Archive for the ‘Home’ Tag

Liquid Imagination   Leave a comment

Decorated gingerbread cookies

Image via Wikipedia

To read the poem Gingerbread Mean, click here

Today, on snow day #2 for this week, my oldest son and niece are making gingersnaps with their grandmother while the younger ones nap. I figure this is a good day to blog about my poem about the dark side of gingerbread men, called Gingerbread Mean, that was just published in Liquid Imagination this week.

Before I go into the story though, just please click the link and check it out, for the artwork alone. It’s pretty good, perhaps the best thing someone has ever put with one of my poems. There have been times in the past I’ve really cringed at the kind of artwork an edtior will choose to put with a poem or short story of mine, but this, I’m really impressed. So please, click the link and check it out. I’ll wait.

 

…….

 

Ok? Seen it? Good. Pretty cool, huh?

Anywho, I love Christmas. I really, really do. I love to give, I’m a giver. And I’ve got a lot of people to give to. But there are times when even the most fanatic of Christmas lovers gets dragged down with all the commercialism, the busyness, the drama that goes into the modern Christmas. Especially one that is in the middle of a divorce.

So, this poem came out of that feeling, of being overwhelmed with Christmas cheer. And, being me, I had to add a dash of creepy anthropomorphism into it, making the gingerbread men feel the burn of the oven.

Think, on this day when most of the country is buried in snowpocalypse. When we’re glued to our tvs, wondering what the Egyptians will do next in an attempt to oust their president. What drags you down now, that at some point in your life you really, truly loved. What changed? Write about it, add a cookie or two for sweetness. Get out of your blizzard coma and write something.

Advertisements

Stickman Review   Leave a comment

Soup Kitchen

Image by Frankie Roberto via Flickr

To read Thanks.Giving. click here

This is a story, based in part on an experience I had a few years ago, helping out at a local soup kitchen on Thanksgiving. It was shortly after my former spouse had gotten out of rehab, and he very strongly wanted to begin to give back to the community in some way, a common precept of AA. I agreed to go with him, so after our meal at my mother’s, we said  goodbye to our family and went down to St. Vincent’s.

Serving in a soup kitchen, working with the homeless, wasn’t something new to me, but it was to him. While he did his duty, making sure the bowls and plates were full, I took the time to sit down, and get to know some of the people there. I think we were both blessed by the experience, and I look fondly on it as one of the best times we had, together.

This very short story, Thanks. Giving. is an amalgamation of some of the stories I heard from the people we served. Names, of course, have been changed. This is also one of the rare times I use an obscenity within a written work of mine. Considering the content, and the daily, harsh lives of the homeless, I didn’t feel the use of the c word was superfluous, rather it was appropriate to jar those of us comfortably sitting in our warm homes, reading stories off the internet, make us feel a taste of what life on the streets, make us squirm.

Shortly after this Thanksgiving, I discovered I was pregnant, and so didn’t have the opportunity to go back, when the smells of my own kitchen were bad enough to send me running, I didn’t want nausea to undermine the work being done. These days I volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, both on building sites and at the local Restore. If you’re short on New Years Resolutions this year, I encourage you to find some way to volunteer, give back in even a small way, on a weekly or monthly basis, as your schedule allows. If I can do it, between three kids, two ex-husbands, and one full time job, anyone can!

Tonopah Review   Leave a comment

A campfire

Image via Wikipedia

http://www.tonopahreview.org/one-of-the-boys.html

In 2009, the Tonopah Review published one of my favorite poems I’ve ever written, called “One of the Boys”.  Full disclosure, I am not an orphan, I do have two older half brothers, but they didn’t raise me, in fact I didn’t even meet them until I was 12.  And I didn’t write this for them, though I love both of them dearly.

No, this poem was written after a long weekend away with writer friends, out in the woods of the Catskill Mountains. One thing you may not know about me, I build a darn good fire.  On the last night out, I built a large bonfire from wood carried in from the surrounding forest by three of the gentlemen on the trip. One of them, walking up behind me as I nudged some seasoned branches into place, told me it was “a damn good fire.” I don’t think I’ve ever received a nicer compliment.

Many times on camping trips in groups, there seems to be a gender gap, wherein the men do some jobs, the women do others. Typically, it’s an unwritten rule that the men build the fire, although our ancestors I’m sure would disagree with this. Even in the back yard, it’s the men who rule the grill, play with fire, take the risks, while the ladies spoon the potato salad. So, I knew the compliment was solid, and hard won.

The next day, before heading home to my kids, I wrote the beginnings of this poem, dedicated to Colin, Scott, and in memory of Glenn.

The Legendary, 2009   Leave a comment

Grandma's underwear

Image by raldski gimo via Flickr

http://www.downdirtyword.com/authors/helenpeterson.html#tp

The Legendary loves me, and I love the Legendary.  In 2009, they published three flash by me, “The Cheating Kind”, “Goin’ Commando”, and “Missy Lee’s Enlightenment”.

