Akimbo

Lily Sickles provides the reader a rush of images and movements centered around the word “Akimbo.”

You onomatopoeic multisyllabic beat

I wax akimbo out of my bathroom door

Post shower, clogged with pores and hair and

Pledge! Glasses a top my face (and wait)

To see them clearinga test of endurance

Some dilapidated trust,

Waiting for an occurrence

A feat of seeing! or, unexpectedly,

Akimbo? When one day I finally trip

On my

Extraterrestrial bathroom tryst of

Akimbo, pesky

Innumerable, my limbs that flail interminable

 

Lily Sickles is a junior at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. She is an editor at her school’s literary magazine, Guildscript, and attended the Between the Lines writing program at the University of Iowa.

 

Listen to the Book

Emily Clarke discusses young adult literature with Eliot Treichel, focusing on his recently published YA novel A Series of Small Maneuvers.

Eliot Treichel is the author of the YA novel A Series of Small Maneuvers and the story collection Close Is Fine, which received the Wisconsin Library Association Literary Award. His writing and photography have appeared in a variety of publications, including Canoe & Kayak, BULL, Narrative, Beloit Fiction Journal, CutBank, and Passages North. He’s been awarded a Fishtrap Writing Fellowship, as well as two residency fellowships at PLAYA. He thinks riding bikes uphill is fun, sandwiches are better with potato chips, and that no one should go to bed without a cookie. His only dance move is the moonwalk. He cannot parallel park. Originally from Northern Wisconsin, he now lives in Oregon.

 

Q: You’ve lived in Oregon for the past several years. Was there anything that initially drew you there?

A: From Wisconsin, I ended up in Oregon after going to college in Arizona and living there for a while. Whitewater kayaking has been a pretty big part of my life since about the age of eighteen, I was working as a whitewater kayaker when I was nineteen. The reason I sort of ended up in Oregon is because there are a lot of really great rivers there for kayaking and you can paddle year round. I was also considering going to graduate school at the University of Oregon to get my MFA in fiction, moved to Eugene, applied to the program there but didn’t get in.

 

Q: Why did you start writing YA literature?

A: So I was bringing home all of these young adult novels for my daughter and most of them had this recurring narrative where it was boy saves girl and I just got really sick of that so I wanted to write a story where a girl saves herself, but that probably came second. I was leading a backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon on this four day trip; we hiked four miles to get into camp and another couple miles to get our water. It was physically demanding for our whole group of college students and even me as the leader. I have a little bit of a fear of heights and on this trail there are some spots where you look off the edge and I would get vertigo. On the third day, we were hiking down to refill our water and ran into this family: mom, dad, and two little girls, six and ten. The youngest one was crying and had this little dirty stuffed animal, and something about that image got stuck in my craw. I started thinking a lot about, you know, what if these kids were on their own—how would they get out of it? One part of me thought these parents were amazing and cool for taking these kids out on this wilderness experience, and the other part thought oh my god, these parents are cruel. I was conflicted. That’s when I first started writing the book. I knew I wanted to have a girl in the forest and I wanted to kill the father off immediately and then make the girl get out of the situation right away. A trope of YA is dead parents. One of the other things was that there was a news story where the senator of Oregon’s kid was on a field trip for school or the Boy Scouts and he was climbing up on a log, and fell and died. I was really sort of intrigued by this idea of how quickly your life can change, so maybe that’s why I killed off the dad so quickly.

 

Q: What was your writing process like?

A: For this particular book (A Series of Small Maneuvers), it started off as a book for National Novel Writing Month. I had just done the backpacking trip. It was the beginning of November. I had been working on my short story collection for a while—ten years or something like that, so it totally made sense to try and write a novel in a month. I got like 10,000 words, put it aside, and finished my short story collection. I needed to keep working on something so I brought the novel back, wrote about a draft, and I was lucky enough to get a residency in Kalama which is, like, remote, eastern Oregon. So I had a cabin for a month, no cell phone reception really, no Internet connection—it’s out in the Oregon desert. That’s where I wrote the first real draft of the book, and partly that was to mirror Emma’s experience of being out there and away from home. And I brought drafts home, just kept revising and revising, a couple times I would rent a house on the Oregon coast and write from day to night. It was pretty cool—it can make you a little bit nutty, but my process usually is just moving through a series of drafts and trying to make them better and better. Both books deal with rivers in certain ways. In A Series of Small Maneuvers it’s pretty obvious. In the short story collection it’s set in northern Wisconsin and it’s not really a story cycle because there are different characters in each story, though there are some things that connect them all. There’s a river that’s in every story and there’s a tavern that’s sort of in every story. Rivers and place are always big themes.  My first book is about Wisconsin, where I lived. The second book is about the desert Southwest where I lived. The next book is going to be about Oregon, where I’m living now. So I need to move soon.

