Amy G Coombs

author, reader, teacher

Test

Just a test, folks, to see if I’ve successfully linked my blog posts to my Facebook page.

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New Summer’s Resolution

It’s happened again. Another Maine-ly Writer’s workshop, this one more amazing than usual, and I leave inspired, fired up, and with the firm resolution to attend to my blog. A weekly entry — is that asking too much?

Apparently, given past years’ examples, yes.

For me, blogging is a double-edged sword. I’m aware that it’s good for professional reasons, yet it takes me away from the writing I really want to be engaged in. It doesn’t help that deep inside I’m fairly convinced no one reads my blog. Why would they? What do I have to offer that a million other bloggers don’t?

But that’s a trap writers fall into, isn’t it? What do we have to write that a million others don’t? Why would  my love story, my coming of age story, my coming out story rise above the rest?

I’ve struggled with this for years. Decades, even. There’s a good answer: write for yourself; write because you want to, write because you have to.

 
But for me that’s not enough. A dear friend gave me a heart-shaped broach from Passion Works Studio* with the inscription:

“To who I am writing there is a strength between our heart” [sic]

So yes, maybe I do need to blog for marketing reasons. Get my voice out there. Be active in the on-line writing community. Have something to show an editor or agent when they Google me.

But maybe — if I approach blogging the way I approach writing fiction — from my heart to yours — if I have faith someone will want to read my blog the way I believe someone will want to read my stories — then maybe this year I’ll stick to my new summer’s resolution.

*Passionworks in Athens, Ohio, supports collaborations between artists with and without developmental disabilities Read more at http://www.pasionworks.org

The More I Write, the Less I Blog

Wow, blogging, for an old dog (cat?) like me, is an uphill climb. Every six months or so, I am newly determined to blog once a week. It shouldn’t be that hard. I love talking and journaling about books. I could easily veer off into politics and social justice issues. Not to mention the politics of art, as in the recent case of a teen leading the charge to get the film BULLY a PG-13 rating so the kids to whom the film was created for can actually view it.

That said, it seems the more I write creatively, the less I blog. Or even think about blogging. I know, I know, any editor or agent out there reading this will now write me off their list. But I am so excited about my three (count ’em — three!) current projects — a YA novel, an MG novel, and a series of LGBT-themed YA short stories — who has time to blog? Or to make phone calls? Or to cook dinner?

Sorry, readers. But I’ll be sure to let you know when my next short story is published.

Resilience: Stories, Poems, Essays, Words for LGBT Teens

http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/resilience-stories-poems-essays-words-for-lgbt-teens/18821334

RESILIENCE, an anthology of LGBT literature for teens, is available. I’m proud to have a short story, Sculptor of Skin, included.

What makes this anthology even more special is that RESILIENCE is part of the Make It Safe Project, which donates YA books to school Gay/Straight Alliances, libraries, and homeless shelters which are inclusive of gay teens.

ALL PROCEEDS from the sale of this book go to the Make It Safe Project.

 http://www.makeitsafeproject.org/

So buy, read, enjoy, give, share, pass the word on!

Life Goes On

Today, caring for my failing mother, I managed to find time to take a walk. Passing under a tree, something glanced off my head and fell to the ground. It was the tip of a branch, maybe twelve inches long, six or seven full green leaves firmly attached. Similar clusters of green-leafed branches lay scattered around me on the sidewalk.

Had I been so lost in dark and anxious thoughts that I’d completely missed seeing someone trimming the tree? In the paper this morning, news of the debt-ceiling and imminent economic doom. An eight-year-old boy was abducted and murdered on his first seven-block walk from day camp to home, where his parents waited, having practiced the walk with him before allowing him to go solo. New studies show the hunting and destruction of large animals of prey causes more environmental havoc than previously assumed. My twenty-something sons are branching out into their solo lives in this scary future. My mother might be near death. Or she might pull through, but to what kind of life next?

I stepped to the side of the tree and looked up. The tree was too slim to hold an adult, and there was no cherry picker in sight. So my brain corrected from tree-trimmer to child playing.. But what did I see? A squirrel, with a branch-end bigger than her whole body clasped firmly in her mouth. Ignoring me, she crunched and manipulated the leaves for her nest of old, dry, brown material. A fresh green bed for her babies. So life goes on.

Just Published!

And Jacki, Of Course
a short story by Amy Gerstin Coombs, published 2011 by Untreed Reads
Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and http://www.untreedreads.com

Links to story at Untreed Reads:

And Jacki, Of Course Or Untreed Reads Store

DESCRIPTION:

Nora’s grandchild is due to be born any minute. The occasion is marred by her son’s mother-in-law, who never accepted Nora’s partner, Jacki, as his other parent. Jacki tells Nora to stop dwelling in the past and dismisses her fears for the future. Can Nora forgive and forget? Should she? What will a mother do to hold onto her family?

EXCERPT:

In the maternity ward’s Family Room, Nora leaned her head against Jacki’s shoulder, their fingers laced together. Their daughter-in-law’s labor had been going on far too long, the last two hours passing without a report from their son. Nora couldn’t understand why Will didn’t come. It only took a moment to check in.

Earlier that day, another family—a large, noisy flock of grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins—had taken over most of the cream-colored room. They shared fruit, inside jokes, and a cribbage game that rotated among players. Nothing like Nora and Jacki’s strained conversation with Will’s in-laws, Suzanne and Connor. By noon that family’s baby was born, and the whole crew migrated to the mother’s hospital room. Suzanne had immediately moved across to the vacated chairs, as far away from Nora and Jacki as possible.

“Could she be more obvious?” Nora had whispered.

“Maybe she’s stretching out,” Jacki had said. Typical of Jacki to forgive and forget.

