#3DNC Journal

Please don’t read this. If you do, you will think we are all 7 years old.


3DNC 2015

Friday, 4th September


7pm    Sorina & Betsy arrive at the Coffee Pot

Welcome back to the lush mossy carpet & vaulted ceiling of leaves! Welcome back to the brook singing to itself, to the fire that leaps up in greeting. Welcome back to the work & the madness, the music & the silence, the fellowship & the competition. ~SH


7:?? Je suis le monde. ~SH



Q: How do you know when your bagel is done toasting?

A: When it bursts into flame. ~SH



The bugs are murdering me this year. ~BG



“Nothing is wrong with a little cleavage.” (Sorina) The camera promptly focuses on my chest. ~BG



It was a bright and shiny day. ~SH



“I don’t suppose you’d be the best person to ask for death metal quotes?” (Sorina) ~BG



Sorina has checked off one square out of 585 on her novel-planning spreadsheet. ~BG



“A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single box in the spreadsheet.” (Sorina) ~BG



“Let’s listen to the Jupiter Symphony after Angry Birds. Never thought I’d say those words!” (Sorina) ~BG


Saturday, 5th September


Woke up. ~BG



Me too. ~SH



Oh, come on, characters; it’s too early in the morning to be using such profanity. ~SH



Went on a walk up the powerline, bathed in the creek, put up the screen house, and are now eating lunch and getting back to writing. ~BG



“Don’t say that! That’s really dirty!”(Sorina to a character) ~BG



Not enough verbs. ~SH



“Last year, Marian & I were talking about donuts and men…” (said Betsy) ~SH



Finished Chapter one! ~SH



Heard from Nadine that my Mom is in the hospital again. ~SH



Mom is home. They didn’t find anything wrong. ~SH



Finally finished one page of my spreadsheet – 39 out of 585 little boxes. 7,845 words. 42 pages. Not bad, I guess. Today’s goal: 10,000 words, 3 chapters. ~SH



Scrivener random name generator – almost as much fun as the Benedict Cumberbatch parody name generator. ~SH



Started a stir-fry for dinner. ~BG



“Hyphens are my favorite endangered species.” (Sorina) ~BG



We complain about characters getting off-topic. ~BG

Sorina complemented me on my biceps. ~BG



About getting bitten by mosquitos:

“Maybe you are getting sweeter.” (Sorina)

“If only to reduce bugbites, I would not want to be any sweeter.” (Betsy)



Marian arrives! ~BG



Marian’s Awkward Existence Part 2 ~MB



Marian’s Awkward Existence Part 1 ~MB



“I want more flames.” (Sorina) ~BG


Finished chapter 2. 9,323 words. 43 of 585 squares. ~SH



*Marian grasps the air in frustration*

Sorina: “What?”

Me: “I had a word…” *it comes back* “got it!”

Sorina: “What was it?”

Me: “Snort.” ~MB



“Is Sorina tap-dancing on the porch?” ~MB



“Because everything’s better with sex.” ~BG



“Ok. Hamlet.” (Marian) ~BG



Marian applauds ~BG



Bedtime for all ~BG
11,110 words today. ~SH


Sunday, 6th September


Everyone up! ~BG



Non-sequitur? We try to figure out how it’s spelled. ~MB


10:15ish am

Went for a walk to the waterfall. Discovered a dead frog and an old lady. One was pleasant. One was not. ~MB


2:30ish pm

Sharon arrived! ~SH



Sorina, Marian, and Betsy go for a swim in the Deep Hole. ~BG



“My characters are doing horrible, creepy, unexpected things!” (Sorina)

“Fry them.” (Betsy)

“I will kill them soon” (Sorina) ~SH



Marian finishes reading Piccalilli & Sharon declares that illustration is a different skill set. ~SG



Marian is a heathen in the morning. ~SG



According to Sharon, Avatar has “See-a-jor-oujie” Weaver in it. ~MB



Marian: You can’t live up to everyone’s standards.

