Tag Archives: Sunday

Sunday silliness: “That day”

Send away that day. /

That one! I don’t want it. /

It is called Monday.


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FutureScapes: Write your story, change the world

Novelist Robert A. Heinlein autographing one of his works.

FutureScapes is an annual writing competition that asks writers to envision a particular future, and tell us its story. We could run projections and publish reports, but there’s a reason why Oscar Wilde didn’t say, “Life imitates empirical studies.” We want to help writers of excellent potential find their voice while shaping tomorrow.

2017 Theme

For 2017, the Futurescapes Contest theme is “Blue Sky Cities.” We’re seeking stories set in a near-future city where significant strides have been made toward improving air quality, climate adaptation, or even net positive impacts on climate and air quality.

We want to see your vivid ideas and concepts, but don’t forget the basics of story: strong voice, compelling characters driven by real desires, facing serious obstacles that sum to an engaging plot and story.

You need not paint us a utopia – we don’t really believe in those. We believe that at any given time, depending on individual perspective, every city has dystopian and utopian aspects. The key is to show us a solution, but don’t strip it of realistic political, scientific, or logistical obstacles, and don’t neglect the possibility and ramifications of unintended consequences from even the best solution.

Source: http://www.futurescapescontest.com/

Contest Rules






  1. No entry fee is required to submit one (1) entry to the contest. However, an author may opt to submit a second story for consideration in the contest for a fee of twenty-four dollars ($24).
  2. By entering the contest, contestants acknowledge that they have read the instructions.
  3. Prize money constitutes compensation to the winning authors in exchange for the purchase by the contest of exclusive print and electronic rights of the story for a period of one (1) year following the first date of publication of the story.
  4. All entries must be original works written in English. Plagiarism of any kind will not be tolerated.
  5. Professional authors are not eligible to enter the contest. A professional author is defined as someone who has accepted payment and/or signed contracts for published fiction in the amount of either; a) four paid published works of short fiction at a minimum average compensation rate of 6 cents per word with a total compensation of at least $1,000; or b) a work of long fiction (40,000 words or greater) for which the author was paid at least $2,500 in compensation.
  6. Entries must be works of prose not to exceed 8,000 words in length.
  7. Excessive or gratuitous violence, language, or sexual content will not be tolerated.
  8. The story must be written on and conform to the official theme of the contest year. The theme for the 2017 contest year is: Blue Sky Cities.
  9. All entries must be submitted electronically through the submission form available on the contest website.
  10. Entries must be double-spaced, follow standard manuscript format, with the title and page number on each page. The entry should include a cover page listing the author’s name. The author’s name should appear nowhere else in the document.
  11. Each contestant may submit only one entry per contest year.
  12. The prizes for the contest shall consist of one (1) first place prize in the amount of $2,000, and five (5) runner up prizes in in the amount of $500 each. As noted, prize money is considered compensation in exchange for the purchase of story publication rights by the contest. As such, compensation will consist of a minimum amount of $.0625 (6.25 cents) per published word.
  13. Winners will be individually notified by contest staff.

Source: http://www.futurescapescontest.com/


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The Devil’s Dictionary: “Insurance”

In our continuing quest to revisit a classic, or even a curiosity from the past and see how relevant it is, we continue with The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce. Originally published in newspaper installments from 1881 until 1906. You might be surprised how current many of the entries are.

A young Ambrose Bierce

For example, here is a definition for the word Insurance. The Old definitions are Bierce’s. The New definition is mine. From time to time, just as it was originally published, we will come back to The Devil’s Dictionary, for a look at it then and how it applies today. Click on Devil’s Dictionary in the tags below to bring up the other entries.

Insurance, n. An ingenious modern game of chance in which the player is permitted to enjoy the comfortable conviction that he is beating the man who keeps the table.


INSURANCE AGENT: My dear sir, that is a fine house – pray let me insure it.

HOUSE OWNER: With pleasure. Please make the annual premium so low that by the time when, according to the tables of your actuary, it will probably be destroyed by fire I will have paid you considerably less than the face of the policy.

INSURANCE AGENT: O dear, no – we could not afford to do that. We must fix the premium so that you will have paid more.

