Monthly Archives: March 2013

Patricia Hopper Patteson writes from West Virginia, but it sure feels like it’s coming from Ireland!

My name is Patricia Hopper Patteson and I’m a native of Dublin, Ireland. I have an M.A. from WVU in Education Leadership.  I received honors from WVU such as the Waitman Barbe Creative Writing Award and the Virginia Butts Sturm Award while working on my B.A. I also received literary awards from the West Virginia Writers’ competitions ranging from second place to honorable mention. I’ve been published (fiction and non-fiction) in the U.S. and Ireland in magazines, reviews, and anthologies.

Patricia is the author of “Broken Chain” in Fed From the Blade.

1.      When did you first begin writing?

I always enjoyed writing, but never took it very seriously until I started working on my undergraduate degree, which for me, happened later than most. I was already married and the mother of two children. I started out as an accounting major when I took a creative writing class as part of my core studies. I became hooked and changed my major from Accounting to English.

2.      What writer’s style has influenced you the most?

Some writers that I admire include: Deirdre Purcell, Margaret Atwood, Morgan Llywelyn and Michael Connelly.

3.      How many different genres do you write?

I write short story, novel, and nonfiction.

4.      Were (are) there other writers in your family? Who and what did (do) they write?

If you asked me how many accountants are in my family, I could probably say there’s enough to audit Fort Knox. However, they can all claim the gift of the gab, and will embellish even the worst story to make it sound good. More seriously, I have a cousin who’s a journalist, and a great-aunt who published poetry. Both my sisters are good writers and my older brother dabbles in poetry. But they’ve never pursued writing to become published.

5.      How did you come to West Virginia?

I came to West Virginia by way of Italy. My ex-husband was in the US Air Force. We met by accident when he was on TDY in Italy and stopped in Venice where I worked with tourists as a salesclerk/interpreter. We later married in Germany and I came to the States. He’s from West Virginia.

6.      Who or what in West Virginia inspires you in your writing?

I really enjoy Denise Giardina’s novels about West Virginia. She has a way of capturing the dialect, the essence, struggles and the history of Southern West Virginia. She takes you into that world, the same way that Roddy Doyle defines certain parts of Dublin where the old dialect is potent. He can speak eloquently, but when he’s around old pals he reverts to the old Dublin dialect. He portrays it perfectly in his novels and stories.

           7. Why did you send your piece that is included in Fed From the Blade?

I wrote “Broken Chain” for my family and I’m delighted to see it published. For most of her life, my mother was ashamed of her fosterage—intellectually she understood that her mother was young and naïve when she became pregnant and was disowned by her family. But my mother had trouble coming to terms with abandonment, although she didn’t find out she was a foster child until she was 14 years old. My sister wanted to give my mother a sense of belonging, which is why she set out to find the identity of our grandmother. I think most people can relate to that need for belonging in their lives.

8.   Write to this scenario: You are peacefully floating along in a canoe on a serene lake in Ireland with yourself when you were 15. Give that 15-year-old you what you want her to know about her ancestry in Ireland and about being a writer.

To be Irish is to come from a country and know her long struggle for independence and identity. To know from history if you set a goal and believe in it strongly enough you will succeed—but expect to fail at times along the way. There are living stories of mythology, Christianity, poverty, struggle and independence carved into the Irish landscape that can also be felt in the laughter and warmth of the people. As my sister said when she returned from Australia to live back in Ireland—life is softer there.

 

 

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Belinda Anderson and Witchy Wanda

Belinda Anderson is the author of a new middle-grade fantasy novel and three short story collections, published by Mountain State Press. She serves as a state judge in the national Letters About Literature contest and as a judge for the Monroe Arts Alliance’s creative writing contest for students. Belinda mentors emerging writers as a Master Artist through the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Her own work earned her a place on the first Literary Map of West Virginia. Belinda holds a degree in news-editorial journalism and a master’s degree in liberal arts studies. Her new book is Jackson vs Witchy Wanda: Making Kid Soup.

Why did you answer the call for submissions for Fed From the Blade?

I thought it would be great to be included in a showcase sampling from the membership of West Virginia Writers, Inc., an organization that has been very important to me. I also responded because I knew Cat Pleska was going to be the senior editor, ensuring a quality product.

How did you decide what to submit?

I’m probably best known for my short stories. I thought it’d be good to stretch a bit, and so I sent in a piece of nonfiction, a humorous first-person essay.

Make a one-sentence synopsis of your first three books.

My short story collections are about ordinary people who experience the extraordinary, with bits of hope and humor.

