Tangled Locks Journal is seeking submissions for our June publication. We are looking for short stories, poetry, memoir essays and creative nonfiction. For more information, check out our submission page.
Are there more birds? the man thought. Or is there more time to notice them?
The birds sing all morning demanding his attention but nothing more. But he has so much to give. He sets up bird feeders even though his yard is filled with fruit trees and berries. He shoos away neighborhood cats and worries about the nests on stormy nights. He has so much time now.
The woman is new to Maine She arrived in the last few days before COVID-19 pandemic. She bid her daughter goodbye as the movers unloaded her last box into the small bungalow. A tiny house before tiny houses were a thing. She chose Portland because it was smaller. She was tired of being invisible in a large crowd.
She walks her dog and remembers different times. She remembers other cities, other sidewalks. She remembers the dense fog of summers in San Francisco. She remembers the sweltering heat of New York City.
It must be easy being young now, she thinks, envious of their ease with social networks. Her nephews befriend gamers in other countries while never knowing their real names and never seeing their faces. They must never be lonely. Of course, she knows it’s not that simple.
The man decided he is not returning to his job when this is over. For the first time in years, his body has found peace. The tending of the garden is so much more rewarding than the tending of the business. For decades he had invested his time in his career, honed his presentation skills, developed his teams. He always joked that they were going to have to drag him away with his fingernails clawing his mahogany desk.
On zoom, he tells his son that the 100 days of quarantine helped him break his addiction to work. He notices a subtle eyeroll and knows that he pushed his son too hard all these years. His granddaughter is climbing all over his son like a jungle gym. Alerts chirp away on son’s phone. “Sounds great Dad. Got to sign off. My phone is blowing up.”
The sun is burning off the dew. He grabs his gardening gloves and clippers and heads out to the yard.
The woman passes a cape with lovely gardens filled with fruit trees. A mourning dove coos lets out its long plaintive call and she remembers her small window box in her Nob Hill apartment and how she tended the rosemary and lavender she planted there. The shrubbery seems alive with small birds.
She remembers her younger self, outgoing and confident. She sees a man tending his shrubbery. “Lovely gardens.” She calls loudly. Her dog barks a greeting as well.
The leaves of the bushes explode with started birds.
“Mind the birds!” he calls out gruffly as he turns to the woman.
Her dog is pulling hard at his leash. The woman’s face is flushed and he regrets his harshness. Being alone is a habit too.
“I’m sorry.” He says as he walks over to her.
They stand twelve feet apart for good measure.
About this piece:
“Social Distancing” was first published in the “Paul Bunyan Wears A Face Mask” anthology, an Imperative Press publication. On Monday, May 24, 2021 masks will no longer be required in Maine and occupancy limits will be removed. It’s a milestone we have been waiting for thanks to high vaccination rates in Maine. For many, the covid pandemic changes us in surprising ways. We found ways to connect even though we were physically distanced. Wishing good health to you and your love ones.
I’m not a big Instagram user (yet) but I have been hearing about the writing community on Instagram so I decided to give it a try. Part of the reason is that I am committed to increasing the visibility of writers on Tangled Locks Journal and part is because I have a deep love for graphic design.
So I took a climate change essay I wrote and made an Instagram deck. I’ve pasted the images from the deck below.
I feel like the images brought that essay to life. This essay was a deeply personal perspective on #climatechange that haunts me. It was a finalist in this years 350 Madison essay competition and was written so quickly that I didn’t have a copy when it was selected. I wrote it into the submission form. But really, I had been a writing in my head on every walk and every storm.
I took most of the photos myself over the course of a couple of years. When designing the piece, I cropped the photos to make the water take up at least two thirds of the images to add tension to the images.
We have a few weeks left for submissions for our first issue. The response has exceeded my expectations. I am honored.
I would love to hear if you are on Instagram. If you are, I would love to follow you!
Why does the written word trick us into thinking our work is finished before it is? A sculptor would not mistake a rough for her sculpture. Perhaps it’s because words can be polished before the piece is.
Rewrites are the writer’s chisels and pumice.
I have been enjoying Brick Literary Journal’s YouTube Series, The Craft of Editing. The videos are beautifully produced discussions between writers and editors. The videos often include a close reading of the work before and after editing. The work being read has already been revised and yet, the final edits are sometimes quite small and always quite powerful. The videos have me thinking about my own writing process. I often create polished sounding first drafts that have gaps in the story. Polished words come easier than the cohesive story. I think that’s because sometimes what ends up on the page is prose shorthand for the deeper, more complex story in my mind. Reader’s questions help me see what is missing or confusing. But the hardest thing for me to do is let go of language that I love (even when it pulls the reader from the story).
