Archive for writing

The return of Pig in a Poke — live online today!

Posted in All posts, On writing, Pig in a Poke with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 1, 2010 by Trina

Big news today for fans of good writing!

Pig in a poke

Pig in a Poke magazine

I’m proud to announce that for the first time in decades, Pig in a Poke magazine is going to live again today, May 1st, 2010!

This was a team effort. I am happy to the second half of the team. My husband Harry Calhoun created the magazine from an earlier print version he published back in the 1980s. Then, he edited a magazine called Pig in a Poke and, when he ran short of money, its smaller, more affordably priced offshoot, Pig in a Pamphlet. (See Harry’s blog for details). This online literary journal offers what we think to be an incredible lineup of poetry and fiction, with a few essays too.

For my part, I edited the fiction and took a crash course (self taught) in Web design to create the look of the site. Harry and I worked together to develop the look we wanted … it allows you to spend time with the individual writers in their own intimate spaces. I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished.

It’s a tribute to the quality and staying power of our writers that Harry was publishing some of them back in the 1980s … as long ago as 1982, in fact. And we have some newer talent that I think is equally impressive. And by the way, any poets or fiction writers on this mailing list are more than welcome to submit for future issues.

I hope you’ll drop by, give a read, maybe donate to the cause, and let me know what you think.

http://www.piginpoke.com/currentissue.html

The lineup for this issue includes:

Poetry by

Jim Daniels

Louis McKee

Lyn Lifshin

Howie Good

Christopher Cunningham

William Doreski

David Barker

Carol Lynn Grellas

Robin Stratton

Alan Catlin

Karla Huston

Corey Mesler

Donal Mahoney

Shirley Allard

Fiction by:

Burgess Needle

Sharmagne Leland-St. John

Daniel Davis

Marjorie Petesch

Anne Woodman

Ginny Swart

James Neenan

Essays by:

James Heller Levinson

Anne Woodman

Some well-knowns, some unknowns, but all, I assure you, quality stuff. Drop in and wallow a while in the Pig sty … it’s not a bad place to be!

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Eric Hoffer finalist

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing, Pig in a Poke with tags , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2010 by Trina

I received this e-mail this morning. I’m sure you can hear my YIPEE wherever you are.

Dear Hoffer Award Entrant:

Congratulations. Your story has been selected as a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Prose Award. This is a very small group of stories from among thousands of submissions. The final round of judging will unfold during the spring, culminating with the announcement of the Hoffer Short List during late summer and the release of the winners in early fall. . .

I had forgotten about this contest. I submitted my story GOOD GAME in May, 2009, to be considered for the Hoffer Award and then received the following e-mail in July of 2009.

The editors would like to inform you that your story has passed the first round of editorial review. Less than 20% of the stories make it this far. Congratulations. The review process is long and thorough. By the end, we will have an entire year’s worth of selected submissions to consider for the prize and anthology. You will hear back from us between May and July about the next level of judging. . .

I had thought I was out of the running. I assumed that because I wasn’t notified last July that the story didn’t make the final cut. Fortunately GOOD GAME has not been accepted elsewhere. I think it is my best work to date and I am honored to be in the final cut. But, even though the story is a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award, it has been rejected by 18 different magazines.

To quote JA Konrath, “There’s a word for a writer who never gives up…published.”

It is sometimes difficult to keep writing and submitting without getting discouraged, but days like today give me the steam to keep rolling. It also substantiates my decision to resign from my day job. After four years of developing tests for Measurement Inc., Tuesday is my last day. I realized that developing tests was draining my energy and keeping me from my fiction writing. I have had a new novel in progress for more than a year–it is not even half finished. I have a sketchy draft finished and several random chapters filled in, but I sometimes go for more than a month without working on my fiction. I had to make a change. I will still work as a contractor for MI, but I can set my own hours, can work from home, and the biggie: I won’t have to travel.

Okay, back to laying out pages for Pig in a Poke. I have about half of them done. We’re set to go live on May 1. So exciting!

More on the creation of GOOD GAME:

In August, 2008 I wrote the GOOD GAME during a severe drought . From a former blog: “Good Game” is the story that I’m most proud of. It is about a chess player who is paralyzed and sinking into depression, who is visited by his dead father. I wrote the first draft in my spare time before and after work, and on the weekend. Originally, it was to be a piece about a woman with a personality disorder who suffered from drug dependence. This is completely different from the end result. One afternoon while doing chores around the house, I decided she should be paralyzed. I decided to change the gender of the main character to a man to reach the readers who play chess, predominately men, as previously posted.

Feed “the Pig” some short stories, please!