Sharon: I can’t even live up to my own. ~MB



Bandaged vs. Brandished ~BG

Sharon asked what’s the word for waving a sword around. “Brandished,” we said, & after the brandishing comes the bandaging. ~SH



“Cats and Commas” is an alliteration ~SG

Marian is wearing a shirt that says: “Let’s eat kitty. Let’s eat, kitty. Punctuation saves cats.” My two favorite things: Cats & commas. ~SH



Lobster ~BG

Betsy is going to boil her feet like Lobsters. Sorina tells a story about her relative not being able to cook a lobster because her son was attached to it. We discuss the reason why lobsters must be boiled alive — because they’re poisonous otherwise. ~BG

“It he tries to kill me even after he’s dead, then I don’t care if it’s a horrible death!” (Betsy) ~SH



Sharon hushes us for the first time ~BG



Sharon tells us something sappy she & Robbie do: “That’s about as sappy as we get. We’ve gotten more sappy as we get more married.” ~SH



I wrote 20,000 words! ~SH



20,000 words! ~BG



1st Draft of Love’s Labor’s Happily Ever After finished. ~SG



“I would be offended if you didn’t come if I didn’t invite you.” (Sharon to Betsy in regards to her play reading) ~SH



Conversation about Old Testament rape laws ~SG



The door’s name is Carina – Marian’s dubbing. ~SG


Monday, 7th September



“We’re here to write, not look pretty.” (Sharon) ~BG



Sorina and I return from a lovely walk and finally get to work. ~SG

I had a dream last night that I met Benedict Cumberbatch at the Underground. We had such a lovely conversation about his performance of Hamlet that he invited me out for tea so we could continue the chat. ~SH


1ish pm

I’ve always thought that groundhogs end rather abruptly. ~SH



Finished Demae’s book! 24,800 words. ~BG



Finished reading K. M. Weildman’s book on novel structure. Gearing up to put all my parts into an outline and check them for what I’ve learned. ~SG


3ish pm

Marian: “I apologize for my crass language, sullen disposition, & for making you cancel Ekphrasis.”



27,005 words ~SH



Sewing is not about fashion. Seamstresses know how to put a garment together. Fashion is about knowing how to put an outfit together.” ~MB



“Okay, let’s go bathe so we don’t be stinky anymore.” (Sharon) ~MB



Not Quite a Novel: Sørina’s #3DNC Report


The Coffee Pot.

The three-day novel contest is over again for this year. We survived, happily, with deeper friendships and great work accomplished. I at least am amazed that we have managed to make this dream come true three years in a row in the face of enormous obstacles. And, as is usual for me, the work is barely beginning. Here are the stats of what was accomplished, a narrative of the weekend, and a plan for what to do next. 

8 Ekphrasians participated in some permutation or other of this intensive writing retreat, composing well over 100,000 words collectively! These words were written in community, alone, in the woods, in a cabin, at a retreat center, at home, in various states of euphoria, inspiration, or drudgery.

IMG_2594* I began a new novel, a murder mystery. I wrote 27,005 words, but only got about 15% of the way into the plot. The story takes place over a 20-hour period, and I only got my characters through the first three hours. They kept doing things that weren’t in my notes!
 * Sharon wrote an entire play. It is called Love’s Labours Happily Ever After, and it blends fairy-tale characters with Shakespearean plot lines from Love’s Labour’s LostMidsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and As you Like it. She completed a full draft at 17,000 words. She also worked through a book about structuring fiction and wrote her outline for her next book!
* Betsy
roughed out the entire plot of her novel, Demae’s Story, writing what she calls the skeleton of the story at 24,000 words.
* Steph is the only one who paid the fee and entered the contest for real. She wrote most of the story she had planned.
* Jeff spent the time working on a play called “Hail Mary.”
* Andrew worked on a novella and wrote about 18,000 words.
* Marian wrote a complete children’s story, called “Piccalilli.” (Which I love, by the way). She wrote a journal, did lots of homework, practiced her lines for two roles she’s got in upcoming plays, and edited some of Aakroveil, the novel she completed earlier this year.
* Devon planned to spend the weekend editing her personal narrative.
If this year goes like previous years, most of us should have complete manuscripts by Christmas, then spend any number of months or years revising, revising, revising. (I also plan to start The Four Senses, my 2013 #3DNC production, over again from scratch. Sigh).