Now Suzanne was talking across the distance of the near empty room, while Connor had disappeared in search of coffee.

“What do you want to be called?” she asked Nora. “I certainly don’t want to be Grandma or Granny. I was thinking, maybe, something like Susu. You could be Nana. Susu and Nana. Isn’t that fun?”

Though Suzanne aimed her words at Nora, Nora knew she was really speaking to Jacki beside her. Really saying, We don’t need to worry about what the baby will call you. You don’t belong.

Nora thought of names to call Suzanne. Grand-Bitch. Grand-Hag. Grand-Horror. She would whisper those names to Jacki as soon as Suzanne left the room. She looked forward to Jacki’s low laugh.

“I called my grandmother Grammy,” Jacki offered.

“Oh. Is that Appalachian?” Suzanne glanced at Nora and Jacki’s intertwined hands, then wrinkled her nose so that her Christian Dior glasses moved up and down.

“I like Grammy,” Nora shot back. “It has a nice, honest ring to it.”

“It doesn’t really matter what we want the baby to call us,” Jacki said in her warmly even way, which Nora had fallen in love with twenty-nine years before. “She’ll find her own names, I imagine.”

This was true. Nora had wanted Will to call her “Mommy B,” for “biological,” and Jacki “Mommy A,” for “adoptive.” She thought this idea was clever. Jacki, at the time, wanted one of them to be “Mommy” and the other “Mama.” She thought this idea was saner. But Will, an intelligent child, a genius child, with gray eyes that turned strikingly green and luscious blond curls, who teethed late and hard and took too-short naps, whose sense of humor caused him to erupt into endearing squeals of laughter, insisted from the age of four on dropping mommy altogether and calling them Nora and Jacki.

Nora was about to share this story when Suzanne said, “Well, I guess that’s true if you let the child run wild and do whatever she wants.”

Nora’s gut tightened. “It’s not up to us how she’s raised. We’re not her parents.”

“But we grandmothers have some say.” Suzanne raised her eyebrows as if daring Nora to challenge her. Then she added, “And Jacki, of course.”

God, Nora disliked this woman. Ever since the wedding. She disliked the way Suzanne’s gray hair passed for tinted highlights against her natural blond, the way she ate with tiny nibbles, the way she always managed to add and Jacki, of course after the fact. But Nora especially resented that Suzanne lived only ten minutes from Will and Becca, not a ten-hour drive across three states. Suzanne could see them—and now, the baby—whenever she wanted.

Jacki squeezed Nora’s hand and smiled her bemused Buddha smile. Nora reached over and curled one of Jacki’s locks around her finger. She loved Jacki’s hair, which cascaded in thick waves past her shoulders, rich autumn brown streaked through with bold gray. Will used to cuddle up to Jacki, one hand in his mouth, the other twirling Jacki’s hair as she read to him Make Way for Ducklings and Arrow to the Sun.

Nora’s reverie broke when Connor entered the waiting room. He carried a cardboard tray with four cups of coffee. His round, clean-shaven cheeks were, as always, red with joviality, and he smelled of cigarettes.

“No baby yet, huh?” he asked the room at large.

“Not yet,” Suzanne said.

“Where is that nurse?” Nora stood and brushed past the cup Connor offered her. She stepped into the corridor. Nurses hurried by, one with a rattling medicine tray. A bearded man stood down the hall holding a bouquet of helium balloons. Machines beeped and chirped, footsteps padded, and somewhere an infant cried. Nora ran her fingers over her scalp, tugging at her hair. Jacki came up from behind and spoke in her ear.

“Worrying isn’t going to make the baby come any faster.” Jacki’s hands closed on Nora’s arms. Her soft body pressed into Nora’s back. “Do you want to take a walk? Go see the nursery?”

Nora shook her head. “I can’t believe Suzanne. After five years she’s still treating you like trash.”

“And she probably always will.”

“Doesn’t that drive you crazy?” Nora fought the urge to push Jacki’s hands off her.

“Honey, we’ve had this conversation. It’s not a battle I want to fight. If she comes around, she comes around. If not, her loss.”

“How can you be so damn reasonable all the time?” And now Nora did push Jacki’s hand away. She spun around and walked back into the waiting room, avoiding Jacki’s eyes. She did not want to see the hurt in them.

Electrocution by Nook

This morning I read the first e-pages of an e-novel on my first e-reader in the bathroom (where else do you do your morning reading?). I found myself wondering if the e-reader worked like other electrical appliances – a hair-dryer, say. Does balancing an e-reader on the sink while I brush my teeth pose a possible danger either to the e-reader or to me?

Can you use an e-reader in the tub?

I admit, at the risk of sabotaging my career, I am an old dog. When it comes to the e-world, I don’t know my Cloud from my App. And I’m not sure I care. Just teach me the steps and give me a treat after. In this case, the treat is the e-publication of my short story, And Jacki, Of Course.

Just like a dog who will do anything for her master’s love and a treat, I am embracing e-publishing because e-publishing is embracing me. There’s my name in black and white. Literally, as I opted for the plain Nook instead of the color one. But oh, what a thrill.

The industry rule is to not talk about our “failures,” but a quick perusal of my history will show any editor that after those first few years of publishing success, my endeavors have languished. I put “failure” in quotes because, as any writer will tell you, two completed novels and the draft of a third, a couple of short chapter books and many short stories later, I’ve been learning, not failing. Honing my craft, feeding my soul, and never giving up.

And at last I’m beginning to publish again. E-publishers are willing to take a risk on me, and I thank them. My LGBT stories for teens and adults are finding homes. Will my stories on black and white race relations come next?

Of course I still want the pleasure of a book in hand, one I can lend to a child or friend. Meanwhile, till my novels get picked up, I’ll be very careful when I take my Nook into the bathroom.