Posted in All posts, On writing, Pig in a Poke with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2010 by Trina

Fiction anyone? Where are you fiction writers? I have received only 18 short story submissions to Pig in a Poke magazine, while Harry has already reviewed about 100 poetry submissions, each containing several poems. He was so inundated that we had to temporarily close poetry submissions until May. Essays and fiction are still open.

This got me thinking: are there more poets than fiction writers? Is it simply that stories take longer to write than poems?  Or is Harry receiving more poetry due to his name recognition or the names he has lined up for the first issue?

I am happy that among the stories I received were some very outstanding pieces. I have a good mix lined up for May and June ranging from gripping heartfelt slices-of-life to period pieces and even a couple humorous ramblings. I laughed out loud reading them. Talented fiction writers are submitting, just not as numerous as our poets.

Maybe it is the money. At this time “the Pig” is not a paying market. From my own personal experience, it takes about 20 hours to bring a story from draft to the polished version that I will send to publishers. This is a large time investment for me. I do give my work away to non-paying markets occasionally, but very selectively. On the other hand, Harry can write a poem in less than an hour–much less at times. With the larger time investment in stories, maybe fiction writers want to get paid for their work and poets don’t expect payment. It is hard to make money from poetry. All of this is speculation, of course. But there is the whole starving-artist image of poets.

What are your thoughts? Can you explain the prolific poets?

The good old summer time

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2010 by Trina

My short story The good old summer time is up in the April issue of  the Dead Mule.

I may not be a moonshine drinkin’, sweat-drippin’, pickup drivin’, yankee hatin’ redneck who eats greasy bacon, runny eggs fried in lard with grits, and sits on my neighbor’s sagging porch drinking beer and smoking cigars, but I like to write about them, and I do enjoy an occasional meal of shrimp and grits.

That’s only part of my southern legitimacy statement. Click on the Dead Mule link to read more. 

Harry has five poems in the April issue. The husband and wife team strikes again! The last time we were together was in Chiron Review in 2008. I saved the envelope our acceptance letters came in.

The good old summer time is set in spring, not summer. It’s about change: coping with loss, winter turning to spring. I wrote this story two years ago after my mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly. Her funeral was on the first day of spring–see my previous post: March

Because Harry’s mother had been sick for quite some time, I wondered how she could have hidden it from her family and friends. Connellsville, Pennsylvania is,  after all,  a small town. And then I realized, maybe she was aided in the deception. Perhaps the entire town played a part in the conspiracy. So the original title of The good old summer time was Conspiracy of Silence.

As stories often do, this one took a different course than I had planned. It veered from a town conspiracy to two men finding friendship through grief. Throw in a piano playing spirit and you’ve got The good old summer time.

Enjoy.

The return of Pig in a Poke … call for submissions!

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing, Pig in a Poke with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2010 by Trina

Announcing  Pig in a Poke— a literary magazine of poetry and fiction. New and resurrected! Brought to you by Harry Calhoun, the publisher of the ‘80s underground magazine Pig in a Poke, and guess who? Little ‘ol me: fiction writer Trina Allen.

“The Pig” featured work by Charles Bukowski, Jim Daniels, Louis McKee, lyn lifshin, Judson Crews and many more.

This new literary journal in electronic format is looking for writers with passion — poets, storytellers, essayists and others. Harry will pick the poems and literary essays, and I will select the fiction.

I am now a Web master. Wow! I spent the last week learning how to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to develop Web sites. I learned enough to start up Pig and a Poke and also find out how much I don’t know about CSS. I hope my first attempt at using CSS is successful. Let me know what you think. I’d love suggestions. I now know that the pages look different on PCs, laptops, and probably Macs. Let me know if the home page doesn’t look like the image above on your computer.

Go Pig!

I’ve also organized a fiction writing group for Raleigh area writers. I’m looking forward to the discipline the group will give me. Perhaps now I can post more often about my publications. I have a new story out in April. More on that next time.

I hope I have time for it all. Maybe sleep is overrated.

Sick dog

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , , on March 18, 2010 by Trina

I had planned on posting about my work over the last year–I am working on several short stories and a novel that I’ve given the working title of THE RIPPER. But life intervened in the worst way–assuring me I’ve chosen an appropriate new title for this blog.

Harry and I woke at three in the morning yesterday to a very sick dog. It was the smell that woke us: dog vomit in the living room and worse wafting from upstairs. Harry and I followed the scent upstairs to discover that Alex had used Harry’s office carpet as a bathroom. Normally he would never defecate in the house–he is very housebroken, so he must have been so sick he couldn’t make it outside, poor guy.