HOUSE OWNER: How, then, can _I_ afford _that_?

INSURANCE AGENT: Why, your house may burn down at any time. There was Smith’s house, for example, which —

HOUSE OWNER: Spare me – there were Brown’s house, on the contrary, and Jones’s house, and Robinson’s house, which—


HOUSE OWNER: Let us understand each other. You want me to pay you money on the supposition that something will occur previously to the time set by yourself for its occurrence. In other words, you expect me to bet that my house will not last so long as you say that it will probably last.

INSURANCE AGENT: But if your house burns without insurance it will be a total loss.

HOUSE OWNER: Beg your pardon – by your own actuary’s tables I shall probably have saved, when it burns, all the premiums I would otherwise have paid to you – amounting to more than the face of the policy they would have bought. But suppose it to burn, uninsured, before the time upon which your figures are based. If I could not afford that, how could you if it were insured?

INSURANCE AGENT: O, we should make ourselves whole from our loss.

HOUSE OWNER: And virtually, then, don’t I help to pay their losses? Are not their houses as likely as mine to burn before they have paid you as much as you must pay them? The case stands this way: you expect to take more money from your clients than you pay to them, do you not?

INSURANCE AGENT: Certainly; if we did not—

HOUSE OWNER: I would not trust you with my money. Very well then. If it is _certain_, with reference to the whole body of your clients, that they lose money on you it is _probable_, with reference to any one of them, that _he_ will. It is these individual probabilities that make the aggregate certainty.

INSURANCE AGENT: I will not deny it – but look at the figures in this pamph—

HOUSE OWNER: Heaven forbid!

INSURANCE AGENT: You spoke of saving the premiums which you would otherwise pay to me. Will you not be more likely to squander them? We offer you an incentive to thrift.

HOUSE OWNER: The willingness of A to take care of B’s money is not peculiar to insurance, but as a charitable institution you command esteem. Deign to accept its expression from a Deserving Object.


Insurance, n. A broad term covering several versions of an ingenious and something disingenuous modern game of chance in which the player is permitted to enjoy the comfortable conviction person that he is getting what he paid his premiums for. This is especially true in health insurance and policies such as long term disability.

ACCOUNT MANAGER (now they call them account managers): Sir, I only received the files from the short term disability people. It will take us a week to input them into our system.

POLICY OWNER (though he or she actually owns nothing): I will call you back in a week, then.


A week later.

ACCOUNT MANAGER: Yes, the files are input, but we need something from your employer stating that you are eligible for long term disability. I have sent them an e-mail, but have heard nothing back. I can’t send your files on to the medical staff for review until I get that information.

POLICY OWNER: How long will the medical review take?

ACCOUNT MANAGER: At least a week.

POLICY OWNER: Then I will have long term disability?

ACCOUNT MANAGER: If they have enough information and if they agree, you will then qualify.


POLICY OWNER: (Dials his employer’s benefits number.) After pressing several buttons to get through the gauntlet of the automated menu, finally, after one or two transfers, reaches the “right” person and explains the situation.

LTD BENEFITS PERSON: Yes, I received the e-mail, but it was only on Friday and today is Tuesday. Besides, I need a current job description before I can send a response. (Pauses as if something is wrong, or she may have discovered something.) I will need to check into this.


On Friday of the same week.

ACCOUNT MANAGER: I received a response, but they did not include information when the policy was effective. Even if it was years ago that it first became active, we need to know that date.

POLICY OWNER: The date of the policy?


POLICY OWNER: I took out the policy when it was first offered to me over seven years ago. So, it’s over seven years.



ACCOUNT MANAGER: Yes, but they need to send me the date.

POLICY OWNER: Since your company is carrying the policy, don’t you have that date?

ACCOUNT MANAGER: Your employer needs to send me the date.

POLICY OWNER: Once you get the date, you can submit the files to the medical people?

ACCOUNT MANAGER: Yes, but once they take a look at, if they approve, it then goes to my supervisor, who send it up to the directors’ level.


ACCOUNT MANAGER: Because this was a previously closed case, and to fully reopen it, the directors will have to approve.

POLICY OWNER: How long will that take?

