December 11, 2017

Tags: Santa, legend, doll, Christmas, reindeer, elves, toys, imagination, Kansas Authors Club, time zones, wish list

Mrs. Claus smiled, as she tied a blue sash on the dress of a life-size doll. “Rifkin! Mifkin!” she called.

Two elves came running.

“I’ve just finished this one,” Mrs. Claus told them. “Her name is Tia Lynn, a special order for a little girl in Kansas. Could you pack her up and take her to the sleigh? Careful now!”

The doll’s eyes closed when Rifkin placed her in a satin-lined box. He fitted the clear plastic lid, and Mifkin pasted a label on top: “For Payton.”

They carried Tia Lynn to the loading dock, where more elves were buckling reindeer harnesses, with much jingling and jangling of silver bells.

Rifkin and Mifkin eased the box into the last empty spot, right up front by the driver’s seat. Dancer and Prancer stamped their hooves, eager to start their flight around the world.

“Ho, ho, ho! Time to go!” Santa boomed.

He kissed Mrs. Claus goodbye. He tested the lamp on Rudolph’s nose. Then he swung his jolly, red-suited self into the sleigh, and with a flick of the reins the journey began.

Tia Lynn felt snug and safe in her corner next to Santa’s boot. But she couldn’t help wondering how long this ride might last. And who was this little girl called Payton, in Kansas? What was she like?

Turning south, away from the North Pole toward Greenland, the sleigh soared high in the night sky. Every time they came to a town, and found a house where one or more children lived, Santa commanded the reindeer to dip down, down, until they landed on the roof.

Tia Lynn could not tell what countries they visited. No one had taught her any languages yet, apart from Elfish. But at one rooftop, she heard children’s voices from a bedroom below. They spoke a kind of English, so Polly Ann guessed they were in Britain. Here the sun would rise six hours earlier than in the Central Zone of the United Sates, where Payton lived.

Santa checked his list once, twice. As he slid down the chimney with his sack, Tia Lynn hoped the kids would stop talking, and pretend to be asleep—or they might end up with coal instead of presents.

Up, up, and away! The silver bells jingled, as the sleigh streaked over the Atlantic Ocean. Tia Lynn’s eyes stayed shut throughout the trip—until a sudden jolt flipped her box upright, and they sprang open.

Through the clear plastic lid, she saw a full moon, and millions of stars. What a spectacular sight! What a magical night!

Santa Claus chuckled. “Ho, ho, ho! We just missed a meteor!”

He steered the reindeer on a steady course, until the Rocky Mountains loomed alarmingly close. The sleigh wobbled, making the doll fall on her back. Again, she could see nothing.

She must have dozed off, because the next thing Tia Lynn knew, Santa was whistling, “Home, home on the Range, where the deer and the antelope play.”

Kansas! Finally!

By now, the British kids would be opening their presents, but out here on the prairie it was only midnight.

Tia Lynn felt the sleigh plummet down to the roof of a two-story farmhouse. Santa checked his list once more and filled his sack with toys, setting her at the very top. He dropped into the wide, brick chimney.

Inside the house, he stood Tia Lynn under a sparkling Christmas tree. He gobbled up two cookies, slurped a glass of milk, pocketed a carrot for Rudolph, and disappeared into the night.

All Tia Lynn could do now was stand wide-eyed in her plastic box, and wait. And wait.
A rooster crowed. Sunlight spilled between the curtains. Feet pattered down the stairs. Then a girl with polka-dot pajamas and curly hair appeared in the doorway. Was this Payton?

The girl stared at the doll through the plastic lid. A tear trickled down her cheek.

“Oh, Tia Lynn,” she whispered. “You’re just what I asked for!” She went on talking, as she removed the lid and hugged the doll. “I didn’t know if Santa would find my house. Besides, I didn’t think I’d been good enough this year.”

Payton smoothed the blue dress. Then she tried out all the moving parts—arms, legs, neck, and eyes. Tia Lynn could walk, or she could sit, whatever Payton wanted her to do. They were going to have so much fun together.

Readers, the rest of the story is up you. What adventures can you imagine for Tia Lynn and Payton?

[This story placed 2nd in the Kansas Authors Club Region 3 writing contest 2017.]

Curse of the Dampeners

May 24, 2017

Tags: writing life, positive thinking, dreams, goals, persistence, negative voices, dream dampeners, real writer, rejections, art, artist, talent



Jean loved to write. Jean lived to write.

That was before the voices began.