 

Q: Did you grow up around a lot of rivers?

A: Yeah, there was a river right at the end of my street.  I would go there and tromp through the woods or go fishing.

 

Q: Is the relationship that Emma, the main character of A Series of Small Maneuvers, has with her father based off any of your relationships, or any relationships that you observed?

A: It’s partly based on the relationship my daughter and I share, and off my dad’s and my relationship, or off my friend’s and their parents, and part of it is made up. There’s this idea of loops that complicate and I think it is a much more interesting story if we see this dad who is on the one hand really wonderful, and on the other hand not that great. That feels authentic to me. I love my own dad and he is wonderful in many ways, but then in other ways he is a total asshole. I didn’t realize this until I became a parent, but parenting is really hard.

 

Q: What made you want to stagger the chronology in A Series of Small Maneuvers?

A: There are two ways to start a story. One is that we start at the beginning of the story and work towards the dead body. The other is start with the dead body and work towards figuring out what happened. It’s not really a mystery if the dead body comes up at the end, but every mystery starts out with the dead body. I wanted to play around with that structure so I put the dead body up front. Part of young adult fiction is that you have to keep the reader turning the pages. I also wanted to play with narrative structure in some ways. I think you have more leadway in a novel to play around with time and switching points of view. It’s good to have a concept but it’s really important to be willing to let that concept go at some point and realize that the book wants to be its own thing. Make sure you listen to the book.

 

Q: Did you have any hesitation about writing the book from the point of view of a teenage girl?

A: Part of my decision was that my short story collection is full of guy stories.” Every story is about a dude who has made terrible decisions and is trying to make up for them in some way. I wanted to move away from that for my next book. There were concerns about not coming off as some guy writing a story about who a girl should be. I wanted to make sure it was authentic, and I struggled with that at times, but it didn’t feel weird. The very first story I ever wrote was from the point of view of a girl. I think the teenage aspect was more challenging than boy versus girl.

 

Q: Were you ever considering that more teenage girls read YA novels than boys as a factor in the narrator you chose?

A: Some studies have said that girls will read stories about girls or boys, and boys will usually only read stories about boys. That’s part of the reason I wanted to play with the adventure trope. Gary Paulsen’s books got me into reading so I wanted to write a book that would reach who I was as a young reader, but was a girl story.

 

Q: What advice would you give to young writers?

A: No one is born a writer, or born not a writer.  Anyone can do it—it’s just a matter of practicing. For whatever reason you want to write, whether it’s personal or you want it to be published, it doesn’t matter because being a writer is a wonderful thing. Keep writing and ignore your critics. A lot of people will tell you, “You can’t do this,” but if it’s what you want to do, keep fighting and keep writing. Something that was really helpful to me was being a reader on a literary journal, reading the slush pile submissions. You end up reading people who are at your level. Published books have no mistakes; they’ve been edited out, but when you read manuscripts for a literary journal, you will learn to see the mistakes in their work as an editor and then you can see the same mistakes in your own writing.

Two Poems by Elena Rielinger

Elena Rielinger analyzes her relationship with apples and examines the personality of a coffee drink.

Apples

Someday I hope to make

enough money

so I can afford

pretentiously over-priced organic produce

though I’m not entirely sure

if there’s a palpable difference

between the glossy gleam of an apple’s

red rose-threaded skin

entirely free from insecticides

and that of the deceiving fruit which

destroyed the girl with ebony hair

and complexion akin to snow.

I’ve consumed plenty of

artificial flavors, preservatives, GMOs,

which in retrospect seems to detract

from my health, as if combined it could create

a sort of vulgar sodium-based solution

supersaturated into a thick, pussy liquid.

In spite of this I am alive

…and yet again I am purchasing apples…

I don’t know if my choice of produce has a point,

but until I do I remain satisfied with my blunt decisions.

 

Hello, Unjustifiable Feelings of Trepidation, Fear, and Guilt.

You linger in my doorway

like unwept tears

in sculpted wax eyes,

and you always arrive at the most

inopportune times.

Like when I’m trying to scan these apples

at the self-serve checkout

and the mechanical voice shrieks:

“Please wait

Help is on the way”

to both myself and the growing line.

Suddenly I’m as exposed as poor Eve

misinformed by the serpent,

believing something so obviously deceiving

and taking the fatal bite into the forbidden fruit,

never even having heard of the term “All natural!”

 

Screw buying organic fruit.

I’ll plant my own tree.

 

Carelessness and Coffee Cups

At the corner of a street,

a cup of coffee sat beside

a bench at the bus stop

disposable cup

half empty

abandoned.