The situation room, with a map of my cemetery setting.

Unfortunately, most of us had a very interrupted weekend. I traveled up to Massachusetts on Monday to be with my mother, who had unexpected heart surgery. I did get home late on Thursday, and Betsy and I made it up to the cabin on Friday evening, but we didn’t really start working until Saturday morning. Marian got cast in two plays and had rehearsals until late Saturday afternoon, so she arrived Saturday evening. Sharon got cast in one play, is directing another, and had both a funeral and a wedding to attend on Saturday. So she and Betsy worked at home on Friday, then Sharon joined us on Sunday. We all left by 7 on Monday evening. Next year, we all want to join the official contest, get up there earlier, start right at midnight on Friday, end at midnight on Monday, and leave on Tuesday. I plan to develop a plot for a novella that can be completed within 30,000 words.

But what a beautiful time it was! The Coffee Pot, the cabin owned by Betsy’s family, where we have the retreat, is an idyllic location. We enjoyed it thoroughly. We didn’t push ourselves, sleeping eight hours a night, going for long walks, swimming (and washing) in the creek, having hour-long intense conversations. Sure, we could have written more words if we hadn’t taken those mental-and-physical-health breaks. But I think we are happier people for those times. And now we have all those words there, ready for the adding and editing. Stay tuned for selections and for posts by the other Ekphrasians!


February Meeting Report

On Tuesday evening, we eccentric Ekphrasians gathered in the wild world of Wegman’s. It was a glorious meeting. While the skies froze outside, we heated things up there in the cafe with our readings, performance, talk, and laughter.

First, Jeff Harvey started us off by imitating Andrew Stirling MacDonald’s approach to 2015: he shared a list of ambitious creative writing goals for the next 12 months or so.

spitfireThen Marian Barshinger showed her very great confidence by performing a dramatic monologue right there in the grocery store! She’s taking a course in Acting for the Camera, so her focus in this piece was on facial expressions and voice, rather than blocking or gesture. She chose a speech from The Spitfire Grill: a heart-rending narrative of abuse. She performed it very powerfully, with depths of expression and serious focus.

Next Betsy Gahman read a revised chapter of her novel Dragonhoard. This novel is a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast tale, and in her version, the Beast is a dragon. In what we heard on Tuesday evening, our narrative-perspective character finds himself transformed into a dragon. Betsy’s revision goal was to get into the physicality of dragonness, and she achieved this admirably.dragon_symbol

A performance of another kind followed: a reading of of a scene from Sharon Gerdes’s play Rifton. This is a lively, funny, thoughtful family and small-town drama. It is really coming to life as she reworks it, deepening the relationships and exploring the pain of misunderstanding.

Following this reading, Eric Muller of Hand-in-Hand artworks shared more of his amazing drawings! It is a huge blessing to have a professional artist in our midst. He showed us the final, colorized version of a book cover he has recently created, plus several original portraits of U.S. Presidents for Pastime cards.eric

Switching to creative nonfiction prose, Carl Hoffmeyer shared a really gritty tale of torture–with a surprising historical twist. Carl has a gorgeous reading voice and a masterful command of narrative pacing, so his reading is always a supreme pleasure.

Continuing with our successful streak, Richard Berrigan honored us with the first few pages of his new comic book, starring the same characters from his ongoing Jack Windsword world. His style is lively and active, with exciting plotlines and mythic figures.

Then there was more fiction: a back-story chapter from Earl Pape to go with his dwarf-human saga. This was an account of a battle between minotaurs and their mysterious opponents.

We have a new member of the group, Devon, and she graced us with a piece of tragic creative nonfiction. We hope to hear more from her in the near future!

