Monday, December 3, 2018

Book Your Stocking with Kendra Fortmeyer

Book Your Stocking: December 3

Book Your Stocking 2018 
Well, friends and folks, we've reached the changing of the seasons and, thus, the festivities, customs, and traditions that winter brings. Here at What She Might Think, that custom is Book Your Stocking. All December, writers and readers will share books they would be delighted to discover in their winter stockings--or in their sock drawers, really . . . or dryers, which would be a lovely tradition: to find a book in your sock, wherever your sock may be. If you try that with family or friends, let me know.

This year on Book Your Stocking, writers will share The One: the book that captured their imaginations this year, whether that's an old book remembered, one they lost track of, one they are craving to read, one they did read and now love, or even a book that doesn't exist but how magical life would be if it did exist and appear in one's stocking--and so on: so many books, so many possibilities, so many socks and stockings to fill and unfill.

Please welcome the first contributor of the season, Austin, Texas author Kendra Fortmeyer.


As a Jew, I have no idea how Santa works -- I'm pretty sure he's a time traveler, right? I hope so, because that would allow him to leave the perfect book in my stocking: Gita Trelease’s debut Enchantee, which is forthcoming from Flatiron in February 2019.

This book – a YA fantasy set in Paris during the French Revolution – has everything: a bloodthirsty dress, a desperate heroine bound to save her sister, the birth of balloon aeronautics, the gilded intrigue of Marie Antoinette’s Versailles, a cameo by Marquis de Lafayette, magic powered by sorrow... it’s rich, luscious and intoxicating, a perfect winter read.

Kendra Fortmeyer

About today's contributor:

Kendra Fortmeyer is the author of the magical realist young adult novel Hole in the Middle, and a bunch of weird short fiction. Her work has won the Pushcart Prize and appeared or is forthcoming in The Best American Nonrequired Reading, LeVar Burton Reads, One Story, The Toast, Lightspeed, and elsewhere. Find her at @kendraffe or



Check out more recommendations from Book Your Stocking contributors: 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Willow Springs, I'd nominate you for a Pushcart if there were an application

Willow Springs, Issue 82
The Pushcart Prize is an annual award bestowed upon written works published in small journals the previous calendar year. Most journals vie for the awards by nominating works for the prize, and submitting them to the Pushcart Committee for review.

This is the time of the year when you'll begin to see nomination announcements from editors, journals, and writers themselves. This is one such announcement. My story "Valentine's Day," published in the Fall issue of Willow Springs (Issue 82), has been nominated for a Pushcart by those-behind-the-pages of the magazine.

Willow Springs is a long-standing magazine based out of Eastern Washington University; every issue is created, curated, and run by writing students in the Master of Fine Arts program.

"Valentine's Day" follows three brothers on a night several years after their father's sudden death. It's a long story, at the 50-page mark; so I'm not only honored that they published it, as most journals shy from long works, but I'm also honored that they have risked nominating it since works awarded the Pushcart are published in an anthology, and so, again, space is surely considered by the committee when selecting the best works for an anthology that isn't a million pages long.
First page of the story Valentine's Day by Erin Pringle
Valentine's Day by Erin Pringle,
published in Willow Springs Issue 82

But, listen, my dear reader, luck's on your side no matter my Pushcart fate; you and all your favorite people can read "Valentine's Day" by ordering Issue 82 of Willow Springs ($8).

Additionally, you can subscribe to the journal ($18/year). Of course, when you subscribe, you're actively supporting the arts, culture, and the written pursuit of reality--not to mention ensuring the ongoing opportunity for graduate students to learn the craft of journal curation, creation, and publication. Willow Springs publishes non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and interviews. It's also one of few remaining markets that pays its contributors in cash-money (as opposed to payment in the form of a copy of the journal).