What is your newest book about? Is this going to be the first in a series?

My newest book is a middle-grade fantasy novel. It could be a series, though the story does come to a resolution. As a reader, I really dislike coming to the end of a book, only to find it breaks off in mid-action. But I really liked my characters and would enjoy plotting with them again.

Why did you decide to write this different genre of book?

A couple of reasons motivated me to write for a younger audience. Elementary schools started inviting me to make presentations because of my short-story collections. Even though I wrote those books with adult readers in mind, the vocabulary is pretty accessible. I discovered that I really liked interacting with the students and started thinking it would be wonderful to write something for them. At the same time, I was starting to buy books for my great-nephew. As I previewed them, I discovered that I really liked these books myself. I truly enjoy this genre as a reader.

Who is your literary hero? Why?

What an intriguing question. Louisa May Alcott immediately comes to mind. As a child, I was inspired by her character of the budding writer Jo in Little Women. As an adult, I was inspired by how she faced adversity in her personal life.

Who or what in West Virginia inspires you in your writing?

The land and its people. The land, because of its beauty and its ancient energy. The people, who personify the trait of perseverance that I admired in Louisa May Alcott.

Who is the most famous person (in your opinion) you’ve ever met? What did you say to him/her?

Hmm, the first name that comes to mind is Sam Walton, the founder of the Wal-Mart chain. As a young newspaper reporter, I was sent to interview him when he came to the opening of a new Sam’s Wholesale Club. At the time, he was listed as the richest person in America.

But the most thrilling meeting with a famous person would have to be encountering George Takei at a book signing in California. Most of us know him from his role of Sulu in the Star Trek television series, but he also wrote a very moving account of being a Japanese American child relocated to an internment camp during World War II.  When I had the chance to speak with him briefly, instead of raving about how much I loved Star Trek, I found myself asking him about his parents’ citizenship.

Pretend you are in the fifth grade. Write a book report on Jackson vs. Witchy Wanda as a 5th grader might.

What a fun prompt! I’m inspired by comments made by one of my great-nephews when he was in fifth grade. He told me he likes a mix of characters: “some evil, some good, some mysterious, some devious.” He was also explicit about this element: “No romance.” I’m also inspired by the entries I’ve been reading as a state judge for Letters About Literature, in which children write to authors about how books have changed their lives. Here we go:

If you like books with action and suspense and funny stuff, read Jackson vs. Witchy Wanda: Making Kid Soup. If you’re like me and Jackson, you’ll be suspicious of that woman in the dark robe getting off the train. And, if you’re like me and Jackson, you’ll want to know what she’s up to, especially with “making kid soup” in the book’s title. And what’s the deal with the dummy in the department store window? Read Jackson vs. Witchy Wanda and find out.

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Frank Larnerd: Mr. Ghoul

Frank Larnerd was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and spent much of his childhood engrossed in weird stories of monsters, mutants, and other worlds. He has worked as a morgue night watchman, shoe salesman, and color commentator for IWA: East Coast wrestling.

Although he is best known for his unique blend of traditional Appalachian folklore and unsettling horror, Frank has also published numerous science fiction and crime stories.

Currently, Frank studies Professional Writing at West Virginia State University, where he has received multiple awards for fiction and non-fiction.

He lives in Putnam County, West Virginia.

When did you begin reading consistently and what authors and genres did you like?

I was reading independently at 5 or 6. My mother was a huge reading advocate and encouraged me to explore the library and checkout anything that appealed to me. As a very young reader, I liked Shel Silverstein, Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys as well as nonfiction books on the supernatural.

How old were you when you realized you wanted to be a writer? What made you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I have always wanted to be a storyteller, whether it was as a comic book artist, filmmaker, or writer. I think that anyone who has ever been inspired, frightened, or moved by a story can’t help but wonder what stories they could tell.

Who else in your family writes creatively?

I come from a long line of fibbers, tall tale tellers, fabulists, bards, and spook story enthusiasts. My parents are both gifted chroniclers and talented writers in their own rights. My brother Dan Larnerd is my writing partner and usually the first person to read a new story. He’s an accomplished published writer, who writes amazing short stories. Sebaston my youngest son also has the writing bug; he had his first publican at 12 and has been writing ever since.

Describe your writing space.

My four year old has taken over my office. Currently, I have been exiled to the back bedroom.
As bad as that sounds, it’s got a TV, a chair, and my laptop. What more could a writer need?

Where do you see yourself as an author 5 years from now? 15 years? 50 years?

In 5 years, I’d like to have some moderate success with a few anthologies and novels. In 15 years, I’d like to transition into screenwriting and film making. In 50 years, I’d love for my work to be known for its quality and less for who created it.