From the time she discovered the power of words, essays and stories poured from Jean’s pencil, earning stars of red, blue, even gold, from her teachers. Hearing of Jean’s prolific output, Mr. Carter walked across the playground to lend her a book with a turquoise cover— Let’s Write a Story—about how to become an author!

A dream was born. Poetry flowed from Jean’s fountain pen, and found a place in the school magazine. But then the Dream Dampeners moved in: insidious, naysaying voices that cramped her style for decades to follow.

"Those whimsical tales might suffice for grade school, but this is College."

"Your syntax is all wrong."

"Will you ever get paid for this?"

"Boys don’t like stories about girls."

"You can’t get your foot in the door without an agent."

"An agent won’t take on a writer without a platform."

"Your zip code is too obscure. You must move to New York City."

When she was not writing, Jean loved to draw. Jean lived to draw.

That was before the voices began.

In grade school, her stories were embellished with colored pencil scenes, which Miss Cassell allowed Jean to outline with Indian ink in her secret cubby behind the 5th grade classroom. With the encouragement of Mum, Dad, and Miss Wheeler, she entered her seascapes in the Baptist Festival.

That was before the Negatories took root: niggling questions as to whether Jean was wasting her time.

"What good is art to you?"

"Artist is such a pretentious word."

"I could show you someone with REAL talent."

For a while, these ruthless intruders drove out all hopes of success in the arts, either visual or literary. So many of them took up residence that she could no longer pinpoint the source or validity of the voices. People who knew what they were talking about, or those who knew nothing? Her own deep-seated insecurity, or sheer laziness?

At each stage of life, with each relocation, Jean’s passions resurfaced. She would dust off her sketchbook, buy a new journal, and seek out kindred spirits. In due course, she learned how—and where—to prepare manuscripts to submission and paintings for exhibition.

That was before the voices returned—with a vengeance.

"Rhyme doesn’t sell."

"Kids want to read about today’s time, not history."

"Memoirs by unknowns are hard to sell."

"Agents only take on young authors, for career-long relationships."

"Top houses want attractive faces on their book jackets."

"Never write without an outline."

"You don’t have an art degree, or backing from prestigious galleries."

"Editors are looking for a something fresh, something edgy."

"This is too quirky, too controversial."

"Cozy stories are passé."

Jean took the hurdles in her stride. She decorated her gigantic trash can with rejection letters, and won a string of awards.

The Dampeners and the Negatories went on murmuring.

"It’s a local contest, not a Pulitzer Prize."

"There were only five entries."

"Sure, you sold a painting, but only to someone who knows you."

Eventually, Jean racked up credits with magazines.

"Just Sunday school take-home papers and regional rags," the voices countered.

Finally, three years after signing a contract, Jean’s first middle-grade mystery came out. Now would the voices let up? Not a chance.

"One spouse and two friends make a poor showing at a book event."

"Did you see the lines round the block for that other author?"

"Your little paperback will get lost among the hefty stacks of the latest Harry Potter."

"Chain bookstores won’t place works by small presses, and Indies are going out of business."

Nevertheless, Jean kept writing--and painting. She invited the voices of Discernment to take up lodging instead. She acknowledged the truths about mergers and budget cuts, with gratitude for the emergence of self-publishing options.

She did it for the adventure, finding her place in the fellowship of writers and artists, who graciously shared the benefit of their experience. In due course, Jean would do the same for the students following in her footsteps.


September 25, 2016

Tags: short story, L. R. Longhurst, father, flash fiction, tale with a twist, 1952, London Opinon, salesmanship

Here is a sneak preview from my current project, Volume II of stories by my late father, L. R. Longhurst. This one, typical of his wry tales with a twist, was published by London Opinion in 1952.


In the waiting-room adjoining the sales manager’s office sat twenty alert, hawk-eyed ambitious men. Tall and suave men, short and cocky men, thin and waspish men, plump and genial men. Each designed to a different blueprint. But all breathing in a superior brand of oxygen.

“Wanted,” the advertisement had pleaded, “Chief Salesman at £1,000 per annum. Must possess initiative and imagination. Live man. Corpses need not apply.”

At length the sales manager’s secretary popped her pretty head into the waiting-room, and promptly withdrew to put on her Wellington boots. In such an electric atmosphere some form of insulation was called for.

Entering again, she told Applicant No. 1 that the boss would see him now. No. 1 entered the holy of holies with all the assurance of one who in his time had sold as many combs to bald-headed men as he had deckchairs to people with no gardens.