Since we still had more time, we got to hear yet another scene from Sharon’s Rifton and yet another of Carl’s gripping stories. This was an unforgettable tale of dinosaurs in the backyard!!

Do join us sometime with your own work to share.


Aakroveil – a group reading of Marian B’s Novel

unnamedThe second weekend of this year, a group of creative friends gathered together to read through Marian B’s fantasy novel for the first time, as a group. The group consisted of many of the Ekphrasis faithful, as well as some auxilliary members who’ve come to occasional events.

We were hosted by Elaine S in her beautiful home on the outskirts of Kutztown, Pennsylvania. We arrived prepared with food for the weekend, comfy clothes and blankets for long reading sessions (with a fireplace roaring, no less!) and various phones, tablets, and laptops from which to read our parts.

Josh L, Sharon G and I read the main three perspective characters. Josh read Dorian, a young (secretly half-farie) lord trying to keep war from breaking out between the humans and faries. Sharon read Meg, Dorian’s love interest. I read Draven, Meg’s love interest. Oh, he is also Dorian’s brother, and the person who is trying to cause the two races to go to war.

Other parts were read by Momo S, Betsy G, Beth B, Earl P, Lindsay S, Elizabeth S, Amanda L, Jeff H, Steph H, and possibly some other people that will angrily admonish me for fogetting them after they read this blog post.

We spent several hours Friday night reading, and got quite a good start on it. This has been the fourth group reading of a complete work that we’ve done and we seem to be getting the hang of it. After reading, some of us played board games for a while, then we went to bed.

We got up early Saturday morning to eat pancakes and continue our reading. We read most of the day Saturday, taking occasional breaks for snacks or to stretch. In the evening we assembled at a local diner for a meal. After some excitement with a flat tire, we eventually got everyone back to the house. An impromptu dance party commenced for the people who were staying overnight, which eventually evolved into the group laying around in a circle and asking difficult philosophical questions of one another.


Sunday morning we went off to various local houses of worship, and met back at 1 pm to finish off the novel. Overall I think that it went very well. Marian’s novel was a lot of fun, and we had a lot of good discussion about parts of the novel that worked and that didn’t. I think that the information garnered over the weekend will be a valuable tool for Marian as she is revising her work and beginning the process of shopping it around.

3DNC Journal!

This was the second year in a row that members of Ekphrasis either participated in the international Three-Day Novel Contest or at least used Labor Day weekend as an intensive writing retreat. You can read last year’s journal here. This year, here’s what we were up to:

Betsy G generously offered her cabin as a retreat site again, and she, Sharon, Marian, and I were there at various points during the weekend.

Betsy finished writing Dragonhoard, which she began exactly one year ago. It is a young adult novel — a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” and it is 40,624 long, with twenty chapters and an epilogue.

Marian finished writing Aakroveil, a fantasy novel with twenty-nine chapters and an epilogue; it’s 100,314 words long.

Sharon wrote an entire play in two days! It is a two-act entitled Rifton Diner, and it’s 17,447 words in length.

Andrew worked on Lullaby, a novel he began last year, and also on Noose, an epic steampunk fantasy with eight point-of-view characters.

Stephanie worked from home on a new novel.

Jeff had to be at his job all weekend, but continues to work on revising The Pale of the Sun, last year’s 3DNC novella.

I almost finished doing a major revision job on The Four Senses, last year’s 3DNC attempt. It now has thirty-seven chapters; 102,200 words. I’ll soon be looking for beta readers, so let me know if you’re interested! (I will also schedule a full read-through soon, so stay tuned for news of that).

And please attend our meetings if you want to hear some of these works read aloud.

What follows is the journal kept at The Coffee Pot, the cabin where some of us were. I recommend caution while reading this; it may be hazardous to your health!

