Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mirror - Chimera

Still catching up on past adventures ...

Last year Olive Delsol and I co-taught a creative writing class at Kennedy Alternative High School on a volunteer basis. The first term was mostly free-writing and Olive and I working to come up with prompts that would engage the students -- and coping with how the class was almost never the same group of people. For the second term we decided on a curriculum of reading and writing our way through the early history of storytelling (fables, fairy tales, myths, and legends). That term was also when we "teachers" spent a lot of time learning how to keep the class on an even keel while our students coped with their often tumultuous lives. For the third term the class decided to produce Kennedy's first ever literary magazine. Many deadlines were blown and Olive and I kept reminding ourselves that the students were working mostly in the dark, having never produced and held in their hands a final product like we were making. In the end it all came together: 48 pages of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and lots of art funded by ten donors in our Cottage Grove community. During that same push to deadline, Olive and I found out about a grant four days before it was due; we wrote up our proposal, hand-delivered it with at least 20 minutes to spare, and later received $2000 to continue our class next year and produce three more issues of the magazine.

About the photo: the first issue of The Kennedy Mirror was called The Chimera because of our myth and legend work. Also a chimera is a fabulous creature of disparate parts (such as lion, goat, snake) that can spit fire. Five students made the parts of the chimera and its fireball.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My story in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

I don't know why this achievement is so hard for me to talk about. Or why writing the bio blurb requested by the editor/publisher nearly crashed my brain's hard drive. But I'm all better now.

The story was purchased in spring of 2009 and appeared in the May/June issue of F&SF. If any of my friends and family reading this want a copy of the magazine, let me know, and I'll send you one. The local bookstore ordered fifty copies and we've gone through almost all of them. One or two can still be found, and if we order another twenty copies then Gordon Van Gelder will have reached the break-even point right there in terms of making make back what he paid me.

Loki's magic gumball

Our eldest daughter, Shaura, and her partner, Neil, arrived from Sheffield, England, a week and half ago -- tired, cranky with each other, and both recovering from recent visits to the dentist. They got past the tired and cranky quickly but the legendary problems of British teeth were not so easily vanquished.

Shaura had recently had a root canal; Neil had an abcessed tooth pulled the day before takeoff. Shaura did fine. Neil's abscess continued to fester and he developed dry socket, too. Both are painful and possibly life-threatening because of the close proximity to the brain. I went online to see what we could do and found a little bit of advice and much admonishment to call a dentist as soon as possible. Things weren't looking good. Besides that seeing a dentist on an emergency basis was beyond the financial capacity of all four of us combined, we were heading into the 4th of July weekend.

Improvisation was needed.

A friend volunteered a few Vicodin, which we split in half to make them last longer. I took the one piece of not-stupid-sounding advice found on google for abscessed tooth (put a tea bag on it) and combined it with my experience with honey. Honey is my favorite method for avoiding trips to the emergency room for stitches and other forms of medical torture -- I successfully reattached a nearly severed fingertip with honey and I still have feeling in it, too.

Honey is antiseptic and a growth stimulant. Every wound I have treated with honey has healed extraordinarily fast and with little or no scarring. Little cuts and burns that I can't be bothered to treat take much longer to heal and leave scars that last for years because I scar rather easily.

So, I combined the abscess-drawing property of the dry, powdered, black tea with the healing powers of honey by cutting the end off of a rolled up tea bag then wrapping it in a patch of gauze soaked and slathered in honey. Neil put the "gumball" in the empty socket at night and once or twice during the day. The tea, we found, kept the gumball in place (we'd tried just honey and gauze before I found out about the tea). Before the weekend was over, the abscess had drained and the socket was beginning to fill in with new gum-flesh. Despite that Neil was present when I cut my fingertip (he was helping me butcher a goat), he seemed as surprised as he was pleased that the gumball worked. But I trust that since he says his Facebook photo of himself with Peach the scrub jay perched on his shoulder makes for great storytelling at the pubs, that his gumball cure story will soon be up there in his favorite recountings of his adventures in the wilds of Oregon. (Unless, that is, he or Shaura has a close encounter with a mountain lion while she's doing her Vision Quest. She's going "up on the hill" as I write this.)

One final note: Neil says he thought the 1/6 teaspoon of tea in the gumball made it a little hard to sleep. This may have been jet lag, but if you have any concern about this, you can try finding decaf teabags should you ever need to try this remedy.