Application No. 2 reckoned he could sell umbrellas in California; No. 3, sunshades in Manchester.

Likewise, Nos. 4 to 20 inclusive were all self-confessed best sellers.

The manager buzzed for his secretary. “I’m darned if I know which one to choose,” he admitted. “They’re all good.”

“Why not give them the direction test?”

“Good idea!” exclaimed the sales manager, for many a smooth talker had stumbled over that.

“Now then,” he snapped, as No.1 was re-ushered into the office, “how would you get to the Town Hall from here?”

The applicant scratched his head, for about the first time in his life lost for words.

“Er—you take the first left and second right. No, I’m a liar; it’s the first right, second left. Then at the crossroads you take a 99 bus. Or is it a 66 tram?”

To give force to his halting remarks he waved his arms about like a Boy Scout practising semaphore. The manager was unimpressed. “Send in No. 2.”

No. 2 got to the Town Hall with the aid of a piece of paper on which he drew a map that was Town and Country Planning at its most futuristic. It might possibly have led the reader into the river; certainly not to the Town Hall.

No. 3 indulged in a bout of ums and ahs, with some hand-waving thrown in. He would have made an admirable windmill but a poor Town Hall director.

By the time it got round to No. 19 the unhappy applicants were practically standing on their heads in a misguided effort to trace a route to the Town Hall. The sales manager himself opened the door to let out No. 19.

Taken by surprise, No.20 was jet-propelled into the office, the crouching-to-the-keyhole position having given him extra momentum. The manager frowned at the would-be salesman, but was secretly pleased. Here at least was a man with initiative!

“I won’t ask you to direct me to the Town Hall,” he said cunningly. “Tell me how to get to Mill Street.”

Pausing only momentarily, No. 20 rattled off: “First-right-second-left-over-the-bridge.” The words staccatoed like a machine gun working overtime. “Then- take-the-left-fork, cross-at-the-lights, then-second-left.”

The speaker didn’t need to use his hands; they were firmly entrenched in his trousers pockets.

No. 20 got the job. He was a man with initiative and imagination. There was no such place as Mill Street in the locality.


June 24, 2016

Tags: father, dad, memory, childhood, the sea, England, Isle of Wight, birthday, parody, death anniversary, journalism, pockets, father daughter relationship, memory, Father's Day

I may have posted these before, but now is a good time to share again, between Father's Day and Dad's death anniversary. It just occurred to me that he would have been 100 this year!

My father never learned to drive a car.
His pockets rattled with loose change, not keys
Whenever he gave armchair pony rides,
Four giggling children on two jiggling knees.
Coins came in handy for his magazines,
Tobacco, tickets on the daily bus,
Occasional ice cream cones or Bounty bars
And favorite weekly comic books for us.
How could I then, how could I even think
Of acting on my friend Georgina’s dare
To help myself? She did it all the time,
Stole from her mother’s purse without a care.
I spied Dad’s trousers hanging on the door,
Dipped in and found a dozen pennies bright;
But guilt sank to my stomach like a stone.
I slid them back, and oh, my heart was light
When Dad came home; he twirled me, jingling loud,
Then after supper tucked me up in bed.
He told us made-up tales of Harold Hare
And slipped a coin beneath each pillowed head.

© Hazel Spire
Homeward Tracks 2004
First published in a Christian Writers booklet, UK


O father, my mentor, our crossing’s nearly done,
Taking my widowed mother home to the Island.
I twenty-two, she forty-four, you fifty-five:
Don’t you love poetic irony? The rain that kept
Fishers ashore lashes the ferry windows.
We sit below in the crowded tea bar,
Tourists’ voices grating on our ears.
Stop! Wait! How can the world
Go on its merry way
When Dad lies on a mortuary slab?

Captain of our family, for you the organ groans
As we gather in your name, bright floral tributes
Filling Bob’s black Daimler. “We’ll do our best job
For you,” he says in gentle local brogue.
“Can’t be early for his own funeral,” quips his son.
“Drive around the block another time.” You’d
Appreciate the humor, you who ran for trains and buses.
The crematory mechanism judders, transporting you
Behind red velvet curtains. No! Too soon!

O father, writer, friend, you could not swim, but strolled
Along the pier at night reciting Shakespeare to the waves.
For you the gulls are keening as the sea keeps rolling in.
When the paper is put to bed this week, the press
Will run again. But stop—the chief reporter’s dead.
Did you who taught the Girls’ Brigade to triple-tongue
Hear a bugle call from distant shores?
My brothers still play soccer, but long legs
That showed them dribble, kick, and GOAL
Have crossed the line to our eternal home.