Transcript: 3-Day Novel Contest Journal, 2014

11:45 – Arrived and got set up. Mrs. Gahman provided Beatrix Potter sheets! –SPBG
12:00 – Writing time! –SPBG
12:15 – Sunshine on the water is proving to be very distracting. –B
2:41 – Picked wildflowers & scouted out wild grapes. Sharon isn’t being as ‘militant’ this year! –B
4:30 – We decided that we aren’t as interesting – just the two of us – next year it must be the Four Musketeers! –SPBG
5:25 – Watched a wood-bore struggle helplessly as it slowly roasted to death in the fire. –B
“You will munch no more!” (Direct quote from B while she glared at the flames). –SPBG
5:30 – “How do you spell ‘Protestant’?” (Sharon) –B
Betsy magnanimously forgives me for not knowing how to spell Protestant (and probably magnanimous as       well, or at least I hope) and for having to use the bathroom all the time. –SPBG
5:59 – I’m sick of thanksgiving! –SPBG
7:15 – “What is a common Wild West name for a man? Bill! Bill works.” –B
7:32 – 30,000 words! –B
8:01 – Yoga time! –B
8:57 – Listening to the Star Wars cantina music. –B
9:30 – Sharon finished 1st half and gets ready for bed! –SPBG
9:40 – Betsy finished Oberon’s vest. Bedtime. –B

7:30 – Internet hunting –SPBG
Nevermind. –SPBG
8:40 – “Marriage is a destroyer of friendships.” (Direct quote from Rifton) –B
10:00-11:00 – Internet search –found at Dunkin Donuts, determined Sharon wasn’t that nice because she only paid for Betsy’s coffee. –SPBG
11:40 – After Betsy offered me shampoo – “I probably won’t because I hate bathing.” –SPBG
3:00 – Betsy caught a dozen crayfish to put on Hob-Goblin’s costume. Not – the costume part. –SPBG
3:30 – Sharon decided that next year she would be militant again – making it a bi-annual attitude. –SPBG
5:30 – We grill chicken & cook carrots in the fire – we are gourmets! –SPBG
7:00 – Sharon stares down a bear – Betsy runs after it with a camera. –SPBG
7:15 – Betsy saw said bear but wasn’t able to snap a photo. –B
8:10 – Finished 1st draft of Rifton! –SPBG
8:15 – Decided we need Christian LARPing. –SPBG
10:03 – After deciding not to stay up late, we proceeded to watch HTTYD [How To Train Your Dragon], while Betsy sewed and Sharon edited Rifton. –B

3:00 [am] – Bear tries to break in. –SPBG
3:15 – Betsy declares her hair is keeping her up. –SPBG
7:03 – Both of us get moving; very bleary-eyed; overactive imaginations kept us awake after the bear left. –B
11:09 – Finished Dragonhoard! –B
11:24 – We decide Sharon should get a selfie with the bear. –B
12:16 – Waiting for Marian. –B
12:30 – Sharon promised to have better handwriting. –SPBG
1:30 – Betsy found a beautiful worm and decided it should go on a hook – alas, she found no fishing equipment. –SPBG
2:00 – Marian’s here! –B10603535_700399110030948_5196494214912980204_n
2:15 – Betsy forgives Sharon again for – something. –SPBG
3:15 – Marian decides we need to kill Betsy’s conscience. –M
3:40 – Betsy & Sharon argue about fishing –SPBG
3:41 – “The chipmunk is pregnant: it has a baby in each cheek.” (direct quote from Sharon) –B
4:20 – Sharon left. L -B
4:30 – Left in search of extension cords. –B
5:39 – Returned w/ extension cords & PIZZA! –B
6:00 – Marian cheers for “funky bunttuns.” –B
6:38 – Marian actually gets some writing done! And laments her sappiness. –M
6:40 – Marian and Betsy have a bonding moment where Betsy reveals she can be inappropriate around Marian because she won’t judge her. –M
7:01 – Marian breaks the 90,000 word mark! –M
7:58 – We discuss Dorian’s awkwardness. –B

8:33 – The caffeine contained in an entire Monster is not powerful enough to keep me awake. –B
9:19 – Betsy has gone to bed, but I (I’m tired of writing in the third person.) am still writing. I’ve finished chapter 27. Does this book ever end? –M
10:37 – I’m done writing for the night. I’ve gotten quite tired. But I wrote 2,593 words today. Not bad for me. Bed… -M