Harry immediately called the emergency vet in panic–what we saw on the carpet let us know that Alex was excreting blood. The vet said that bloody stools can be a reaction to Ramidyn (Carprofen), the anti-inflammatory Alex had been taking for his broken tail. Although she couldn’t promise he’d be okay, she thought Alex could wait to see his regular vet at 9 am.

Meanwhile, neither of us could eat anything. The smell was too nauseating. The odor from upstairs permeated the whole house, even the bedroom and kitchen. So I made soap water and we tried to free the carpets of the worst smell I can imagine. It was so cloying that my gag reflex kicked in before the job was even started. Harry did better.

At 9 am, thinking we had gotten the worst of it, we loaded a groggy Alex into the car and headed for the vet.

“It is probably a reaction to the Ramidyn. Some studies are now showing that some breeds, particularly Labradors, are more susceptible to Ramidyn. We’ll need to test his kidneys and liver function . . .”

I stared at the veterinarian in shock. Alex could not have kidney failure. I couldn’t even get my head around that. Worried, we left Alex with the vet and headed home. I toyed with the idea of going to work, but decided to take the day off. I knew I would not be able to concentrate on developing science test questions. Because I work an 80 % schedule, I have one day off per week, normally Friday, so it is just a matter of switching days. I’m sure tomorrow I’ll be ecstatic with my decision.

We opened the door of the house to the pungent odor of dog shit, vomit, and chemicals–the worst of it wafting down from upstairs. There was no way Harry could work in his office–he works from home as a marketing writer. I couldn’t even draw a breath up there. Harry called a professional carpet cleaner who said he could be here within the hour, and he was.

I considered going to work to avoid the smell, but I knew I’d be useless there. I gave Harry my office for the day and brought my laptop down to the bedroom. I often write there, so it was no inconvenience. I got as far as opening the document containing my novel in progress. My head immediately started pounding. I suddenly felt too tired even to sit up in bed. But I didn’t want to waste my day off, so I compromised with myself. Instead of turning the TV on and vegging out, which is what I wanted to do, and what I did later in the evening, I did something writing related that didn’t take much concentration. I uploaded the prologue and chapter one of my novel in progress onto my Website. I’ve been wanting to upload and excerpt for weeks, just hadn’t gotten around to it.

Alex is better this morning, although he still does not want to eat, which is very unusual for him. He usually wolfs his food at record speed. He spent the entire day at the vet’s yesterday. He got a shot to stop the vomiting, medication to stop diarrhea and an injection of pain medication. His kidney and liver function are good–we got the results of that test this morning. Long term, Alex will probably not be able to take anti-inflammatory medication. We’ll have to cross that bridge another day, if and when Alex develops arthritis.

The carpet in Harry’s office is now clean and fresh. I cannot believe the carpet cleaner got all of the smell out, but I am pleasantly surprised. A happy ending all around.

Broken Tail

Posted in All posts, Life with tags , , , , , on March 14, 2010 by Trina

I’m back after a year of learning how to balance writing while working a high-energy day job –sometimes succeeding and sometimes not. When I am most proud of my work, when I feel the writing is sharp, the characters interesting and the plot flowing, something is always sacrificed: working out, time with my husband, chores around the house–who needs clean clothes anyway, or energy for the day job. After trying various schedules and even abstinence from writing for awhile, I decided to start up this blog again with a different focus: how to juggle it all. But most importantly, how to be happy with the consequences. Can I live with an extra pound or two if I give up my work out to finish a challenging chapter? I have learned to say yes, but not every day. I will admit that I’ve given up too many workouts recently, so I’ll be posting about my weight loss challenge.

I hope that what I have learned about finding balance in the writing life will help other writers. This blog should also help to keep me honest. I have learned that I need the structure and goals that blogging gives me. I think I was most productive as a fiction writer when I knew I would have to be accountable to myself and my readers by writing about my progress on a regular basis.

broken tail

A broken tail-only a Labrador can do it well!

It was a timely weekend to begin this blog because yesterday afternoon Alex (our black lab) broke his tail, poor guy. Harry and I spent the afternoon at the emergency vet in Raleigh. The vet had to give him a shot of pain killer just to be able to examine him. It must be very painful. We learned that there is no treatment for a broken tail. The vet can’t splint it because dogs wag their tails so much. So Alex is taking pain medication and an anti-inflammatory. He’s pretty listless.

BTW, the emergency vet is on Vick St. in Raleigh. That address seemed like bad karma.

Because we lost the afternoon, Harry and I both decided to take some time yesterday evening to write–instead of watching TV. I managed to get 900 words of a new story written and 3 submissions out. I was happy with my progress. That’s where the balance– which is really a euphemism for sacrifice– comes in. I had planned to take a long walk with Alex, but the walk didn’t happen. The writing did. And so it goes.