© Hazel Spire
Tapestry of Time, 2006


March 20, 2016

Tags: Easter, spring, hope, peace treaty, faith, Jesus Christ, Gethsemane, darkness, skeptic, Prince of Peace, 2nd coming, myrrh, believers, followers, angel, Galilee, Satan's chains, lilies, death, resurrection


Hand-knitted blankets for refugee shelters;
Free surgery for a child born blind;
Snowdrops trembling in frozen gardens;
An enemy’s handshake, a peace treaty signed:
Bright threads of hope in an age of confusion
Woven together with love, to bind
Each broken heart; in the depth of winter
Hints that spring must not be far behind.

But what of the darkness no candle can conquer,
When prophets are silent for hundreds of years,
Death and despair stalk the earth hand in hand
And a cry goes up that nobody hears?
It takes faith to grasp an invisible rope:
Believers pray, while the skeptic sneers.
All Nature groans, until in silver clouds
The Prince of Peace appears.


The pale, scented lilies of Gethsemane
Were bending low beside the Kidron brook,
When heavy-hearted followers from Bethany
Approached the tomb with myrrh, afraid to look.

An angel bright said, “Meet your Friend in Galilee.
Here you’ll find no mortal man’s remains.”
The lilies raised their trumpet heads triumphantly,
For Jesus Christ had shattered Satan’s chains!

From Homeward Tracks ~ © Hazel Spire 2003


October 13, 2015

Tags: Harry Potter, Random House, manuscript submission, publisher, elevator encounter, authors, the writing life, fame, jealousy


I hobbled across the plush carpet to the elevator, and jabbed the UP arrow. The doors whooshed open.

A woman with long blonde hair, fiftyish, stood inside cradling a manuscript, much bulkier than mine. She stepped aside as I entered the lift. I acknowledged my fellow author with a brief smile, before pressing the 6th floor button.

The woman looked alarmingly familiar as she glanced down at my surgical boot.

“Nasty accident?” Her vowels were distinctly Transatlantic.

I chuckled grimly. “You don’t want to know.”

How could I explain that I’d broken my foot on a stack of her hefty hardbacks at a midnight launch party, in a Barnes & Noble store that denied shelf space to my paperback YA mysteries? All my writing life I’d wanted to rub shoulders with such a literary giant, a rags-to-riches success, for the luck to rub off on me. On school visits, kids had asked me whether I knew her, being from the same country.

Now I had the chance, and all I could think of was my throbbing, swollen foot. I seethed with resentment and envy.

We reached our floor, the offices of the Acquisitions Editor. But as I limped out, I thrust a pen and a sticky note under the author’s nose.

“May I have your autograph for my nephew, please, Ms. Rowling? He loves Harry Potter.”


September 18, 2015

Tags: moving, location, selling a house, icebreakers, shyness, strangers, new community, home, familiarity, packing, relocation, homesickness, expatriates, England, Britain, UK, the Pond, Transatlantic, Iran, overseas contract, teaching, job transfer


Farthest temporary move: England to Iran

Biggest regret about living in Iran: Not taking the time to really learn Farsi. Not seeing prettier towns like Shiraz and Isfahan.

Farthest permanent move: England to America

Worst homesickness: First weeks of college at 18. First months in Florida at 28.

Hardest adjustments on arrival in the US: Different words for things, or the same words with different meanings. Driving on the other side of the road, changing lanes in fast traffic, and turning left. Too much choice at the grocery store, unfamiliar items. How to feed a new husband?

Shocks: My husband chewing gum when we opened a bank account and a deacon’s wife chewing gum in church - both frowned on where I came from.

Reasons to move: Romance. Divorce. Adventure. Job opportunity. Be close to the city. Get away from the city. Be close to family. Get away from “bloomin’ relations.”

Unusual finds: Someone had dropped a molar, halfway up the stairs. I put it under my pillow for the tooth fairy, and she left me a tinfoil sixpence! The attic of that house was filled with cherub paintings and floral chamber pots that went to the auction rooms.

Welcome gifts: In Iran, home-made pizza from the American students’ moms, who also lent us clothes, because our luggage had been misplaced. In Florida, a home-grown avocado from our Dutch neighbor.

Most refreshing moving-day gift: Six bottles of ginger beer (non-alcoholic) from a Canadian couple at our church in Texas.