The videos also have me thinking about the role I play when critiquing the work of other writers. I am an active member of critiquing circles and enjoy giving and receiving feedback. There’s an art to both. When giving feedback, I try and ask questions and share my experience as a reader so the writer can see if their work is having the intended impact. When my work is being read, I listen carefully for places of confusion or boredom. I also try to get multiple perspectives on a piece and look for patterns. That stops me from trying to rewrite for a single reader. Such is the curse of a writer with people pleasing tendencies!
I am also thinking about the role I will play in this first round of submissions for Tangled Locks Journal.
Would love to hear about how other writers feel about editing and revision. And if you have short prose or poetry that you would like to submit, submissions will be open through May.
I love the wordpress community! Such great writing and encouraging words. I’ve also been working in building community in other platforms.
There’s a growing community of writers on Twitter. Common hashtags include #Writing, #WritingCommunity #WritersLift #AmWriting. If you are on twitter, I would love to connect! My twitter handle is @teresaberkowitz
Because I am also looking for writers for TangledLocksJournal.com I also spend a lot of time reading short stories and poetry. Each night, I highlight one author, story and publication that I have come across in my daily travels. I post that under the #BedTimeReading.
Here’s tonight’s post:
I just signed up for this #shortstory challenge. One story a day for 30 days in June. Working those discipline muscles. 🙂
Unhurried, without shaming. Care so gentle that she forgot her place in time.
Through clouded eyes and deafened ears, she recognized her mother, long deceased.
With cool fingertips, her only unwrinkled skin, reached out to touch.
The resemblance uncanny.
Weekend writing prompt: https://sammiscribbles.wordpress.com/2021/04/17/weekend-writing-prompt-205-uncanny/
Okay friends. Here we go. I am launching Tangled Locks Journal. We will be accepting submissions starting April 21st and will publish our first issue on June 21st.
I have a routine. I rise before the sun. I sit and sip my coffee slowly until it’s lukewarm while I tell time by listening to the traffic change on our street. A quiet time in a family of night owls. Gracie the cat stares at me until I set her breakfast down and then she pretends she didn’t even want it. I catch up on Twitter and Facebook.
Then I let my mind wander. Small blessings come into focus like annoyed-joy I felt when my husband and son woke me up with loud laughter last night. Or the gratitude I feel that I have taught my son to reflect on challenges and find the gift within. Or how much I am enjoying reorganizing my home and getting rid of what I no longer want or need.
My organization is more than striving towards a clutter-free life. It’s about unlocking my soul.
I am building spaces for creativity. My drawing and painting supplies are all together now. Gorgeous beads and fabrics are reminding me that I once made a living beautifying the world. I have moved the binder of first draft of a novel and handwritten notes out of a bin in the basement and placed it by my computer.
I think about my life.
Once I was a chemist who ran away to be an artist.
I sit with those words and know that is not quite the truth.
Once an artist became a chemist. Her parents insisted that she needed to do something practical to pay the bills. She could alway have her hobbies, they said.
She was a dutiful daughter. She locked the magic of her soul in a beautiful box. She forgot about it. Then one day, she found it and opened it. The thought of closing it up was unbearable and so she ran away to a beautiful crystal city 3000 miles away.
They were wrong. Words and beads and pencil lines turned into rent and food and clothes.
I’m not sure how it happened but as time passed, I reframed life in San Francisco as prolonged youthful escapades. I told myself that I was grown up and ready to settle down. Slowly, I fell into an old pattern. Art last. Writing last.
Once an artist became an executive.
Then she rediscovered herself and the cycle begins again.
I have reached the last air-chilled drop of my morning coffee. It’s colder than usual and the traffic is louder. More time has passed than I planned. I must go. I have a short story to revise.
The tides here swell and spill into the roads, more often now. Houses cling to shore. Most pretend that this is normal because to say goodbye is too hard. But I say goodbye every day as I walk and drive past the waters that I love.
I study the topographic maps. “This Portland neighborhood will be the new peaks island,” I think, as though the change will be gentle. But the sea is a not gentle. Storms will batter the coast and tides will pull the ground from beneath our feet.
We let the low tides trick us. “See,” we say as we kayak out on the waters “the sands are here as they have always been.” And in a far away place, an ice sheet crumbles.
Finalist entry for personal climate stories, 350 Madison’s 2020 #givingtuesday event.