Tag Archive for dreams

Resist! A Premonition

by Carol McMillan

Do you remember what you felt the week before the 2016 presidential election? As an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter, I still nursed some anger at the Democratic National Committee and the media, feeling they hadn’t given him the coverage they’d given Hillary Clinton, but, still, we were about to elect the first woman president. An historic moment! A glass ceiling hung poised above us all, waiting to be massively shattered. I remember watching the CBS pundits, running their predictive pointers across a red, blue, and purple map of the country, explaining all the possibilities that might be foreseen if this state went red or another went blue. His final words had been “Only a miracle could turn enough states red for a Republican victory.” Hillary’s landslide was assured; even the most unfavorable polls said so.

I joined my friends in planning parties to celebrate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s election as the first woman president of the United States of America. Three of us had even reserved a cabin on Orcas Island for our women’s victory weekend. Champagne, chocolate, beach walks, and companionship beckoned from our future.

I just want to take this moment to apologize for what happened next. It was my fault. Yes, honestly, it was all my fault! Let me explain.

On the night of November 5th, three days before the presidential election, I went to sleep in a familiar universe. I turned the heat down to sixty-two, took my evening vitamins, flossed my teeth, puffed my pillows, and snuggled down under my comforter. The cat jumped onto my bed as I turned out the light, curling his body into its usual position against my legs. Sleep came easily.

Three hours later I awoke from a soul-freezing nightmare. In my detailed and vivid dream, I sat at a long utilitarian table in an institutional green room. A group of us were awaiting the first deliveries of ballots that we could begin counting. A friend came rushing in from outside, visibly upset. “More Republican ballots are coming in than Democratic!”

Not believing her for a minute, I hurried out to the loading docks where ballots were arriving in large, flat white bags of heavy plastic, sorted by party. My stomach suddenly filled with icy lead, freezing me in place, as I realized that she was correct: more Republican votes were pouring into that small-town vote-counting place than Democratic.

The terror I felt jolted me into instant consciousness. The dream made no sense; everyone knew Hillary would win, but the vivid dream felt precognitively real. I feared that it foretold an unforeseen slip into an alternative universe, previously unknown and somehow malevolent.

For the next three days, I did everything possible to dispel the outcome predicted by that dream. How could I re-route the Universe, steer it away from that terrifying course? The man who originally seemed only to be a bad campaign joke, could not possibly take over the governance of my country! Everyone else seemed to continue as usual, confident of Hillary’s victory, unaware of the bifurcation of universes that I feared lay just ahead.

On the afternoon of the election, I felt even more certain that my dream had been an inexplicable premonition. Frantically, I pulled up every irrational superstition I could think of in an attempt to derail an unimaginable future.

If I wear different shoes this won’t come true.

If I don’t go to Leah’s to watch the returns this won’t come true.

If I don’t bring the bottle of my favorite port to her house this won’t come true.

History may record that the Earth changed course because

I did wear the shoes and

I did go to Leah’s and

I did bring the port.

Undoubtedly, the election of the forty-fifth president was entirely my fault: I had been warned. Megalomania has not been one of my usual faults but it continues to lurk here just below my consciousness.

This morning, as my first waking sensation, an inky sense of wrongness creeps into my consciousness. Reaching to snuggle my cat, I seek to retreat. If something so malevolent lurks in the waking world I will choose sleep. But my efforts defy me; consciousness is sending out a tentacle, ensnaring my thoughts, sucking them out into dawn. The man who ran a campaign based on anger and bigotry, despite everyone’s predictions to the contrary, has been elected president, and it is my fault.

So, I write this as an apology. My only sustaining consolation is that my friends have fallen into this alternative universe with me. If you are willing to forgive me, we will lock arms and wrestle this cosmic alligator back onto an appropriate track. Anyone know where to find a wormhole we might use to reboot reality?

Author’s Bio: CAROL MCMILLAN, until the past few years, had mostly published in academic journals. But moving to Bellingham has brought her poetry and memoir writing out of the closet; she has now been published in several anthologies. Carol is the author of one book, White Water, Red Walls, chronicling in poetry, photographs, and paintings her rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. She is currently working on a memoir of her experiences during the 1960’s in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Searching For The Pulitzer

by Dawn Quyle Landau

I won the Pulitzer Prize for short story in May 1975. It’s been a struggle ever since. Where do you go from there? At barely twelve years of age, I didn’t really appreciate that there were a lot more years ahead, and I couldn’t just rest on the laurels Cushing Elementary School had bestowed on me. From my seat in Mr. Flaherty’s sixth grade class, I figured my career was set; I was going to be a famous author.