A pair of black, plastic framed glasses,

/glasses, not two lenses/

were swiped off the bridge of a man’s nose

and held in his hand as he quietly mourned

his forgotten caffeine in his rush

onto the early arriving bus.

In spite of its owner’s regret,

the lukewarm drink still sat, complemented by cream,

sweet cream, maybe half-and-half, or

frothy milk with the texture of clouds,

an ethereal match for the nutty bitterness

of the dark roasted coffee beans because

opposites attract and attach

and now it’s no longer black coffee

and the purest of white milk,

but a latte, cappuccino macchiato, or

some other exotic sounding name.

A couple came to the corner

/couple, not two individual persons/

and in their hurry to catch the next bus,

knocked over the cup of coffee beside

the bench at the bus stop

disposable cup

empty

abandoned.

The beverage gravitates to the cracks in the pavement,

blends with the mud in the grass.

It’s no longer coffee with cream,

but a mess to be washed away

by the oncoming storm.

 

Elena Rielinger is currently a senior attending North Royalton High School near Cleveland, Ohio. Her poem “when a certain song plays” has been published in The Noisy Island and her poem “For Orlando: 6-12-16” is forthcoming in Sprout Magazine.

Visual Art by Ben Cruz

By The Sea

In By The Sea, Francesca Ciampa illustrates the beauty of the seashore during the evening. She uses vivid imagery to broaden the reader’s senses.

Above, dark wood planks;

Slats, sticky with resin, below;

Sky and sea beyond;

The sun moving away, around;

Shadows playing behind its back,

Dancing in the gray half-light of dusk.

 

Dark fuzzy shadows growing above;

Below, a creaky chair rocking lightly

On two curved feet;

Two luminous green eyes,

Wicker groaning under four paws;

Darkness dancing on a porch

Half-hidden in the gray-black cloak of dusk.

Gray light rippling on the bay;

Glimmering on its silky surface,

Soft and cool as smooth satin.

A boat’s rhythmic light throbbing:

White, and lonely as an owl’s hoot, and

Night looming behind gray fur,

Growing to consume the pale dusk.

 

Francesca Ciampa is a junior who is a fan of all music styles, and is continuously writing snippets of poems late at night. Her poetry and art have been published in the Glass Kite Anthology and the Cicada Magazine. 

Art by Yixuan Luo

An Interview With Carrie Murphy

Two Idyllwild Arts creative writers were given the opportunity to sit down with poet and freelance writer, Carrie Murphy, to talk about her education, life, and upbringing as a writer.

Carrie Murphy is from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is the author of Fat Daisies and Pretty Tilt.  Her work often discusses subjects like sex and feminism along with capturing the mindset and delirium of a teenage girl through pop culture references and real life experiences. In this interview, Evan Lytle and Danae Devine got to dig deeper into Carrie’s life as a part time doula and writer.

 

Carrie Murphy Q&A

 

Q: Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?

 

A: Actually no, in high school I wanted to be an actress and was involved in theater and did a lot of plays. I studied drama in college but I realized it wasn’t my deal–too many big personalities and egos, so I decided to get my major in English. I had always liked writing as a kid and had entered in a lot of contests but didn’t see it as a career for myself until later in college. It always seemed like this cultural thing that writing has to be the only thing you’ve ever wanted, and I don’t discount people for always wanting to be a writer, and I’m still young, but writing isn’t the only thing I want and I don’t want to restrict myself to it.

 

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your occupation as a doula and how that contributes to your writing, if it does at all? But first, what is a Doula?

 

A: Ok, a doula is somebody who is there for pregnant women to give emotional support and physical training and assistance.

 

Q: Did you need to get some kind of certificate to be a certified legal doula?

 

A: Yes, it’s called a DONA, which means Doula Organization of North America, and so far I haven’t used any of my work as a doula for material because it’s such a personal occupation that I would need special permission from my patients to even base a story off an experience we had together. I don’t see myself wanting to use any of the experiences I’ve had as a doula in my poetry now but possibly down the line I’ll have a good handful of characters and situations I can apply from my doula work.

 

Q: Your poetry seems to have a youthful, coming of age sort of vibe.  Can you say what inspired that or where that came from?

A: Well about 5-6 years ago, I had started to notice that there wasn’t a lot of writing about being a girl teenager grappling with the world. I hadn’t seen a lot of poetry about girlhood–besides the gurlesque movement that combines cute and grotesque qualities like tropes about menstrual blood and ripping penises off–so I started to write about being a teen. Things were vibrant and colorful and little things meant so much more, like even if a guy’s leg touched mine. There is a big misconception that “teenagers are dumb,” which isn’t true for all of them. By my twenties I started to mourn the loss of a teenager’s sense of intensity and being overwhelmed.