ACCOUNT MANAGER: That can take up to two months.

POLICY HOLDER: Two months?


The sound of yes begins to sound very much like “No.” It is only used in response to delays and additional obstacles.

POLICY OWNER: (Dials his employer. Gets shoved into a voice mail que, where he leaves his name, who he wants to speak with, and what it is about. This is roughly at 10 AM. At 3 PM he calls back and after punching his way through several automated menus, he reaches the same voice mail que, but this time he is told it is full and the system hangs up on him.)


Filed under 2017, Ambrose Bierce, Devil's Dictionary

2017 Knoxville Writers’ Guild Contest


“Home is where the heart is.” – Proverb

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.”
– Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

As the shadows lengthen and the verdure of summer yellows and browns, thoughts turn to the approach of cooler weather, longer nights, and our families. For many of us the start of the new school year conjures gilded memories of childhood. Increasingly, Halloween kicks off the holiday season by letting our imaginations dabble in alternative realities: costumes, masks, hauntings, and mazes let us self-determine the constructs of our lives, at least for an evening. We disguise ourselves and play tricks on one another before the formalities and traditions of Thanksgiving and the winter holidays order our hours, days, and weeks. Throughout autumn the idea of family moves closer and closer to the center of our thoughts and activities. And as it does, we reflect on ourselves in relation to others with whom we share the moniker ‘family’.

With this in mind, the Knoxville Writers’ Guild is opening its first Autumn Writing Contest with ‘Family’ as the theme. We are inviting submissions that examine the complex nature of families and our relationships with those deemed closest to us by culture, society, and blood.

2017  Knoxville Writers’ Guild Autumn Contest

The Knoxville Writers Guild is accepting submissions for the its first Autumn Knoxville Writers Guild Contest beginning August 31, 2017 through midnight, October 31, 2017.

Contestants may enter their work in several categories including poetry, literary nonfiction and literary short fiction. There is also a Young Writers category in which student may submit in any of the previously mentioned genres. Judges will be announced shortly.

Please direct questions regarding the contest here.

Literary Short Fiction

Entry consists of one short story totaling no more than 3,000 words. See General Guidelines for additional instructions.
Members: Free
Non-Members: $30


Entry consists of no more than three typed poems totaling 100 lines or fewer. If more than one poem is entered on the same submission, poems will be judged as a collection. There are no restrictions as far as style, content or spacing.
See General Guidelines.
Members: Free
Non-Members: $30

Literary Nonfiction

Entry consists of one typed, double-spaced nonfiction essay of no more than 3,000 words.
See General Guidelines.
Members: Free
Non-Members: $30


Young Writers
Open to all students grades 7 through 12 of Knox and adjoining counties.

Fiction: Entry consists of one short story or stand-alone novel excerpt totaling no more than 3,000 words, double-spaced.
Nonfiction: Entry consists of essay totaling no more than 3,000 words, double-spaced.
Poetry: Up to a maximum of three typed poems totaling 100 lines or fewer with no restrictions as far as style, content or spacing.  Poems should be submitted as a single document. Poems will be judged as a collection.

Do not include any identifying information on the submissions themselves.

If you are a teacher or school submitting entries on behalf of your students, please add the following information in addition to the information required by the General Guidelines:

  • School name
  • Teacher or school representative name
  • School Address
  • School phone number

Please contact us if your school or club needs any additional information for bookkeeping or payment purposes.
Students: Free

Complete guidelines for the entries can be found here.

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Rotten Reviews or Rejections

Even well-known works at one time were unknown … and often rejected. Or if published, did not meet with universal praise. Here is an example of the later.


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The 10 Best John Ashbery Poems

Picked by Karin Roffman, author of ‘The Songs We Know Best: John Ashbery’s Early Life.’

Source: The 10 Best John Ashbery Poems

By Karin Roffman

John Ashbery, who turns 90 next month, published Commotion of the Birds, his 28th volume of poetry, last October. Choosing the 10 “best” volumes from this vast and remarkable oeuvre would be a challenge. Choosing the 10 “best” poems seems well-nigh impossible.

