Flash Fiction–The Ring

The Ring

Traffic whizzed by; she waited at the café table. Running her fingers through her gray hair, she recalled.
“You’re so beautiful,” Angelo had said, frowning. “Why do you look so young? You deceive me.”
It was one of those smack-in-your-face moments. She loved him. He loved her.
She shook her head. He’s not coming. Rising she crossed the street. In an instant, brakes squealed. She was on the ground – pain, blood. Someone picked up her head, cradled it in his lap. In that moment she looked up, a death smile on her lips.
It was Angelo, fingering a velvet ring box.

Christina Laurie
Cape Cod Branch, MA

Flash Fiction: Ester


My mother died when I was thirteen years old. Never mind that my father died the same day-he shot her twelve times and then turned the gun on himself. Ester, I loved her so much.

Years later I was in labor with my first child. I cried with heart pain not labor pain, wanting so much for my mother to be there. Hours passed and I was still in labor-couldn’t my body just let go and move on?

That’s when the new duty nurse came in and said, “Hi, I’m Ester. I’m here to help you have your baby.” Mom.

By Mary E. Edgerton
Bayou City Branch, TX

Visit our bookstore to order our beautiful new art calendar, books of poetry and powerful stories of healing for graduation gifts for the seniors in your life

A conversation with two collaborators

Why be a Pen Woman? This conversation with two Iowa Pen Women who wrote Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink together, says it all!
mary & me cover

The length of the friendship never brought astonishment. After all, the majority of Baby Boomers could likely claim a long-standing friendship in their lives. No, it was always the letters: the-pen-on-paper, inside-a-stamped-envelope, mailed-in-a-mailbox letter that was awe-inspiring. “You’ve been writing a letter every week for almost thirty years?” The question always evokes disbelief, particularly since the dawn of the Internet and email…
…This book explores a friendship that began in June 1986 and will most likely not end until “death do us part.” The fact that one of the women in this relationship had never really had other female friends outside of her sisters, while the other woman had too many to count, is all part of the story.”

—-Excerpted from the introduction of Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink, co-written by Iowa City Branch Pen Women Mary Potter Kenyon (Letters 2014) and Mary Jedlicka Humston (Letters 2007). Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Familius Publishing. (http://www.familius.com/mary-me)

The following article “A Q & A Conversation with Two Collaborators” details how these two Pen Women coauthored a book and what they learned in the process.

Q: What was the most difficult thing about collaborating with another Pen Woman?
A: Mary Potter Kenyon: I admit to being a control freak, and so there was that to overcome when working with someone else on a project. While Mary and I had been friends for years and were used to critiquing each other’s writing, I had the most experience working with a publisher. There were occasions when I felt a little bossy, nixing her ideas. When we decided to work with each of our strengths, it was easier. I’d sold three other books through book proposals and had been teaching community college classes in proposal writing, so it made sense for me to write that. Mary was the better editor, so I relinquished a lot of that to her.
A: Mary Jedlicka Humston: Distance. Living 90 miles apart required extensive planning for face-to-face visits. Busy schedules as well as snow, ice, and blizzards occasionally hindered our work sessions. When the weather cooperated, we accomplished amazing results. Frequent emails and phone calls became crucial.

Q: What was the thing that surprised you the most?
A: Mary Potter Kenyon: Because I shared the work with a coauthor, and other women’s essays were also included in the book, I was surprised how little of the manuscript was solely up to me. I’d just completed three non-fiction books in the previous three years, with two taking more than a year to finish. With Mary writing half of each chapter, and essays filling in pages between each topic, we were able to complete the book in a few months.
I was also surprised to discover many similarities between Mary and me that hadn’t been fully revealed through all those years of letter-writing.

A: Mary Jedlicka Humston: Two things. I knew that communication would be crucial, but I didn’t realize its true importance. Communication created an environment of openness which allowed us to be creative and provided a great working relationship.
Bellevue event
The other thing? Writing Mary & Me deepened our already strong friendship. I thought I knew a lot about Mary, but I learned even more about her in our collaboration.

Q: What are the differences in the way the two of you work? Do you have different styles?
A: Mary Potter Kenyon: Mary revises much more than I do. I relied on her to be the one to repeatedly go over everything with a fine-toothed comb, but there were times when it was a little frustrating for me when a single word or phrase would bother Mary to no end. I don’t rely on other beta-readers as much as Mary does, perhaps to my own detriment, but it works for me when I have to meet a deadline. Now that I’m a newspaper reporter I believe it is a saving grace. No one sees anything I write until it ends up on the editor’s desk. For our coauthoring project, however, it was Mary’s endless revising that caught several serious errors.