Now, I'd like to speak directly to everyone at Willow Springs. Thank you for supporting my work through publishing it and, now, nominating it for such a prize. Even if you don't consider it a risk (good on you), it was. And much of writing, if not life, is battling people, institutions, and groups who swerve from risk or interpret it as a wilderness that should be a hedge. Thankfully, confidence is contagious and yours plays no small part in my ability to write more today. Thank you for all the time, energy, and focus you have given and give the journal, its contributors, its writers, and our culture. May another group of readers and editors bless you with the same support and confidence as you go forward with your writing, editing, and arts careers.

P.S. Learn more about the Pushcart Prize at their website.
P.S.S. Follow Willow Springs on Facebook to learn about past, present, and upcoming issues.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Spunky the Turkey, We Like You

Spunky the Turkey
This Thanksgiving, our family decided to adopt a turkey. That's right. So, Henry and I looked through all the turkeys and their stories at Farm Sanctuary, and Spunky's story stood out most to him because it involved an adventurous rescue directly from a factory farm. Spunky lives at the Farm Sanctuary in Southern California. Until the day we can meet Spunky, we will proudly display this turkey's portrait and adoption certificate in our home (in a prominent place, far from the dinner table, this Thanksgiving)!
I learned about Farm Sanctuary from my friend Tina when she was living in New York. She would share posts on Facebook about her involvement with the organization, from visiting the farm, to fundraising for the organization through dedicating races to them, to adopting a turkey every Thanksgiving. 
I'm so thankful for friends who lift us up, like my Tina who constantly reminds me, no matter where she lives in the world, that the community we live in is large and good when we include all creatures great and small.
Learn more about Farm Sanctuary here:
Happy Turkey Day to Spunky and to everyone in our giant, twirling community.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

I Told a True Monster Story at Pivot Spokane

Spokane is now home to its own storytelling series, Pivot. Now in its second year of bringing community members and their stories to the stage, Pivot curates three main-stage events through the year as well as monthly open-mic story slams at Spark Central

Last week was the main-stage event, themed Monster; I joined six storytellers who shared their own true monster stories at the Cracker Building, a wonderful warehouse that has been renovated into an event space. It was a full event, with about 200 people in the audience, and as many vintage-style bulb lights sweeping across the ceiling.  

Although I have deep gravitational forces pulling me to the art of fiction, I found myself telling a true story, as are the rules, from when I was five, on an October night in the Midwest. Though I had never told this particular memory before, and I hope never to tell it again, it's true, I do like to tell a story.

If you missed the event, you can hear the stories on Spokane's NPR station, on The Bookshelf: Tuesday, November 6th (91.1 FM).

To learn more about Pivot, upcoming events, and how to participate as a storyteller or listeners, visit the Pivot website or Facebook page.

That time I told a story, and my friend took a picture. Photo by Rebecca O'Bryan


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series, Finale

Leaf by Richard Ricciardi,
used under CC license

2018 Summer Library Series

Somehow summer closed and autumn has opened, and we reached the end of the 2018 Summer Library Series. I must have been in denial about it. But here we are after a wonderful summer of writers sharing memories of their childhood libraries. Thanks to all who contributed this year. Please enjoy another trek down their library aisles of memory, and look to their bios for more of their writing.


My First Library by Richard Paolinelli
Richard Paolineli, novelist

The 2019 Summer Libraries will begin in June with a new lineup of writers. The second annual Book Your Stocking series will return in December with reading wish-lists by writers. Until then, I hope you find time to visit your local library, read many books, and have a lovely winter and spring. 
Library Loading Dock by LibraryGroover, flickr, used under CC license

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Monster: 2018 Pivot Storytelling Series

Pivot is a live storytelling series in Spokane.
And I have a story to tell you.

October 18, 2018
7 PM
Washington Cracker Building
304 W. Pacific
$10 donation suggested

Storytellers: Julie Humphries, Erin Pringle, Raymond Reyes, Juan Mas, Ann Porter, Cleve Penberthy, Sam Schneider

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Quick Review: Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny by Kate Manne


That's what I did.

It's brilliant.