Recently, however, a student asked me: “Which John Ashbery poem would you read first?” Her question offered an approach to this assignment that I particularly liked. So I have decided to pick 10 Ashbery poems that I suggest reading early and often.

I have not ordered the poems chronologically; instead, I’ve arranged them loosely following the arc of a day. In writing the biography of Ashbery’s early life, I constantly returned to these poems for they remind me of how the poet is drawn to familiar moments when we sleep, dream, eat, think, feel bored, see movies, fear death, and fall in love. Taken together, these 10 poems create the experience of a life—from the mundane to the profound—a reading path that I hope will send you back to his poems for more.

  1. “Wakefulness” (Wakefulness, 1998)

This poem begins at the end of a dream, in that moment when one is awake but still partially in the dream. As a young poet, Ashbery found this sensation conducive to writing and kept paper and a pen by his bed. (He wrote “The Painter” in this state.) As the speaker awakens, “[L]ittle by little the idea of the true way returned to me.” The statement sounds like a restoration of consciousness, but, in fact, the speaker is tunneling deeper into his dream-like mood because its sense of unreality sharpens his perception. In this altered state, he has a vision: “A gavotte of dust-motes / came to replace my seeing.” These musical, dancing dust specks are beautiful, and we can suddenly imagine this indoor sight to be as sublimely lovely and inspiring as Wordsworth’s golden daffodils.

  1. “Adam Snow” (April Galleons, 1987) [Library of America Volume I, page 819]

Ashbery grew up in upstate New York near Lake Ontario, in an area full of dramatic shifts in weather and a lot of snow, which he observed closely in a diary he kept for four years in high school. I choose this poem less for its climate references than for its clear expression of an idea Ashbery first conveyed quite simply in these daily diary entries, the notion that the ordinary and the extraordinary exist side-by-side in our mind. “Adam Snow” shifts between these states of thinking, and it also demonstrates how we constantly move between them without even noticing: “That you may be running through thistles one moment / And across a sheet of thin ice the next and not be aware / of any difference, only that you have been granted an extension.”

  1. “They Knew What They Wanted” (Planisphere, 2008)

The poem is a cento, a form made up entirely of quotations. This one consists exclusively of movie titles that begin with “They,” a list both absurd and surprisingly coherent. Ashbery wrote the poem a decade ago during a period when he was indulging in Turner Classic Movies and busy making collages, something he had started doing for fun in college. These whimsical pieces look like visual poems; this cento is also a kind of poetic collage with so many different movie references stuck together. A movie buff from an early age (“The Lonedale Operator” recounts his very first movie-going experience as a kindergartner), Ashbery’s delight in film titles, character names, witty dialogue and even minor plot points has infiltrated his poetry since he was eight.

  1. “Soonest Mended” (The Double Dream of Spring, 1970) [Library of America Volume I, pages 184-86]

The title is a shortened proverb: “Least Said, Soonest Mended.” A young John Ashbery heard it said by his strict Victorian grandparents, and he learned to keep things to himself. Following this precept, the poem avoids making a direct complaint, and the speaker says “we” and not “I.” The poem is, however, an explanation of what it feels like to be an outsider; the first 35 lines describe struggling to grow up and fit in, being conscious of not belonging. Then the poem offers an understated and moving summary of the opening section: “These then were some hazards of the course.” Ashbery once described this poem as his “one-size-fits-all confessional poem,” which is a way of saying that the poem is aware of both the author’s own childhood miseries—growing up gay and artistic in a family and small town that valued none of those things—and that every person has his or her own story, their own “hazards of the course.”

  1. “But What Is the Reader To Make of This?” (A Wave, 1984) [Library of America Volume I, page 742]

Poetry illuminates the shadowy world of the “interior life,” but its finest feature may be that it has no use at all: “this afternoon / Those delicious few words spread around like jam / Don’t matter.” Of Ashbery’s many ars poeticas (including “What is Poetry”), this one is my favorite.