No such luck; any good reader could have seen that one coming. That award-winning piece of suspense fiction is long gone now. It involved falling into a dark place and being chased, only to see the main character wake up and realize they were late for school. Yes, highly suspenseful! I still have the book that was my prize, Desiderata (a beautiful prose poem, written in 1927, by Max Erhmann), with the inscription: “Dawn, I look forward to reading more from you, in the future.  All the best in your writing career, Mrs. Nugent.” IMG_1675Also, this quote from Anatole France: “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.” Mrs. Nugent was the cool teacher, I wished I had; her encouragement meant everything, at the time. I thought she could see my dreams, and so I believed in them. The book sits on my desk, to remind me of where I was headed, before I lost my way.

I lost my way in the same manner so many people do: I had limited guidance, and I didn’t understand my own worth. Two years before the Pulitzer, my father was killed in a car accident. My mother took us from him, months before that, and my siblings and I were adrift, trying to make sense of the chaos that adults create. We were surrounded by a new place and family we hadn’t known–– away from the father we adored, and the family and friends who we’d grown up with. It’s no wonder that most of what I wrote in those years was filled with longing, scary images, turmoil, and kids who ultimately won. I needed desperately to feel like I could win something.  

Writing and painting were my outlets. With art, I could paint an image the way I wanted it to look. Blues could be bluer, and scenery idealized. I filled sketchpads and excelled in art class. However, it was writing that allowed me to explore my inner world. Fiction provided escape, and I wanted to create that magical outlet. So many of the books that I loved had main characters who faced huge obstacles, went on adventures, and triumphed. The Julie of the Wolves trilogy, by Jean Craighead George, and the Lord of the Ring series, by JRR Tolkien were my favorites. I read and re-read them. They gave me hope that even the hardest things could be tackled and overcome.

Throughout high school and college I learned that I could write my way through almost any assignment–– even if I hadn’t mastered the subject. For the past ten years, I’ve been a tutor to seniors in high school, working on college essays. Now, I cringe at the same cliché writing I handed in, all those years ago: flowery cover-ups and nuanced repetition, that sugar coats equal parts confusion and bravado. I’m firm, but compassionate when I introduce the idea of “killing one’s babies,” hoping to inspire these young writers, not squash their dreams.

I didn’t have writing mentors, after that Pulitzer. My mother moved when I was a junior in high school, and I was busy staying afloat. I was expected to go to college (the first in my family), but no one told me that I could actually be a writer, or what to do. And so, that dream got lost. I got my Masters in Social Work; I worked as a therapist; I had kids, and I spent a lot of years writing on the side–– a hobby.

At 53 I’m breathing new life into my dreams. I’m working to get a memoir and a novel published. The blog that I started as a “platform” for publishing, has become a focused outlet for my writing–– no longer a backseat project. That quote by Anatole France looms large these days. I’m working hard to see my dreams come true, and believe that they will. It’s a challenge for this writer, who still struggles with self-worth, in a business that is daunting at best, but I’m determined. I’m not that lost kid any more, waiting for others to inspire or support me, and that feels really good. Still, maybe one day, (a very elderly) Mrs. Nugent will read my work, and smile.

IMG_7698 - Version 3Bio: Dawn Quyle Landau publishes regularly on her blog Tales From the Motherland. She participates in a weekly flash fiction challenge, and writes whatever inspires her on a given day. She is a featured blogger for Huffington Post, where she is paid millions. She is working hard to get two manuscripts published, and will then run away to Iceland… where there are dragons.

Blog:  https://talesfromthemotherland.me/   

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/DawnQLandau  HuffPo: https://talesfromthemotherland.me/dawn-quyle-landau-huffington-post-articles/

Never Give Up On Your Writerly Dreams

by Janet Oakley

I’ve been writing all my life, a myriad of stories from family history or my imagination brewing all the time. My first stab at storytelling came in second grade when after viewing a documentary about the first summit of Mount Everest, I was inspired to write my own tale, Funny Bunny Climbs Mount Everest. It was so successful that I did a sequel, Funny Bunny and the Prite. (I think that was Pirate.) There were many more tales and some good material in high school writing classes that was published in the school’s lit magazine, but serious writing came my senior year in college when I was required to write a thesis for my degree in history.