A: Mary Jedlicka Humston: Mary wrote chapters in order. I did not. I am an editing fiend and have a hard time letting a piece go. She helped me know when “enough was enough.”

When we arrived at the speaking stage of our book journey, we realized we had totally different styles. Mary has an outline and can speak from it with ease and comfort. I like to have everything written out, so I don’t forget key points. I practice voraciously so my delivery appears natural and not stilted.

Our bios:
Mary Potter Kenyon graduated from the University of Northern Iowa and lives in Manchester, Iowa. She is a reporter for the Manchester Press newspaper and author of five books, including the award-winning “Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace.” She is widely published in magazines, anthologies, and newspapers and teaches writing courses for community colleges. She is a popular speaker on the topics of grief and writing. E-mail: marypotterkenyon@gmail.com

Mary Jedlicka Humston, a former high school teacher, graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a BA in English education. Her poetry and essays have been widely published, both nationally and locally. She has presented programs on cancer, dealing with chronic illness, prayer, writing and the Little Free Library movement. She resides in Iowa City, Iowa. E-mail: maryjedhum@gmail.com

Poem of the Week–Black Feather

Black Feather

Not four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie,
but rather thousands, falling from the sky
in Arkansas. Drum fish decomposing
in adjacent waterways. All gone.
And now her. A flash of a solar eclipse.
A glimmer of light extinguished.
Our niece who days before celebrated
a swarm of flies ringing the air with oscillating
haloes along the windswept dunes. Gone.

She has become our newest astronaut circling
earth with her baby brother from another family
incarnation, poisoned by Agent Orange
his dad inhaled in Nam. Two years of radiation
and chemo battering his frail body. Holes
in the ozone layer, holes in the heart as large
and gaping as the cavernous surface at Ground Zero.

Out there, sailing on updrafts of the spirit’s current,
she joins the throngs of all who have gone before
while the bones of those remaining, shrink, all
but disappear, as the spaces between cartilage
yield invisible nets that glisten in the sun,
ready to catch those departed with a wink,

a blink, a nod, a strand of kelp in the shape of a dragon,
makeshift necklaces of shells, ribbons of yellow, pink, red,
signaling fierce loss, fiercer love. Prayers wending
their way on upturned palms, incense, breath,
the wing of a fly, a filament of iridescent fish scale,
a solitary black feather.

by Calder Lowe
Modesto Branch, CA

Flash Fiction–Omega and Alpha


Hundreds have camped here at the launch area for weeks. Lucky ones have tents. Others, only tarps or blankets. People are smelly and irritable. Food and water are scarce. It’s been a very restless night with the ground rumbling constantly from earthquakes spreading across the globe. But hope rises with the dawn, at least for those holding the lowest numbers. The World Aero-Space Administration just announced all conditions are perfect for a safe flight! The same prayer rises from each of us, “Please, God, don’t let us destroy Mars as we have Earth. Forgive us. Save us.”

Virginia Nygard
Vero Beach Branch, FL

Poem of the Week–I am a Bubble

I am a Bubble

Sometimes easily burst, other times, not.
I can linger around and just float into space, without direction
Or I can land heavily and drop onto someone for anchorage.

I can be colorful—tinges and hues of reds, pinks, blues;
Transparent, translucent, opaque.
I don’t mind being transparent for I like to be sociable.

One very special bubble-strong and firm showed me the ‘light’ to persevere and to ‘hang’ in there.
I felt love and confident to move on.

I’m flying and enjoy floating with other bubbles.
I re-explored ‘new’ horizons that were really explored previously.
Passing the time on old territory helped me see that I had total control of the situation, rather than being controlled by it.

I’m a happy bubble and have been all day.

Vera Ripp Hirschhorn
Boca Raton Branch, FL

Members–still time to enter the biennial competitions for music, deadline for entries is February 29, 2016! Click here for more info.

Poem of the Week–Snowflakes


I liked the way it used to be
When snow was a surprise
And children laughed to see the flakes
That fell before their eyes.

But now we have a forecast tell
What time we’ll see the snow
They say how long the snow will last,
How strong the wind will blow

I really miss the excitement, though
Of faces, all aglow,
as children woke at morning light
To shout, Surprise, there’s snow!

Marilyn K. Walker
Palm Springs Branch, CA

A children’s writer? Sign up for our new children’s author group on Facebook. Open to children’s writers of all ages, NLAPW members or not, published or aspiring. Click here to join this new networking group.

