Devil’s Kitchen Lake produces a lovely echo. So when I yelled FUCK, the single syllable expletive rang through the stillness, coming back to me in a quieter voice. That was the day I tipped my phone into the lake attempting to make a kayak-reading video.
Here is my return to the kayak reading. No tripod this time.
I am on Little Grassy Lake. The late summer sun was blazing low on the horizon but still over the trees. First I went to the cove around the way from Party Rock. I was either blinded or backlit. So I crossed the lake to a cove with a deserted camp building and the remnants of a pier. Eerie, in the way abandoned places often are.
However, still too sunny.
So I paddled across the cove near a rock ledge and that worked OK. As I was finishing up, I heard the distinctive cry of a raptor on the wing. Not much later, a bald eagle flew over the cove to land near the abandoned camp. And I didn’t drop my phone in the water. So, a good day.
I often dream I am in the ocean. This story came from such a dream.
I have a weakness for running water. I love following creeks and brooks along in the woods. When I was a kid, I’d even follow a ditch and imagine all kinds of adventures.
This little creek probably has a name, but I’m calling it Rocky Comfort Creek because it’s near a road of that name. The Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois is patchwork in places, and Rocky Comfort Creek is one of those places. I love living so near a forest, and so near places to hike and explore.
I wrote this story from a prompt, and like many stories written that way, it wandered around until it figured out what it wanted to be. I see an influence from We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It was first published in Ghost Parachute, a journal that has gotten better and better over the years. I absolutely love the illustration with this story. I hope you enjoy!
I was in New Mexico over Christmas. It’s my third visit in the past couple years as we travel to visit family. This time we stayed near Albuquerque, in a rural neighborhood in Sandia Park.
Here’s me in the front yard / sometimes goat run reading my story Wicked Road, initially published as an Ekphrastic Flash in Largehearted Boy. It’s inspired by Reckless Kelly’s song “Wicked, Twisted Road.”
I promise to do better with the audio in future. It was windy. (One reason I look so glamorous in the video.) (Love that video still! Not.)
It was the kind of day that makes a person grateful to be alive. Early autumn in Southern Illinois. I spent a few hours on Little Grassy Lake, after which the Southern Illinois University Carbondale graduate student literary festival is named.
This story, as is true of many of my stories, was inspired by a Meg Pokrass word prompt. I sat on it a while after writing, then pulled it out, cut the word count at least in half, and now it appears in a cool anthology, Predators in Petticoats, edited by Emily Leverett and Margaret S. McGraw and available for Kindle or in paperback from Amazon.
Not ashamed to admit I’ve daydreamed about receiving a phone call with good news about my writing. And then it happened.
Kevin Morgan Watson, one of the founders of Press 53 (from where I have more indie published books than anywhere else) and Prime Number Magazine CALLED me !!! to let me know I won the Prime Number Magazine 2020 Flash Fiction Contest !!!
I am stunned. Absolutely floored. And grateful.
The story is inspired, in part, by a couple visits to my brother in Florida. He used to work in the Everglades and he took us to visit his old work place and stomping grounds. We saw lots of alligators. In the water, basking, up close, in pairs… Pretty cool.
I always look forward to the Devils Kitchen Literary Festival, hosted by Southern Illinois University Carbondale undergraduate creative writing students. Since I live near the Devils Kitchen Lake for which the festival is named, I decided to go take an early evening paddle and do my own wee Devils Kitchen reading.
The lake is a dammed river, as many lakes in So Ill are. This one is narrow and wind-y, just begging me to keep on going around the next bend and the next and the next one too. I try to remember that as far out as I paddle, I have that same distance to return.
Drowned trees are a big feature on this lake. I suspect if I worked at it a little bit, it wouldn’t be impossible to get some eerie images.
But nothing eerie today. Just me reading a story from The Slag Review, “Way Down Deep Inside.”