I had already begun the initial research in my sophomore year at Kalamazoo College when I was an intern at the Smithsonian Institute. John C. Ewers, head of the Anthropology Department sent me off to look for drawings and prints of Native Americans in 19th century magazines. I was placed in the Library of Congress annex building and had full range of the library and its tunnels. Calling up these valuable bits of Americana such as The Casket (edited by Edgar Allen Poe), Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News (with maps of where the Union Army was going next) and Harper’s Weekly (with its bull of the month centerfold), had already enriched the fiction stories going on in my head.

But I digress. My thesis was “Comanche Indians as Prisoners of War,” a very 1960s subject. As I poured over Indian scout saddle reports, 19th century memoirs of 1870s Indian Territory, agency reports, and letters unopened for 80 years, I discovered that 1) I didn’t want to look like the archivist who appeared not to have seen light his entire life. I loved the research, the hunt for material, but I wanted to talk about history, make the public understand. I wanted a tan. And 2) I wanted to tell this story encased in my research notes that would make the reader pause and think. I would tell my thesis in a way that a novel reveals. It would have footnotes as required, but it would make sense. In a way, I wanted to write literary non-fiction, something not done back then. I’m happy to say that I got honors.

Where is the title of this blog post? It’s in a dream that I had over 25 years ago. A dream of a man left for dead in the snow. Being found. WW II. And why did he end up there?

Up to that time, all I had written was lyrics to songs I performed and maybe some letters to the editor. This image sparked a long yearning to write a novel, but what the heck did I know about Norway in WW II? As I searched to expand the scene and story, my training for digging up history kicked in. I read books that presented a general history of Norway during the five year occupation, a wonderful book with WW II stories, 1950s memoirs of intelligence officers and SOE agents, poetry read over the BBC, literature, Newsweek and Time Magazine. I ordered books and papers inter-library, but my greatest find was on a shelf at my local university: two volumes on Norway once classified for field agents only. In them were maps, history, train schedules, location of oil refineries, and descriptions of towns and villages. These two volumes gave me the foundation to tell a historical thriller with facts that few readers knew about. It took three and half years to write, but in end ,my first novel, The Jøssing Affair, was done, all one million pages.

Of course, though finishing a novel is a great thing, but the next step is harder –getting it published. Truly, it has taken a quarter century to get this done. Over the years as I learned the art of synopsis writing and query letters, there were highs when The Jøssing Affair finaled at the Pacific Northwest Writers Contest –twice – ; when it won first place in a Barnes & Nobel contest that had author Elizabeth Bergman take a train from Oregon to take me out to dinner; when it got full reads of the manuscript and high praise. There were lows too with comments that “I can’t get into the characters.” “Not what we are looking for.” etc. I knew I had to cut the manuscript down, so I spent years and workshops doing that, but there came a point that cutting would hurt The Jøssing Affair, so I stopped and wrote three more novels.

Then in 2006, things started to change. There were places to put up your novel digitally and get feedback. I heard about Authonomy run by Harper Collins UK. I placed Tree Soldier and The Jøssing Affair there and got excellent feedback and wonderful international friends who support me today. The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest (I believe an early tester for Kindle ) opened in 2007. I put Tree Soldier there, made a slew more friends and made the quarter finals in 2013 out of 10,000 entries. With publishing changing so fast and my experiences with on-line interaction, I decided to try out Createspace (the group behind ABNA) using Tree Soldier as an experiment. Finally, I was a published author (with many more learning curves to come) but it won national awards including a grand prize from Chanticleer Book Reviews and its selection as a Everybody Reads tour of seven libraries in Eastern Washington and the Palouse. Timber Rose came next with a 2015 WILLA silver award win.

I am glad that I waited so long for The Jøssing Affair to come out. My 25 years plus of lolling in the writerly world has made this novel so true to my heart come out in the best way possible. It’s a top seller at Village Books and I’m selling books in the UK for the first time (because Createspace can do that). With the awards season beginning, I’ll be putting the novel in contests. When I go to Oxford, England this September for the Historical Novel Society’s Conference, I have an appointment with an agent there to explore foreign rights. I hope for more things to come.

So don’t’ give up on your writerly dream. Do your best work, get critiqued, learn more craft and enjoy writing for its own sake. This long slog to publication has been a journey well worth it.