Surprises: Mexican dinners for the Ex-Pat community, made by the US Army cook in Iran. Transatlantic Brides & Parents Association in Dallas. Meeting Nona, who’d taught in Iran the same year as I did. British shows on PBS. Radio 4 on the Internet. Golden Oldies at the grocery store in Kansas. Lakes and rivers whenever I missed the sea.

Mother’s response to news of Mark’s job transfer to Surrey: “Oh Hazel, that’s wonderful - and you’ll be near Linda!”

Care packages: Candy corn, Blow Pops, and Kool-Aid from US to UK. Easter eggs, Yorkshire tea, and Christmas pudding from UK to US.

Hardest adjustments on relocation to the UK: Driving on the other side of the road. Figuring out the coins while jet-lagged. Gloomy grey sky for days on end in winter.

Hardest thing on returning to the US after three years in England: Teenage daughter leaving a close-knit bunch of classmates there, discovering her old friends had moved on to different pursuits. Sorting out academic credits with the HS registrar.

Most humbling requirement for a teaching certificate: After my degree from TWU, one semester of student teaching, in spite of seven years’ experience overseas.

Funniest requirement for US citizenship: Having to prove my grasp of the English language by writing the sentence, “They could not find the dog.”

How to feel at home: Get a library card, volunteer at a school, join a church, and seek out arty, crafty people. They are everywhere!

Ice-breakers: Dogs and children

Number of trips taken by husband and dog from TX to KS with a load: Nine.

Unusual send-off: Texas tea with ladies in gloves, jeans, and lampshade hats.

What helped sell our house fast: Decluttering, a bowl of fruit, and location.

Number of boxes unpacked in KS after all the giving, selling, pitching, and ditching: Too many to count. Some are still in the attic.

Number of moves in my life: Thirteen, not counting temporary rentals.

Number of times I want to move again: Zero. But you never know…

How to keep in touch with roots: Facebook, and fly back for one fortnight a year.


August 11, 2015

Tags: Tuscany, Italy, landsape, mural, writing prompt, writers' group, paint, teaching, art, retirement, Kansas, rainbow


“I want to take a closer look at the mural,” I tell my coworkers, as the last student leaves the building.

The library buzzes with preparations for my farewell party, due to start in thirty minutes. Fruit, veg, cupcakes, napkins are laid out in rainbow order. A Yellow Brick Road made of butcher paper is unfurled across the top of the bookshelves, for attendees to sign.

I walk on down the hallway, and enter the teachers’ lounge.

The boldness of the mural always takes me by surprise. Should it have more distance–like Veronese’s “Wedding at Cana” at one end of a huge gallery in the Louvre—for viewers to get a proper perspective on the Italian landscape? But we don’t have that kind of space at College Street Elementary.

Cuisine, literature, movies, home décor, everything is Tuscan in 2010, it seems. The faculty had grown tired of the previous mural, a fishing scene in muted tones, after a decade of lunching beside it. Our principal had conspired with Susan and decided we needed Tuscany.

So, how did it fall to yours truly to create the new mural? Because I am the Art Specialist. But what made me think I had time for this, my biggest undertaking yet, six foot by twelve? Flattery, mostly, plus the challenge and the fun of it.

I love paint! After watching the kids produce art for five years, it was my turn—with help from an overhead projector and a team of volunteers. They slapped primer over the old mural, and we searched online for soothing images of cypress trees and whitewashed villas.

While a clatter of utensils and voices echoes from the library, I take a closer look at the mural.

I touch the sunburnt tiles of the foreground building marked ALBERGO, an inn or restaurant. It is smooth, buttery, just the right tint of vermilion—a blend of students’ tempera, household latex, and acrylic flow medium. The shadows under the eaves are Patty’s work, applying what she’d learned in a watercolor class.

Angela, Wendy, and Debbie, less experienced but most enthusiastic, had filled the penciled fields with various greens and browns, using a nice dry-brush texture. We had twirled our brush-tips Van Gogh-style around the foliage, and debated the colors of the sailboats on the distant lake.

Are those purple splotches under the row of poplars unrealistic? That’s all right, if our aim is a place of escape, an oasis from the day-to-day stress of teaching.

Now I scan the boxy roofs, windows, chimneys of Tuscany, and see that all is well. I pull a black Sharpie marker from the pocket of my paint-spattered apron, to sign and date the bottom right corner--giving credit to Tan Chun, whose work inspired us.