Link to book on publisher's website:

Monday, September 17, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series: My First Library by Richard Paolinelli

We have reached the middle of September and nearly the end of summer, and though the doors to summer are closing, the library doors will remain propped open when the weather's right, and autumn leaves will hopefully follow you to the circulation desk and book return.

Please welcome this week's writer, Richard Paolinelli, and his beginning of many visits to the library shelves.

My First Library
Richard Paolinelli

Richard Paolinelli as a child
My first library was located at the corner of Minaret Avenue and Cooper Avenue in Turlock, California. It was across the street from Crane Elementary School, which I attended in 1972. A lot has changed in my hometown. But the library is still there.

It was a magical place. A place of so many different worlds and universes, filled with people and things and creatures beyond imagination. A place I would go to if I needed to wait to be picked up well after school got out. I didn’t mind waiting there. I met many friends there: Wells, Blish, Poe, Verne, Doyle, Burroughs, Foster and so many, many others.

It was there, in the audio room, where I listened for the first time to the recording of Orson Welles’ infamous radio play of War of the Worlds that created a nationwide panic back in 1938.

I walked along the many shelves, looking at random for the next adventure I wanted to immerse myself into. Sometimes I would have a title or subject in mind even before I walked through the doors and would head to the cabinet where the index cards were. Flipping through them until I found the book I sought, getting the Dewey number and then hunting the shelf, hoping someone hadn’t checked it out already.

That library was a haven, a source of familiarity that I took with me as we moved from town to town (my father’s business kept us fairly mobile). No matter what new town we landed in, I sought the nearest library and felt right at home everywhere we went.

To this day, I credit that love of reading, those hours spent within the walls of that first library, with planting the seed to my becoming the writer I am today. Anytime we venture back to Turlock, I stop by and peek in.

It hasn’t changed all that much in 46 years. Oh, there are books in there that weren’t there in 1972 of course. And there is a small area for computers and a terminal to search for books instead of the old card cabinet. But if I stand in just the right spot, it is 1972 all over again, and a new adventure waits somewhere among those shelves.

Turlock Library
(image from Google Earth)

About this library author:

Richard Paolinelli began his writing career as a freelance writer in 1984 and gained his first fiction credit serving as the lead writer for the first two issues of the Elite Comics sci-fi/fantasy series, Seadragon. His 20-year sports writing career was highlighted by the 2001 California Newspaper Publishers Association award for Best Sports Story.

In 2010, Richard retired as a sportswriter and returned to his fiction writing roots. Since then he has written six novels, including the recently released, When The Gods Fell, three Sherlock Holmes pastiches, two non-fiction sports books, three novelettes, and shorter works in several anthologies.

He plans on releasing The Timeless series, a middle-grade YA Steampunk series, this fall and another novel, Firstborn’s Curse, around Christmas. Learn more at his website:


Continue enjoying reflections from the Summer Library Series:

Monday, September 10, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series: A Chinese Laborer, a Mural, Carlos Santana, and My Hometown Library by Donna Miscolta

Autumn may be reaching into these last weeks of Summer, but this year's Summer Library Series continues. Please enjoy this reflection by Donna Miscolta.


A Chinese Laborer, a Mural, Carlos Santana, and My Hometown Library

Donna Miscolta

Library turned Arts Center, National City, CA

Each Saturday after catechism class, our minds numb with doctrine, my siblings and I crossed the street to the public library. It seemed not a coincidence that our weekly visit to a place of books would follow something religious and utterly rote. True, there was something holy about the library, its orderly rows of books, the expectation of silence, the rules of checking out books like a liturgy, the fines for late returns like a penance. But liberation was what the library offered – from the memorized answers to questions about God and creation, which opened up space for stories and imagination and dreams.

We moved to National City the summer before I started fourth grade. Library visits soon became a ritual. It gave our parents an extra hour without us in the house. It made us feel grown up to be someplace unsupervised except by the shushing librarians. In all those years, while we read story after story, I never gave a thought to how that library came to be, how it had its own story.

