Book News: Writing About COVID w/ Capsule Stories

Let’s get real: it was excruciating to write about COVID while existing through COVID. Whatever I managed to get on the page never felt right and it usually didn’t follow any kind of format, likely because I felt like I was drowning- drowning in e-learning, in uncertainty, in anxiety, and just about every other stressor you likely felt as well. In short, I wrote a LOT of very weird $%&*.

It took a long time to feel like I had something significant to share. So when I wrote a piece of flash (this means under 750 words and presenting with a succinct narrative in a profound moment), I knew it was something I could stand by. I knew it was a marker in time, a notch in history. I sent it out and received word last month that it would be picked up by Capsule Stories for their Second Isolation Edition (work written entirely during quarantine). Some literary publications put out digital magazines, some still print, but in this case, Capsule publishes in paperback. So I am humbled to share that my piece ‘Self-Storage’ has been published in this anthology.

I wrote ‘Self-Storage’ when I realized my then 5-year-old had outgrown the little handmade fabric mask that my sister had sewn for her. I grappled with the notion of storing and saving things from 2020, knowing full well that sometime in the future, one of my grandchildren will tell me they need to write a paper on the ‘pandemic of 2020’ and would I answer some questions? I know those days of retrospect are coming.

And I truly feel like this story (all 1 page of it) can explain it all- the heaviness, the energy, the worry, and the desperate attempts to make the best of it when I could.

If you are so inclined to purchase this book, it is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, and available by request wherever books are sold. I sincerely thank you for supporting my words and my work.

Book Release: Turning Points

It’s been a surreal week and I was able to do something I’ve dreamt of for so long: walk into a book store and hold a copy of my book.

In sharing this news, I think it’s important to infuse this caveat: I’ve had many other writing/book projects fail. I had a children’s book and a literary agent that never crossed the publishing finish line. I lost my longstanding newspaper column during the pandemic (and learned of this by reading The Chicago Tribune). I had a book of columns get rebuffed. I’ve had a full novel get a ton of buzz from agents without a single bite. All of that was devastating. But I still kept writing.

We never quite know what makes some projects flourish while others flounder- timing, trend, and a handful of other unique details. But I am immensely proud to have my short story ‘Outfit of the Day’ anthologized in Turning Points, the 75th Anniversary Anthology put out by the Off-Campus Writers’ Workshop. It was a marvel to collaborate with other writers- my first time doing so (also my first foray into fiction).

In being a Winnetka-based writing group, I was so heartened to see the response of readers willing to order this book through our local, indie book shop, The Book Stall. When I received the shop’s weekly newsletter, I was astounded to see Turning Points prominently featured on their Bestseller list. It was truly humbling. It made me especially thankful for all of my failed endeavors- yes, you read that correctly- to be a writer to learn to hold hands with the heavy onslaught of rejection. To grow from it. To fuel for the next opportunity. To push for what seems impossible.

If you are interested in ordering Turning Points, please consider ordering from your local book store. If that is not a possibility, please consider Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or inquiring with your local library.

One last thought to anyone who writes or has an urge to write- just keep going.

At Long Last, Some Book News

It is delightfully surreal to share that I have a book coming out. My short story ‘Outfit of the Day’ will be published in an Anthology titled ‘Turning Points.’

The backstory: I am a member of Off Campus Writers’ Workshop in Winnetka. The group is marking its 75th Anniversary as a longstanding Chicago writing group and as such, is publishing a short story Anthology- a whisk of mystery, fantasy, contemporary, historical, memoir, and the many turning points that move us ahead.

This is my first published work of fiction. It’s a process that began way back in October of 2019- yes, simpler times. What I love about Anthologies is that there is a little something for everyone. In my critique group alone, there were stories of a long-fought war, a high school student attending Turnabout, a neighbor curious about a new baby, and a cherished puffer coat passed down to a friend in need. All of these short stories tugged at me in unique ways. As for my story? It appears under the section titled ‘Unexpected Outcomes.’

You can preorder ‘Turning Points’ at The Book Stall in Winnetka. In belonging to a Winnetka-based writing group, it was important to us that we support our local, independent book store. Thank you for shopping local and for supporting the amazing contributors of OCWW.

Daylight Savings Crime

Either 5am or 7:47am
There is no in-between

The house is quiet and heavy with slumber
Even the shutters join in, and silently snore
We’re running late (and nobody cares)

Sun, then snow, then sun again
Snow will always be the last to leave
So keep the heavy jackets with heavy blankets
and hold them until the grass stains

Robbed of light to be given light
A trade off
We love…to hate
As we throw the alarm

There is no in-between
Of Daylight Savings Crime

-Kelly Q. Anderson

Leprechaun Traps and March Tricks

I grossly underestimated the intensity my children have when it comes to trapping a leprechaun. This morning, my daughter ran screaming into my room to tell me that the ‘green stuff’ in our house had been moved, therefore, tiny little leprechauns were out making mischief.

When I asked her to clarify, she pointed at a small green stapler on the countertop and a spice jar of Bay Leaves next to it (basically, the casual, everyday mess that is my kitchen).

“See? Look at this stuff just laying around,” she confirmed. “Hey, did you by any chance hear tiny little voices saying ‘tee hee hee’?”

“No.”

(she was not please by this response).

Yesterday, I took my kids and their active imaginations to the library, where they beelined for Irish-themed books (as well as some historical ones for Wells, who is getting a kick out of history). I agreed to make a lot of green food this month (they requested green beans and mint milkshakes). I also made a tentative plan to try and attempt my family’s famous Irish soda bread recipe. Every cardboard box has been claimed in order to craft the most skilled and accurate leprechaun trap.

We are full tilt for mischief. Here’s hoping you are too.

Start Me Up

The new year has rolled out and the rollercoaster has begun. In just the first half of January, there have been dramatic shifts and prods within social media, government, law enforcement, D.E.I., journalism, and more. Brad Montague touched upon the enormity of this time as ‘toomuchery.’ The world keeps changing, the world keeps staying the same. Routine mixed with chaos, stirred with uncertainty. What happens when our very democracy is under violent attack and my child approaches me and asks for help with homework? He’s working on calculating area. Length x width.

The other day I impulse bought a set of clearance rack barrettes from Target. As if that would help anything. As if it would lessen the anxiety. But they sparkle on Zoom. They shimmer under the light of our dinner table. They help hide that awkward hair length I’m at- the growing-out-phase. But really, there is no help for moving through uncertainty. Sparkle is merely a distraction.

Family continues with distance and technology, and the occasional freezing cold walk at a forest preserve.

Our dog, Putter, continues to burrow on our laps and spread the warmth wherever she goes. In the ever-chill of a midwestern winter, I don’t really mind it. I’m just not always ready when I’m sitting down with coffee and a furry bundle leaps into my startled lap.

On Tuesday, Fitz cracked open an Ina Garten cookbook and made the fanciest comfort food he could find: lobster BLTs. They were sensational. A hall-of-fame kind of sandwich.

Clean, purge, donate. Every year this happens. The doling out of holiday decor, the sweeping removal of it, and my insistence at stripping things down, down, down to necessity. In a world of no control, I have to stop myself from pacing or organizing. In doing so, Fitz dug through office drawers and uncovered a treasure among relics (a rolodex! ancient biz cards!). Before the world changed and tilted, he had purchased a pair of earrings on Etsy for me. My initials. The two letters that have been singular in my identity for so long. A really lovely, thoughtful gift. It reminded me of that moment in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Clark is in the attic, attempting to discreetly hide presents…until he uncovers a dusty Mother’s Day gift from 1984. Oops.

I picked a helluva time to start school again but the program was just too good and the Instagram ad hit at the right time. Despite the chaos of schedule, I have really enjoyed eCornell. I’m studying Diversity & Inclusion.

Every day is still fresh. Every opportunity is still present. Yes, this year has already been too much, but many days lay ahead. Many days lay ahead. Start me up.

5 Good Things

Teddy pupPlease enjoy this gratuitous photo of snuggly dog + snuggly teddy bear.

It’s the end of July. HOW? Really?

Yes. Really. It just keeps going. Here are five good things that might change your mood from ‘meh’ to ‘hmm.’

1. This Kale, Sausage, & White Bean recipe via Cup of Jo. My family loves it and always fights over who gets seconds.

2. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. Ms. Reid was just nominated for the 2020 Booker Prize. I read her book back in March and was WOWed by it (trust when I say it lives up to the hype). A cousin just called me up out of the blue and said, “You read ‘Such a Fun Age’ right?” We then proceeded to talk excitedly for the next hour. Mini book club via phone!

3. Netflix recommendations: The Babysitters Club for a hearty dose of nostalgia, the rebooted Unsolved Mysteries for suspense and drama (the French count who escaped?! WHOA).

4. Tennis. Yup, I’m branching out of my comfort zone and taking lessons. This meant I had to add a few tennis outfits to my wardrobe (I had none. NONE). I really enjoy Prince, a house brand of Dicks Sporting Goods, particularly this top and this tennis skirt.

5. Folklore by Taylor Swift. My head and heart are spinning with this album. It’s the morose, ethereal soundtrack of 2020. I am crushed by the beauty of ‘My tears ricochet’ and ‘Exile,’ but ‘The Last Great American Dynasty’ is fantastically fun because the singer enters the narrative when you least expect it.

Into the Motherhood

Hello friends. Hello mamas. Hello to anyone who’s been that beautiful, guiding force of maternal care. Today is a day for recognizing all the amazing facets you are. Motherhood is a big, gorgeous mosaic. It’s a stunning image concocted from tiny, fragmented moments: middle-of-the-night feedings, tantrums, milestones, growing pains, birthday candles, soccer goals, wiping tears, couch snuggles, catching vomit in your hands, clapping at the spring concert, playing one last round of checkers, and more. It’s beautiful. It’s scary. It’s so many things. But today, motherhood is unity. It’s all of us together, figuring this out, taking in the mosaic. No matter where we see ourselves in the art form, we are most certainly there. Happy Mother’s Day.