6:50 – Contacts in, fire started, Marian still slumbering, off to do devotions. –B
9:50 – Went for more drinking water. –B
10:15 – Dominion time! –B
10:40 – Marian names a caterpillar Melvin. –B10355385_700399303364262_109022656870513689_n
10:45 – Betsy sacrifices a Beggar on her Alter. –B
10:54 – Marian does the same. –B
11:15 – Dominion scores


+ 6

11:20 – Time to get to work! –B
12:20 – Clean hair! –B
1:00 – Found out Sharon & Sorina are coming to visit!!! –B
1:14 – I’m super hyper from all the caffeine. I might need to take an improve dance break. Why is writing a thing? –MJB
1:16 – Marian fears that the crayfish will steal her soul. –B
2:40 – Betsy assists Marian in washing her hair. The things friends do for each other. –M
2:52 – Marian is an amazing person and gave me a back-rub. –B
3:12 – Sharon & Sorina arrive! –B

3:24 – Back to work! –SPBG
3:26 – “She’s wearing her underwear. Why, aren’t you?” “I’m not wearing her underwear…” –M
3:2?We’re going to kill all the ugly things. –M
3:3? SH: “What are the first two instruments you think of when I say ‘symphony orchestra’?”
B: “Violin.”
M: “Tuba.” –SPBG
3:58 – Marian doesn’t want to marry Robbie. –SPBG
4: 26 – “What do you call a man who has a lot of muscle?” “…muscular?” –M
5:54 – Sorina’s book, “A Ready-made Grave”, is a best seller – they’re all sold out – there are no copies. –SPBG
6:50 – Sorina & Sharon left. Some work got done. It was great fun. –B
8:09 – Marian immerses herself in the gore of war. –B
9:00 – “You sang a hymn and now I’m singing Doris Day…” (Betsy to Marian) –B
9:00 – We had a lovely break out by the beautiful fire. We sang and chatted as we watched the dancing flames.
10:00 – Betsy has gone to bed, but I’m still writing. It’s unfortunate that I do my best writing at this late hour. I’m listening to The Village soundtrack which is super inspiring. Still in the battle scene. SIGH. –M
10:46 – Draven is dead! Eeeek! –M
11:36 – Betsy terrifies Marian by appearing suddenly on the couch. (Marian had headphones in and was very surprised). Betsy apparently was really hot and couldn’t sleep. Marian inquires as to whether Betsy is ill since she seems a little delirious. Betsy says no. Marian asks if she needs water. Again, Betsy rejects this. Then Marian suggests Betsy changes from her long-sleeved thermal and sweatpants into short sleeves and shorts. Betsy feels stupid at this obvious solution and retreats back to the bedroom. Marian saves the day and Betsy’s sleep yeah! –M

1:01 [am] – I can’t believe it…I’m in the epilogue. I literally have a few more pages to write. But I’m tired and will probably write better in the morning after I get some sleep. I can’t believe how close I am. I wrote 6,062 words today which is a personal record. Goodnight. –M
7:19 – We’re both up & pretty groggy. Had to tell the mice in the ceiling to be quiet at 4:40 this morning. Fire & coffee are going, so life is good. –B
9:07 – Finished preliminary edits to Dragonhoard. –B
9:51 – Finished first draft of Aakroveil!!! –M
10:02 – Cleanup commences. –B
10:18 – M: “I love donuts. I love bad things.” B: “Like you love bad men. What is it with you and bad things, Marian?” M: “I know. Give me a bad boy with a donut and I’m sold. Like this.” *imitates a bad boy resting against a door-post suggestively eating a donut* M: “Man, I want a poster.” –M
11:06 – All cleaned up and ready to go! After a minor heart-attack, my car started and we were able to head home! What a great weekend. –B


August 4th, 2014: Small but Mighty

This is a guest post by Marian B. I was not present because I was traveling — first on vacation, then at Mythcon, which you can read all about here.Thanks, Marian, for taking notes in my absence!