The library was on 12th Street and sat on the northwest edge of Kimball Park, named after Frank Kimball, who, according to a local historian, purchased the Rancho de la Nación, a “barren” Mexican land grant. Nice to see that “barren” is in quotation marks, an acknowledgement that it was not actually empty or unproductive, just absent its indigenous inhabitants who had been driven inland onto reservations. Also, the name reflects the long history of Mexico’s claim to the land.

The library had its start in 1884 when Frank Kimball moved his personal book collection into his National City real estate office. His Chinese workman Ah Lem lent a hand. Kimball’s diary contains entries such as these:
“Ah Lem at work on library and on bookcases.”
“At work on 2nd bookcase for Public Library.”
“Ah Lem hauled 3 loads of books to the Library rooms in my real estate office.”
Um, it seems that Ah Lem was doing an awful lot of the work. I’d like to offer my personal gratitude to Ah Lem for his labor in creating the first National City public library.
After various permutations in terms of location and architectural styles, the National City Library of my youth was established in the early 1950s. The style was the ranch house design, ironically reflecting the original name of the land upon which its sat. The style was popular for suburban homes – long, low-slung, rectangular, with deep overhanging eaves. The library had two wings: one for the children’s section and one for the adult section.

In that children’s library, I read the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald. Another title that I remember was a book called Three Wishes for Sarah, which I checked out multiple times. Recently, I searched for and found the Kirkus review, which summed up the book as “A somewhat saccharine flavor for a story with no particular significance.” It was a book about a girl who saves a small child from drowning. A girl hero, which I must’ve found to be of particular significance.

When I turned twelve, on the cusp of junior high school, I was allowed to borrow from the adult section of the library. I remember checking out Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native, William Faulkner’s Light in August, and Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady. I checked them out multiple times. Because of the language. Because of the story. Because I don’t remember women writers or writers of color being terribly visible on those shelves.

As we got older and reached confirmation, we ceased going to catechism classes. And so ceased our regular trips to the public library, our devotion over.

In the 80s, several years after I had moved to the Pacific Northwest, the flat, bland design of the library was improved with the addition of a mural, one that I never saw, since in all my return visits to National City I never had reason to visit the library. I had not yet achieved the age of nostalgia.
Journalist Daniel Hernandez wrote about his memory of the mural:
“I remember a huge mural loomed from behind the library’s reception desk, depicting scenes of Mexican American life in the San Diego area in the late 1970s and early 1980s: a quinceañera celebration, students lifting up their diplomas, a backyard carne asada, a news reporter interviewing a vintage car enthusiast before the painted pillars of Chicano Park. The colors were rich, the images drawn with an appealing cleanliness, the lines easy to follow.” 

The library mural by David Avalos
When a new library was built in 2005 on the southwest corner of Kimball Park and the contents transferred from the old library, the mural was lost. Eventually David Avalos, the painter of the mural and Juan Parrino who helped lead the mural project in 1981, located the lost painting and found it a home in the new library at the renovated high school.

The old public library I had grown up in was converted into an arts center. Its original ranch style is still recognizable even with a multistory addition that serves as its entrance. A couple of murals decorate the façade. One depicts a pair of birds dancing a jarabe. The other is of a young Carlos Santana, a psychedelic peace sign with hearts and doves emanating from it, and these Carlos Santana words: "The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace. Welcome is spelled out in metal-sculpted letters.

The façade of the new, state-of-the-art library is graced in multiple languages with these words by Jorge Luis Borges: "I always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of Library."

The new library is where my books When the de la Cruz Family Danced and Hola and Goodbye, both set in a fictional town called Kimball Park, reside. It’s where Paradise and the imagination meet.