  1. “Syringa” (Houseboat Days, 1977) [Library of America Volume I, pages 534-36]

“Syringa” turns the story of Orpheus’s grief into a familiar and devastating tale. In the classic myth, Eurydice suddenly dies and Orpheus uses his exceptional lyric gifts to convince the gods to let him bring her back from the underworld, but when he looks back to make sure she’s still behind him—something the gods tell him he must not do—he loses her again forever. The tragic tale has inspired many artists since Ovid to retell it, but in Ashbery’s unsentimental version, Orpheus is just a guy who doesn’t get that his problem is insoluble, even with the help of art, gods or heroism. Ashbery writes: “Of course Eurydice vanished into the shade; / She would have even if he hadn’t turned around.” Eurydice is the past, and the past always disappears. How could Orpheus forget something so obvious? Ashbery’s reading reminds us of the pedestrian and brutal facts of time, which no one escapes.

  1. “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror” (Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, 1975) [Library of America Volume I, pages 474-87]

While perusing Ashbery’s class notes from college, I found a reference to the 15th-century painter, Francesco Parmigianino—the subject of this intimate and luminous poem written 30 years later—misspelled in the margin. Ashbery quickly forgot about this early encounter, and years later rediscovered the painter’s work as if for the first time. It seems fitting that a poem about the entangling of life and art—or, as Ashbery concisely puts it, “life englobed”—would have a misremembered origin. The poet examines Parmigianino’s process of creation and his own, recognizing that as an artist makes something new from life, he also loses something in the process: “Often he finds / He has omitted the thing he started out to say / In the first place.” The residue of these absent words still exists through art, however, and provides a catalyst for the artist and audience to rediscover life and self.

  1. “The New Spirit” (Three Poems, 1972) [Library of America Volume I, pages 247-80]

Ensconced in the “moonlight,” the speaker reflects on all he has thought and felt before this moment, and he finds new confidence in the possibility that this waning hour actually offers him a chance for renewal. He realizes that the questions he has been asking repeatedly about life ever since “the fuzzy first thought that gets started in you,” are, in fact, the right ones, and that he must continue. Almost quivering with excitement, he begins “a new journey.”

  1. “Breezeway” (Breezeway, 2015)

The poem imagines a bridge—“a breezeway”—to the world beyond this one. It literalizes the idea of life after death and, in doing so, makes the extraordinary seem ordinary. Those in this world are full of thoughts of the next, but how does one get there? You walk, of course. But why would one ever want to leave this world? This life has comic book heroes and weather and amusing misunderstandings, but it is often also rather dull and meaningless. Batman is bored watching mere mortals try to get through their day. Yet even those moments of tedium can have a transcendent rhythm and spirit, which Batman, for all his godlike qualities, just can’t quite perceive.

  1. “Some Trees” (Some Trees, 1956) [Library of America Volume I, page 26]

Written in 1948 when Ashbery was only 21 and a senior at Harvard College, this brief lyric has everything that his later, much longer, poems will advance. It is a love poem that never mentions love directly, but a feeling of being in love infuses the way the speaker sees, feels, and thinks about everything. It makes him feel both small and big, a tiny piece of a greater universe, but nonetheless connected to a world full of mystery and grandeur. A sense of the universe comes from gazing up at those huge trees from the ground while in love and remembering the immensity of that experience of feeling and thinking.


Karin Roffman’s The Songs We Know Best: John Ashbery’s Early Life is the first in-depth biography of one of the 20th century’s greatest poets. The narrative follows Ashbery, who was born in 1927, up to 1955, when W.H. Auden awarded Ashbery’s debut collection, Some Trees, the Yale Younger Poets prize. In addition to providing insight into Ashbery’s personal life and work, Roffman provides wonderful analysis of his poems. Roffman picks 10 of the best Ashbery poems. Links to the poems are provided.

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Sunday silliness: “Most used; most abused”

And the word for your state is…?


Where do you fit in?


So, take the most-used word in a state and the most misspelled word and see what happens. For example, for Tennessee is is Chaos is the most misspelled work and Stuff the word used most often. Chaos and Stuff. Well, too much stuff can lead to chaos, and it gets more Kayotic if you can’t spell Kayos. Or California where the most misspelled word is Beautiful and the most-used work is But. Everything is Beautiful in its own way, but not necessarily Butteful. Or Kentucky, where you can be Vary Butteful.




Filed under 2017, Sunday silliness, word play, words