency BookEnds. You can bet your sweet ass I wrote back to this automated letter, asking as nicely as I could, and I will actually quote myself here, saying, “I know you’re insanely busy. But I would love some tips on how to present myself in a better light. Sincerely, Kelly Fitzharris.”

Jessica Faust wrote back an irritable letter that might as well have included an audible huff of disgust at the beginning. It starts with: “I’ve been writing about just this on the blog.”

The blog? Is this akin to the “The” in The Bible? 

It gets better. I continue her letter below: 

“I think though your idea is interesting, but your writing, not just the summarizing, didn’t feel that strong to me. In my mind it gave me the idea that your book might not be strongly written. If you wrote it fast my suggestion is that it might not be ready to submit and instead needs 30 days, or longer, of revisions before its ready.”

These are direct quotes; and I left her grammatical errors in there on purpose. That last line just kills me—its instead of it’s? And you’re the person in charge of my literary destiny?

It’s so maddening. It’s enough to make you want to throw your computer or punch your laptop screen—or, like our most recent contributor, Dee Lean, did, delete your entire hard drive.

This is why I started Sick Lit Magazine. I’m so fucking tired of this—I hate these rules. I hate that we’re made to hate our own writing. How is fitting into some sort of impossible mold groundbreaking or unique? Or extraordinary? At all? 

At Sick Lit Magazine, I am creating an environment like no other editor has done before me. I am no Jessica Faust; nor do I ever want to be.

And, guess what?

Dee Lean, who was actually told her writing was “hideous,” has gotten a ton of likes, and more reads and views on her Flash Fiction Week piece, “Fire,” than most of our other offerings.

Through believing in one another, we are fostering a community of powerful creativity that then leads to true literary excellence, in all forms. 

To be able to write in an environment that celebrates you rather than one that picks you apart and only provides DESTRUCTIVE criticism, is why I am here. And I will always, always, always stand proudly behind my authors.

OKAY, ONTO THEMES FOR DECEMBER!

The week following Thanksgiving will be Sick Lit Magazine’s first-ever genre-specific theme, which is: Tragedy and/or Comedy! I chose this genre because it encompasses other themes, such as revenge, romance and even tragic comedy (or tragicomedy for those of you out there who are inherently cooler than I am).

The second week of December, we will be running two themes (for obvious reasons): Women’s fiction & the writing genre of the Workplace Tell-All. For Workplace Tell-all submissions, you MAY SUBMIT ANONYMOUSLY AND SUBSTITUTE COMPANY AND INDIVIDUAL NAMES. 

For the third week, our theme will focus on Coming of Age. Feel free to interpret this loosely–You may see it as difficulties and challenges faced during adolescence, but it can also be interpreted as the struggles, pain and beauty of adult life that we face every day. 

I expect to see all of you challenge yourselves and submit during these three weeks! This includes all forms of writing, poetry and art pieces or photography. I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with. Oh, and please state the genre of your submission in the subject line.

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***Very important: During this time, you can continue to submit your regular, non-themed work to me. Again, my goal is to put out a special edition issue for January. But as of right now, I’m enjoying scheduling them during our “off-weeks” to give our readers some unique pieces to delve into.***

Come join the party and our publishing revolution. 

Drop me a line at kelly.fitzharris@gmail.com

Cheers!

Peace and love,

-Kelly on behalf of SLM-

(And like I said to our regular contributor, Hillary Umland, “Let’s kick some ass!!!”)

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