The Cheating Kind, well. It’s four sentences, mostly of dialogue, but I think, I hope, it packs a punch when you read it, similar to the shock to the system the protagonist gets when she realizes she is, indeed, married to the cheating kind.

Goin Commando is a Baby Girl story, but instead of the younger, sassy, middle aged Baby Girl, we get to meet the Grandma Baby Girl. It was fun, trying to imagine this character I had created initially in her twenties, then wrote about again in her forties, turn sixty and become Maw-Maw. The story I adapted from something my sister did at the age of five, not me. Honest. I swear.

And Missy Lee owes her name to a good friend of mine with the last name of Lee. Sassy, Southern, and comfortable in her skin. Her actions, however, stem from autobiographical frustration I had with a previous relationship. The beauty of being a writer is, you can write out the things in your life you don’t understand until they begin to make sense.  You can harness your anger and create with it, birthing characters that may reach out to others in your position, give them hope and allow them to see the beauty in themselves.

The Shine Journal   Leave a comment

Baby eating baby food (blended green beans)

Image via Wikipedia

http://www.theshinejournal.com/petersonhelen.htm

The Shine Journal published a story of mine last month called “Baby Love“. The story is based upon experiences I’ve had with all three of my children, but was written when all I had was my oldest, who is now 12. As a baby, wherever we went people would be offering him gum, candy, stopping us in the middle of the supermarket to goo-goo at him. What was funny was usually the offered treat was completely inappropriate for an infant without a single tooth.

Because this was my reality for so long, grocery shopping trips that would take me five minutes alone taking 30 minutes or more, I had to write about it. I did. however, give it a little twist, thinking about how the adult behind the baby might benefit from all the attention given their little one, and how someone NOT used to having a baby would handle it when an infant is thrust upon them for whatever reason.

What is your reality today? What occurs in your day to day life that is mundane to you, but could be interesting to someone who lives a different kind of life. Switch places with them, use your imagination and write it out.

The Foundling Review   Leave a comment

Raw Ground beef

Image via Wikipedia

http://www.foundlingreview.com/July2010Issue3Peterson.html

The great thing about the Foundling Review, for a writer, is that they have what they call the writer’s corner at the end of every piece, where the writer can do briefly what I try to do here on this blog, talk about where the piece came from, and how it was written. After the poem, “Love Thy Neighbor“, and my bio, it says this in the writer’s corner:

This poem was written while watching Bobby Flay grill lobster tails on the Food Network, and trying to think of a new way to serve hamburger meat.

Seriously. As a mom, you buy a lot of hamburger meat. As a mom, you grow tired of hamburgers, Hamburger Helper, and meatloaf. But what else are you going to buy that will feed you, your spouse, and three kids? Steak? Not on my budget. So I am pretty much always trying to find new ways to use ground beef. Or ground turkey. Or hot dogs. Or tuna in a can. You get the idea.

So, I watch a lot of Food Network. And I get a lot of Bobby Flay grilling up stuff I can’t afford.  Which makes me just want to mash that ground chuck into little patties, throw them on the pan, and go write a little something while they sizzle. This poem is the product of that. Thank you Bobby Flay. Thank you very much.

Snow Monkey   1 comment

Photograph of Edna St. Vincent Millay

Image via Wikipedia

http://snowmonkeyjournal.blogspot.com/2010/05/helen-peterson.html

This May, Snow Monkey published my poem, “Funny, You Don’t Look Like a Grandmother“. Giving credit where credit is due, the title came from a book I once bought my mother-in-law for her birthday. This was a running joke with us, since she was in her mid thirties when I had my oldest son. Her husband, my ex-husband’s step-dad, was twenty seven, but it’s funny, I never did find a Funny, You Don’t Look Like a Grandfather book. Freud would have something to say about that, I’m sure.

Anyway, the title may have come from a funny little book, but the body of the poem came from the life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, one of my favorite poets. According to Nancy Millford’s excellent biography, Savage Beauty, when Millay’s mother thought her daughter might be pregnant, she forced her to take multiple scalding hot baths, and ride her horse bareback up and down the valleys and meadows near their home. It was such a crazy contrast to how my own parents and in-laws reacted, it stuck with me, more than anything else in the book, and it was a very good book, worth the read if you have the time and wish to do so.

You may notice, though, that I don’t use Millay’s name in the poem. In earlier drafts I did, added more details specific to her own life. In workshopping, others found the specificity distracting, and so I applied a name I had used before, in Baby Girl poems, the fragile and distracted Sweet Baby. It added another slant to the idea of a mother manipulating her daughter’s body, even after the girl is grown into her own sexuality.

This is just one example of how I sometimes get inspired by the lives of real people, and by what I read in books. Take something you’ve read, that has stuck with you, and use it as a writing prompt this evening. When you’re done, pick up a book you’ve been dying to read.  Begin to read it with an eye for inspiration, as well as for leisure. Taste the words and stories within, mull it around your tongue with the spices from your own life. Begin to read like a writer.