This week's library author:

Donna Miscolta
(photo by Meryl Schenker)
Donna Miscolta’s story collection Hola and Goodbye won the Doris Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman and was published by Carolina Wren Press (2016). It also won an Independent Publishers award for Best Regional Fiction and an International Latino Book Award for Best Latino Focused Fiction. She’s also the author of the novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced (Signal 8 Press, 2011). Recent work has appeared in The Fourth River, Cascadia Magazine, Moss, Blood Orange Review, and The Seattle Review of Books. She writes a monthly blog at

Continue enjoying reflections from the Summer Library Series: 

Monday, September 3, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series: That Texas Library by Julia Drescher

Welcome to September and this week's edition of the 2018 Summer Library Series. Poet Julia Drescher shares reflections of her wry childhood in the library, and the thoughts one might have read from her mind had it been a book back then.


That Texas Library

Julia Drescher

Julia Drescher, Father, Sister
Where one is is in a temple that sometimes makes us forget that we are in it. Where we are is in a sentence.    – Jack Spicer, “Textbook of Poetry” #13

As a kid, I absolutely hated Texas in a generalizing way – the way everyone seemed to have (and be proud of) a get-mean-or-die kind of attitude, the weather (the oppressive humidity combined with the relentless way the sun shines feels like a perpetual punishment most of the year), and the landscape of the suburban town we eventually settled down in (every living thing seemingly cut down for concrete, wretched-looking brush residing in what was left of the natural areas). Places of seeming-refuge were somewhat hard to find.

The small public library in that town has two floors. The first floor contains the card catalog (now on computers), adult fiction & non-fiction collections, and, between this and a newspaper/magazine wall, a weird construction best described as a series of movable particle board curtains with various (mostly pastoral or portrait) paintings in the traditional style hanging from them. Though I never saw anyone do this, theoretically you could check one out like a book and hang it on your wall for two weeks.

The second floor contains the children/juvenile fiction & non-fiction collections, a small room that often held children’s music recitals, a huge dollhouse display, and a librarian who sits at a desk in the most advantageous location for monitoring who is on the floor.

After moving to Bryan, Texas when I was ten, I would often be dropped off at the library and left to roam the stacks (mostly unseen) for hours. When my mom came to pick me up, I would have quite a heavy load of books, reading my way through what of the collection interested me. 

At around the same time as being forced to attend a small private Catholic school, I began to almost exclusively check out any books having to do with magic and witches (led here, of course, by what I would now say are the correspondences between prepubescence, the growing imposition of traditional femininity, and the learning about saints' lives). 

My mom probably held her tongue for awhile, but seeing so many spines with ‘witch’ on them finally disturbed her enough to say something like, Why are you reading so many books about witches? 
(and I probably answered moodily, “I don’t know”– if I answered at all) You better be careful – you might get into trouble. If the former clearly reflected to me an uneasiness with my interest, the latter seemed to reflect some sort of fear for me – a vague paranoia that the librarians would report such dark interests to some government authority (or something).

Pretty early on (because the library is actually very small), I grew bored with the offerings of the second floor. But it took me awhile to confidently peruse the first – I would arrive at the library, go up the stairs to the second floor, pretend to look at the juvenile books in the most obvious way that I could, then try to sneak back down the stairs without any adults seeing me do so. These were maneuvers based on an assumption that categories were untrespassable – that any adult could see that I didn’t belong on this floor. I knew generally, too, that I should be seen and not heard (from), so my biggest fear was drawing attention to myself, causing a scene.

At some point, I got over it. At some point, I went from the interest in witches to a vague interest in various outlaws that had some Texas connection and checked out as many books as the adult section had on Billy the Kid, Bonnie and Clyde etc.

When I came out to the car with these stacks of books, my mom glanced over and, as we drove out of the parking lot, said under her breath with a sigh of relief, Thank God that witch phase is over.


Julia Drescher,
photo used with permission

Today's library writer:

Julia Drescher lives in Colorado where she co-edits the press Further Other Book Works with the poet C.J. Martin. Her work has appeared most recently in ‘PiderEntropyLikestarlingsAspasiology, and Hotel. Her book of poems, Open Epic, is available from Delete Press. She works at a library.

Continue enjoying reflections from the Summer Library Series: