The local newspaper of the Palm Springs/Coachella Valley area is The Desert Sun. On Sunday, September 18, 2022, Creek Songs and I were honored to be the subject of an article in the Arts and Culture Section, written by reporter Joanne Hardy. Below is the link to the article.
I’m happy and honored and humbled to announce that my short story collection Creek Songs has been recognized as a Finalist in the “Fiction: Short Story” category of the 2022 International Book Awards. There were thousands of entries from all over the world for the various categories. Exciting times! http://www.internationalbookawards.com
Wishing congratulations to winner, Linda Feyder, and to the other Finalists in the short story category!
Fiction: Short Story
Winner All’s Fair and Other California Stories by Linda Feyder She Writes Press
Finalist Creek Songs by Carol Mann AquaZebra Book Publishing
Finalist Jinwar and Other Stories by Alex Poppe Cune Press
Finalist Pigeon Soup & Other Stories by Rosanna Micelotta Battigelli Inanna Publications and Education, Inc.
Finalist The Cupid Chronicles by Dennis Copelan Apricot Springs Publishing
Finalist The Sleep of Apples: Stories by Ami Sands Brodoff Inanna Publications
Finalist Whatever Happens, Probably Will: Stories by John W. MacIltroy Short Story America
(Finalists are in alphabetical order, not by merit.)
Congratulations to all the winners and finalists in all the categories.
The Palm Springs Writers Guild hosted its Member Appreciation event recently featuring readings, books for sale, food, and fun. Mellow jazz played in the background as members and guests mingled, browsed the book offerings, and noshed on self-serve goodies and drinks. After a welcome by the Guild’s president, a board member emceed the afternoon, creatively organized with readings, Q&A, and breaks for food and more mingling.
Eleven authors read – from children’s stories to poetry to excerpts from novels, short stories, and memoirs; the gamut of genre possibilities. The webmaster videoed the event.
In this video excerpt, I’m reading the opening scene of “A Brief Interruption,” one of the short stories in Creek Songs. If you have the book, the story’s on page 197. I lived in the Los Feliz district where the story takes place. I loved the area’s diversity; its people, foods, cultures, and languages. The district also had its problems . . . with petty crime and, sadly, major crime that alarmed the nation.
A painting can inspire a writer to paint with words. This “word painting” could be a poem, a piece of flash fiction, a short story, or perhaps even a novella or novel. A painting by artist Marlis Gray brought about this piece of flash fiction of approximately 350 words.
Chopin’s Conversation with a Harp
Chopin enters his music salon, mulling a motif. He strolls to his beloved grand. He deigns to play no other instrument/neither string nor woodwind nor brass nor other percussion. Only the piano and only his master crafted Pleyel grand. It responds to his touch, his emotions, his musical poesy.
With a note progression settling in his mind, he walks by the golden harp in place for the evening’s salon and sits before the piano keyboard. As he prepares to settle his fingers upon the keys, a female voice breaks the silence.
“Maestro Chopin, please play me. One of your creations would be so beautiful coming from my strings.”
Chopin looks about, sees no one, and resumes his intent.
“Oh, Maestro Chopin, please play me.”
“Who is speaking?” he asks. “I have no time for foolishness.”
Curious, he walks about the room to see from where this woman’s voice emanates. But no one lurks behind the arches or colonnades. Chopin coughs, then coughs again. He wonders, Is this yet another hallucination? Have I taken too much laudanum to gain comfort from my coughing disease?
“It is I speaking, the golden harp.”
“How can that be so?” Chopin, mystified, eases toward the harp. He runs his palm along its crown, down to its shoulder. He notes the tuning pins, examines the soundboard, sees the placement of the pedal. He touches the strings.
“Although I know you play no other instrument,” the harp pleads, “please try me.”
Bemused, Chopin pushes the piano bench into position by the harp, sits, tilts the body of the harp between his legs and rests its shoulder on his.
“This is all very intriguing,” he says, “but how can I play a harp? I don’t know how. Nor do I wish to learn. The piano emotes under my touch. I am the piano’s poet.”
“Ease your fingers onto my strings. I will do the rest.”
Chopin does so. His fingers begin to move. At first startled, he realizes he is playing his yet unwritten composition. The harp sings his newest etude. He is enraptured.
The hummingbird in this painting by artist JoAnn Fallstone becomes a metaphor for the writing of a piece of prose poetry. Art can inspire words onto paper, adding another layer of meaning to the story the painting already portrays.
The Poet Within
by Carol Mann
A Prose Poem
My inner poet is an exquisite hummingbird,
darting from flower to flower, from sip to sip,
savoring at long last the nectar of a solitary bloom.
She lingers, swoops away, returns, ready to play
with a poetic line. But the words flit and quiver,
fluttering amid scribbles and erasures. Over time,
phrases emerge, shiny and luminescent, to reveal a
white rose’s perfumed scent, the aroma of fresh
lemons, the forlorn oboe of Peter and the Wolf,
a lover’s touch. She flies, seeking multi-hued buds
of perception, to discover flowers of truth and beauty.
Creek Songs, my short story collection available on Amazon Books, will soon be available on Kindle. (I love writing short stories, bringing a character’s moment in time to fruition or . . . maybe not.) Short stories are great reads for a moment of relaxation and/or escape, are time friendly, and mood friendly. Others think so, too! Comments are coming in and are always appreciated. Here’s a review posted on the Creek Songs Amazon page:
Each and every story in Carol Mann’s debut collection is at once delightful and profound, showing the deft hand of a writer at the top of her craft. Some of these stories explore loss or regret, many are brightened with humor, and all are generous with a deep understanding of the human spirit. The 26 narratives contained in this volume are mostly fiction, while several could be described as essays or memoir. The closing entries have the wistful feel of introspective autobiography, particularly the story that shares its title with the book, “Creek Songs,” a tour de force in which the course of the author’s life is shaped by remembrances of a creek flowing past her childhood home.
If you’ve enjoyed Creek Songs, I’m a happy author. Thank you. I’d enjoy knowing your favorite story or favorite character. (Or reading your comments on the book’s Amazon page.)
I’m working on my next book, a novel, tentatively titled The Spence Women. I’m planning on the completion of the book and the end of summer to coincide!
Choosing a short story setting seems to occur in two ways. Sometimes the choice is conscious and sometimes it’s not.
For example, there may be a setting an author likes and simply knows that one day they will write a story and have it happen in that location. Case in point: I did intern teaching at an elementary school in Niagara Falls, New York. I saw the Falls every day. When I became interested in writing, I knew one of the stories I’d write would occur there.
The area fascinated me – the lore, the legends, the mist, the water’s roar. That story became “Ferelli’s Fall” and is in my newly released short story collection Creek Songs. Across from the American Falls (in the foreground) is the city of Niagara Falls, Canada. A climactic scene in the story takes place just north of that city.
Sometimes, though, a setting evolves organically from the needs of the characters. The latter is true for the short story “Behind the Triple K.” The tamarisk trees growing beside Interstate 10 and a span of railroad tracks in California’s Coachella Valley become a place of sanctuary . . . and reckoning for the characters. The characters themselves led me there.
Another way a setting is chosen is by an event, domestic or international. A story idea became very real to me as did the young protagonist. I could see the characters and feel the plot. I knew they were in a war situation. The idea morphed to WWII France and became the story titled “The First of the Season.”
What’s exciting is that a story may be set anywhere, limited only by the author’s imagination. By using the senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch) and such items as weather and time of day, the author can bring that setting to life, allowing the reader to “be there” and enjoy the story more fully.
I hope you like to read short stories. If you don’t, let me offer a few reasons to try them out. First, my short story collection Creek Songs is live on Amazon.com! More on point, short stories are user friendly, time friendly, and mood friendly.
User Friendly. Reading a short story collection is like shopping at Trader Joe’s. You can read the stories in order, similar to going up and down the aisles. Or you can wander around the pages, similar to strolling about the store to check out the flowers, then the What’s New Section, and then going to the dairy section to buy milk (which is the reason you came to the store.)
Time Friendly. Short stories vary in length, possibly as long as 15,000 words or as few words as six or less. (Here is an example of a six word story from Margaret Atwood: Longed for him. Got him. Shit.) My collection has one longer story called “Ferrelli’s Fall.” The others are in the 1500 to 3500 word range. A short story offers a nice bedtime read.
Mood Friendly. Do you want mystery, suspense, family, love, tension? Let the stories take you on a wild ride or allow you to savor a gentle moment. Neil Gaiman writes: A short story is the ultimate close-up magic trick – a couple of thousand words to take you around the universe or break your heart.
And so, here it is . . . Creek Songs. The stories follow a moment in the lives of flawed, everyday characters dealing with life and the quirks of chance, luck and fate. Settings range from Palm Springs to Niagara Falls to WWII France. The characters are young, old, and in-between. If you enjoy your experience, feel free to leave a comment on Goodreads or Amazon. Reviews are always appreciated. As songwriter Carl Perkins notes, Without the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no song. To me, that’s a perfect way to explain the ebb and flow of the human experience.
We’ve been living in a surreal world where time has stalled, where a pandemic, sickness, fear, death, heroic health care workers, vaccines, economic hardship, health concerns, and isolation from family and friends have surrounded us. What a time we have seen.
My mask wardrobe includes N95s, cloth and the standard blue/whites. I wear them where mandated and where I think the situation dictates. I am vaccinated. I choose my gatherings and my activities. I’m keeping myself safe and others.
Back orders on international and domestic deliveries, workplace changes and suspended community activities affect us daily. Children returning to school, hospital crowding, over-worked health care workers and the health of our citizens worry us every day. Grave international and domestic situations fill our news.
As a society we have been carrying a heavy load. But I am mindful of the legacy of 9/11, of the bravery of all involved, of our oneness as a nation during that time, of common values. And that’s where I will focus; on our unity as a people, as Americans who care more about what unites us than what divides us. I will turn a blind eye to misinformation and emotionally charged propaganda; to crass showmanship and misguided stories. And I will vote.
Time confronted us with something different, beyond what we could have imagined. It will shape us in new ways, but let’s face these new ways as a united people.
September 9, 2011, fills me with emotion and makes me want the best for our country; to forever acknowledge the legacy, the bravery, the loss – and the oneness – of these United States.