Q: Do you find living in New Mexico to be beneficial to your writing career? What made you decide you wanted to go to school there? How was the transition from Baltimore to Albuquerque?

 

A: Well, I actually did my first year of college in New York, then a year in Massachusetts, then I finished up for two years at the University of Maryland where I got my BA. My parents were sick of this constant moving, so wherever I was going I had to stay there, and so I went to New Mexico State University where I got my MFA. I fell in love with the desert, the pace of life. It has its own culture. I graduated from there and decided I wanted to live in New Mexico after college. I don’t really write about it that much, maybe later, but New Mexico is my soul’s home. That is my place.

 

Q: What is “Dirt City Collective?”

 

A: Oh, that’s my writing group in Albuquerque, you know, my “crew.” I say writing group because we’re not just a poetry group. We’re full of all different types of writers that are in the group to support each other’s creative ideas and goals. We host readings all over Albuquerque and book releases and other literary events. Just a cool little group, my homies.

 

Q: So why do you like writing?

 

A: It’s just something I do–I would feel weird if i didn’t do it. It’s something that I’m good at and comes easily to me. If you don’t write everyday, then you’re not a writer. I don’t think that we have to live in a box, I think now we have more freedom to create. I think we’re more concerned about liking our job than just having a job to survive.

melon groves

Phone List, by Emily Clarke and Danae Devine, is a poem that emphasizes the strains of an abusive relationship.

You jerk you didn’t call me up

You crashed your motorcycle Saturday

Because you were hasty

Your hand wrapped around the handles like crab spines

And this made it easier to weigh the bike into the ground

You didn’t think of me

When Steven and the swedes burned their house down

Was webbed between one handle and the wheel

And your turbine legs churned up the ground.

 

You want to see my body bent like a broken bird? Turn to page 8.

 

For the broken glass that scattered the asphalt and my skin, turn to page 19

 

You are cracked board game spaces

Perfectly symmetrical squares of auctioned land

But do you remember when I tripped and broke your guitar stand?

You got pissed and kicked my dog across the beer stained carpet

Well Sparky didn’t appreciate that and neither did I

And we would both appreciate it if you would come pick up all your shitty paintings

The apartment seemed emptier

When our muscles were trained towards the bedspread, we observed it like this:

 

I think of the layer of skin beneath

Tiny pieces of stone tumbling and spilling from my seams

Clever bug, carpet skinner

Its tassels drawing our wrists to our ankles like hog ties

But I am not yet disassembled; not yet stolen

We write, we bleed, we live, we bleed,

We bleed.

Emily Clarke and Danae Devine are both students at Idyllwild Arts Academy and major in creative writing. Emily is the nonfiction editor of Parallax and enjoys incorporating her native american culture into her writing. Danae is the fiction editor of Parallax, and hopes to make creative writing more noticeable to the public. 

Art by Dawn Jooste

 

Oracle Thinking

Joseph Felker blurs the line between mystery and memory.

A xenon taste left on my tongue,

An electric scent, a terrifying sound.

The veneers on my smile smell like my cheerios

That I pretend to eat every morning.

 

Oracle oriented thinking laid out on the table,

piě *left*, nà *right*, piě *left*, nà *right*,

I think to myself, an ancient tradition:

I could only hope to understand the mysteries of.

 

I wish my grandmother (man vecsmāta) would sing again

Aijā žūžū floods my auditory memories.

The blue light she’d shine,

just for the safety of our Troopers.

By Joseph Felker

Art by Diana Ryu

Road Trip

Stella Pfahler’s poem paints the view of traffic, dust, and country landscapes outside a car window.

Orchards, syncopated

Flash by in rows, repeatedly.

Coalinga:

Stifling, the scent of false industry

Sweats along the country roads.

A mirage of a farmhand straightens up.

Sprawling road kill. Shreds of tires, unassuming.

First shards of LA, and anticlimactic.

 

Cars congregate-stop and go-

Shadows lengthen, the highway’s hum turns to an unforgiving lull.

You are forced to imagine the fragile ecosystems

Within car-worlds.

A state line is crossed. Street signs change,

And people with them.

Denny’s drive-thru

Because everyone has forgotten napkins.

In the morning: Rolling hills turn to mesas.

Heat rises in waves of invisible striving toward the sky.

Faceless horizons turn to dust.

By Stella Pfahler

Stella Pfahler is a Bay Area native who attends RASOTA for Creative Writing. She is a circus freak, enjoys surfing, and she plays the saxophone. 

Art by Fiona McDonald