August 4th, in the year of the LORD 2014, we faithful gathered in the absence of our fearless leader. S.G, A.L, E.G, H.W, J.F, J.H, and your humble scribe, M.B were in attendance. The evening started with a chapter reading of M.B’s novel.

E.G performed all her audition pieces; This was the last time before her audition at Sight and Sound. She began with the songs “Someday” and “I Could Have Dance All Night”. We all remarked how much E.G has improved. We discussed characterization and blocking. As William Mutimer states, “Solo pieces in musicals are just monologues on a sustained note and should be blocked as a monologue.”

Speaking of monologues, E.G performed both her monologues: Joan of Arc’s trial scene from Shaw’s play, and Mabel’s monologue from An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde. A discussion of how the audition process will go ensued. We had a lengthy talk about her “Joan” monologue and how emotions should ebb and flow through a monologue.

WP_20140802_19_35_41_ProJ.H shared some cute little sketches drawn on a children’s etch-a-sketch with his eyes closed: “Baby Groot,” “The Mollea,” “Untitled: Like a Dragon,” “The Mad Tea-Party,” “The Joker and the Phoenix,” and “Hobgoblin.”

It was a rather small group and not everyone brought material to share, so M.B read another chapter of her novel. No one had many notes to give except “Finish the novel.”

The night concluded with some very informal karaoke (I’m sure all well-respected creative groups break into communal singing at some point in the course of their meetings) and then we parted as friends, looking forward to our next meeting when we shall share the fruit of our Three Day Novel labor(s).

“Canvas” by Marian B

Here is a powerful, hard-hitting piece of short fiction by one of our members. It has been accepted for publication in The Laconic, the literary journal of Northampton Community College and is scheduled to appear this coming Tuesday. Congratulations, Marian! 


depressI write on my arm a lot–lyrics, verses, quotes. I’ll use pen–red ink, purple ink, blue ink, black. People often ask me why I make a canvas of my skin. I tell them I do it because words are important to me. After all, that’s true. Words are symbols for anything worth having. But, no, that’s not the real reason. If I told the real reason, I’m sure the person would wish they’d never asked.

Have you ever wanted to die? I have. But, honestly, I’m too much of a coward to take my life, even though I’ve thought it out. To try to cope with the hollow pain, instead, I turn my skin to canvas. To punish myself, I slice it.

You see, there are worse things you can do to your skin than cover it in ink. What is the worst that can happen to an unblemished canvas? A blemish. Destruction. Cuts. I’m wary of labeling myself as a cutter. It’s not like I do it all the time. It just happens on a bad day. I remember the very first time I drew a knife over my wrist. As I stared at the blood on my arm, I asked myself, “How did I become like this?” I don’t know. My second question, “Why do I want to die?” Again, no answer.

The thing about depression and cutting is you know you really don’t want either of them in your life. It’s not earth-shattering to recognize these things destroy you. After I had accumulated a pattern on my arm, a web of scars and scabs, I knew I needed to stop. I didn’t want to be a cutter. I told myself I wasn’t, but my skin gave me away.

My skin gave me away and yet no one seemed to care. My pain was etched into my body and everyone walked past me, turning a blind eye. Why? Is it too awkward for you? To ask me if everything’s okay? To offer help? To just sit down and listen? I know I’m not alone. Roll up the sleeves of the average teen and see what you find. It’s not pretty, but it’s there. And everyone’s silent.

But the words on my arm–those grab your attention. Five people in a day can ask me what they say, why I do it, what it means. You see, if you’ve a bad habit or an addiction, you can’t just give it up. You’ve got to replace it with something. So, I write. I write, and every time I feel the need to cut, I read the words-my symbols that remind me to hang in there. Life, somehow, is worth living. They don’t always stop me, but sometimes they turn the knife away.

If you ask me about the words on my arm, I won’t tell you the truth. If you find the courage to ask about the scars, I will.