Flash Fiction–Coffee Break

Coffee Break

They sit at separate tables sipping coffee. He reads the newspaper while she writes poetry. She begins a sonnet while he reads the same article for the third time, glancing up when he thinks she hasn’t noticed him. He studies the curve of her cheek and the way words flow from her pen. She’s aware of her surroundings and intensifies her actions, inclining her head slightly to display her chiseled profile. He absorbs every inch before he puts the paper down and goes over to say hello.

Carol White
Boca Raton Branch, FL

NLAPW Garden Tour in DC

As the holidays approach and the weather turns colder, here is a beautiful look back at the NLAPW’s “wildly” successful Garden Tour in Washington, DC at the end of October. Thank you Janie Owens for this article and photos. I’ve had this in my inbox for a while, so great to finally get it out to our followers! P.S. I think our Pen Arts mansion stands proud with the others!–Treanor Baring

Botanic Gardens, Washington, D.C.

Botanic Gardens, Washington, D.C.

D.C. Garden Tour

Members came from the shores of Florida and states such as Alabama, Ohio, Virginia and New York to partake of the glorious gardens and mansions within our Nation’s Capital.

From left to right: Bev Goldie, Janis Harris, Judy Ostrow

From left to right: Bev Goldie, Janis Harris, Judy Ostrow

What a complete delight this adventure was for our members in attendance!
From left to right: Amanda MacCormac, Janie Owens, Barbara Tran

From left to right: Amanda MacCormac, Janie Owens, Barbara Tran

Some of the gardens we visited were famous, and some of the mansions were breathtakingly beautiful, especially that of Hillwood, once owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post.

Inside the Post Mansion

Inside the Post Mansion

The opulence within this particular mansion was beyond one’s normal imagination with paintings, furniture, jewels and clothing on display.

Although many of the gardens we visited were gorgeous, Dumbarton Oaks Gardens had the most magnificent display and was enormous. The sea of roses was my favorite area.

A rose in the Dumbarten mansion gardens.

A rose in the Dumbarten mansion gardens.

We enjoyed a service on Sunday at the Franciscan Monastery and took a tour of this beautiful building, even going down into the catacombs. Some of us were privileged to visit St. Matthews Cathedral in our spare time, where Pope Francis recently gave services when he visited the U.S. This is a must see!

Members were spoiled by our two housemothers, Meletha Everett and Sandy Huff. Each in their own way made our stay at Pen Arts a joy. Meletha baked muffins every morning, leaving our taste buds desiring more. Sandy kept us organized in our daily adventures, which was similar to herding cats. And as tour companions, each had interesting questions to ask of our tour guides at every destination.

During our ‘spare’ time, we all sought out museums, cathedrals, shopping, restaurants and picture taking to capture the ambiance of our Nation’s Capital. It was a wonderful trip and those who thought about attending but didn’t, truly missed a great opportunity to meet other members amid the elegance of Pen Arts.

Main staircase at the Pen Arts Building, NLAPW Headquarters, Washington, DC

Main staircase at the Pen Arts Building, NLAPW Headquarters, Washington, DC

I had never been to Pen Arts and found it absolutely impressive in its appearance. I only hope another tour will be offered in the future so more members can visit our beautiful headquarters, make new friends and go sightseeing in this impressive city.
Elizabeth “Janie” Owens
Daytona Beach Branch Vice President

Poem of the Week–Grandbabies


Single grandma 47, looks 60.
Malnourished so the kids don’t go
without what cereal, soda she buys with food
stamps. Working 3 jobs for the roof over their
heads. Little ones cram on either side and at her feet
to sleep. Twin bed too small.
She warms them. Feels their cold toes
melt against her nightgown.

School, two more days
this week. She works the cafeteria
Thursdays, Fridays, home when the bus comes.
Never meant to raise preschoolers
kindergartners, not at her age. Son/daughter
arrested or vanished, world of
fast talk or drugs or drinking. Every school night,

after they lean sharp chins into the sink, brush their baby-teeth,
after she tucks them in rows like puppies in her bed,
she washes their underpants, one per child
in cold water with Ivory in the bathroom sink.
Hangs them in front of the oven to dry. Some nights
they don’t dry. Even a child has pride.
Going to school with no underwear. She does the best

she can. Christmas just another season
of not-enough, money for gifts and heat, electric,
light for homework. They write their notes to Santa. Trust
her to mail them though she has no stamps.
After the big bus bustles them away for the day
she opens one letter. Feels like a thief.
Crayon on wrinkled paper: “Dere Santa pleez
bring me a underpants. So I got one for ever day. Love.”

by Rachael Ikins
Central New York Branch