My eyes follow the earth’s overlapping curves toward the farthest hills. The mural needs one final touch. In the cloud-blown sky, I place a bird, a simple V, the kind children like to draw. I add a second, then a third, each smaller than the previous one.

They represent three retirees: Patty, Debbie, and me, winging our way to new lives beyond the classroom—or in my case, beyond Texas to Kansas.

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” drifts down the hall from a CD player.

It is time to go greet my guests and join the party.


July 16, 2015

Tags: Ancient Egypt, Thebes, speculative nonfiction, Potiphar, Joseph, Genesis, Hebrew slave, Pyramids, Potiphar's wife, captain of the guard, Joseph's faith, Jacob's favorite son, Joseph in Egypt, Ishmaelites, Midianites, Jewish history, one true God, Jehopvah, women of the Bible, resisting temptation

“Oh, Tui, what are we going to do?” Akana wailed, pushing aside her breakfast tray. “I’m so bored.”

The cat sprang on to the gold brocade cover of the day-bed. Akana rubbed his soft, pointed ears.

“Do you ever sit around pondering the meaning of your nine lives?”

The cat fell into an inscrutable, blue-eyed trance, as Akana resumed her lament.

“You will find your own daily amusements, with or without people, until the day they embalm you, along with me. But I’m bored out of my skull, Tui! What is the purpose of a wife of the captain of the guard, if she can no longer please him?”

The cat curled up beside his mistress, purring.

A sudden commotion in the courtyard made them both jump. Akana tiptoed across the marble floor to the balcony, where the mingled aromas of camel dung and myrrh assaulted her nostrils.

Ishmaelite merchants!

Akana’s husband was dickering over the sale of a slave. The traders dragged the boy forward on a rope for closer inspection. He wore a loincloth. His broad shoulders were covered in grime and slime. Had they pulled him out of some old cistern?

“He’s too young for an adult price,” Potiphar said. “I bet you didn’t pay more than twenty pieces of silver for him.”

One of the Ishmaelites prodded the slave’s biceps. “Look, he is strong. A Hebrew. Useful labor for Pharoah’s pyramid project.”

While the men continued in this vein, the Hebrew glanced up at the balcony, as if he knew Akana was watching. Her pulse quickened. She stepped back into the folds of a heavy drape to hide her flushed face.


"Well, Tui, what do you think? That Joseph kid scrubs up nicely!”

Alana stroked the cat’s silky coat. He gave an appreciative yowl.

Day by day, week by week, she had seen Potiphar’s protégé acquire more responsibility—not on the construction site at Thebes, but inside the captain’s own household. Joseph approached each task with an air of peace and confidence. His head was shaved now, leaving one lock of hair on the left side, braided Egyptian style.

“Joseph looks sad, Tui. He misses his family, but I’ll cheer him up.” Akana dabbed lavender oil on her wrists. “I can’t confide in the maids. They gossip too much!” She drew thick lines of kohl around her eyes, deftly extending the corners. “Well, I’m giving them all the day off. Joseph and I are gonna have some fun…”


Catch a Falling Writer

June 13, 2015

Tags: falling, words, Shakespeare, love songs, falling in love, gel pens, fountain pens, journals, love-hate relationship, signing books, writer's life, addiction


Catch a Falling Writer

I can’t help falling in love with words:
Saxon, Germanic, Latin, or coined by the Bard;
short, long, terse, flowery, subtle, shiny words.

I can’t help falling in love with a silver-nib fountain pen;
syringing black ink from a bottle like a junkie, or
swapping out a cartridge for my next fix,
scratching thoughts on hammered vellum.

I can’t help falling in love with gel pens;
green, magenta, turquoise, according to mood
scribbling vignettes in a composition book.
As the Thames flows to the sea, so this ink
is my life-blood shed for the world to read.

I can’t help falling in love with another journal,
lined or unlined with space for sketching;
blank, dated, or headed with quotes and triggers.

I can’t help falling in love with a keyboard;
cutting, pasting, polishing, and printing in selected fonts.

I can’t help falling in love with visions of a table
stacked with a new book series for me to sign,
fans lined up outside the door and around the block.

Sales plummet, royalties are paltry, publishers merge,
doors close to unknown, un-agented authors, and yet…
I can’t help falling in love with writing, even as I hate it.
Please help me, I’m falling in love again.

In the words of punk band Chumbawamba:
I get knocked down, but I get up again.
You’re never gonna keep me down.
Like the Beatles, I get by with a little help
from my friends—the Prairie Writers group.