If you could meet any author living or dead, who would it be and why? What would you say?

Mark Twain because of his humor, vast experience, and depth of heart. I wouldn’t say anything to him though, I’d just listen.

What makes you afraid?

As a writer who writes a lot about monsters, you might think I would be afraid of ghosts, vampires, or something like that. Honestly, the things that scare me are very human things. Are my kids safe? Am I a good husband? Is my temper out of control? What if something horrible happens? Those fears drive my writing. Many times, stories are a way for me to confront my own fears; the reader just gets a front row seat.

Where do you think you fit within the literary history of West Virginia literature?

I don’t think I do at the moment. The writing community here is very close knit and expects a lot out its writers. I hope to keep on plugging along and little by little impress them, until they have no choice but to notice me.

Write to this prompt:

There’s a knock at your door. When you open it, a young man, clearly nervous, is standing on the other side. He doesn’t speak at first. Just stares at you. Finally, he stammers. “Take the blue pill, whatever you do.” And then he bolts away.

 

All right, here you go. Quick and dirty…

Lick My Lizard

“Y’all ain’t got nothing on me,” I said into the headset.

Using the controller, I scooted my car on the TV screen past a roaring green stock-car and grinned.

“Rubbing is racing, fellers.”

It was Sunday, a little past eleven. The gray September light had just started to creep into the trailer’s windows, along with the whoops and hollers of the neighborhood brats.

I was still dressed in my boxers and bathrobe; a half-eaten bowl of Captain Crunch sat on the table across from me.

Holly lay beside me on the couch, asleep, dressed in bright pink panties and one of my Metallica t-shirts. She looked like a dreaming pixie princess with her pale, sparkling skin and electric blue hair.

The TV roared as I swung my car around the next curve. A red stock car nosed around me, cutting me off. I was pointing the controller after him, when there was a knock at the door.

I ignored it and squeezed the buttons on the controller, watching my car soar down the track. As I neared the lead car, the knock came again. On the screen, the cars slammed together. There was a crunch of pixels as my car slid off the track and exploded.
Cursing, I switched off the PlayStation.

After undoing the security chain, I opened the door and blinked into the daylight. On my porch was a young guy dressed in a faded flannel shirt, his Sycamore Landscaping ball cap was pulled low, hiding his eyes. Behind him, I could see the neighborhood kids horsing around. I barely noticed their wet pant legs, or the buckets they slogged to an empty spot between two vacant trailers.

The young guy leaned in close, his breath like butane. “Take the blue pill, whatever you do.”

As soon as he said it, he bolted off around the corner of the trailer.

My cousin, Donnie Withrow. Half-crazy, half-stupid, and a hundred percent trouble.

“Donnie,” I growled. “Get your butt in here ‘fore the neighbors see you.”

His face peeked around the edge of the trailer, a grin showing under the shade of his hat. I rolled my eyes and went back inside.

I threw a speckled afghan over Holly as Donnie clomped in, slamming the screen door behind him. I put a finger to my lips and motioned for Donnie to follow me back to the bedroom.

Once the door was closed, I lit a cigarette and sat down on the bed. I rubbed at my stubble and asked, “What the hell you want, Donnie? Don’t you owe me twenty-five dollars? Ain’t no way you’re gettin’ a front.”

He sat down across from me at Holly’s makeup table. “Come on, cousin,” Donnie said. “It ain’t like that; I’m here to give you something.”

I blew out a cloud of smoke and noticed the rectangular blue Tupperware box in his hands, hands that were pale and sweaty looking.

“You back on the crystal?”

Donnie tugged at the brim of his ball cap, lowering it further. “Naw, it ain’t like that, man. This stuff is way better, and it’s natural and legal.”

“What you got there?” I asked, nodding at his Tupperware box.

“Something special. I’m tryin’ to tell you.”

His oily white hands caressed the box, searching for the corners. As he peeled back the top, the smell of dirty, stagnant water escaped. Inside the box, something splashed and slithered about.

Carefully, Donnie reached inside. There was more splashing as his hand latched on to something. He brought the struggling thing up and held it to my face.

“Check it out.”

It was nearly three feet long, dark brown with loose leprous-looking skin that pulsed and undulated in a strange, alien way. It had a long paddled tail and four stubby legs. The thing’s head was flat with tiny, milky gray eyes that were barely visible. Its mouth was wide and fat like a frog’s, and it was trying to bite Donnie’s fingers.

I crushed out my cigarette. “What I want with a snot otter? Rather you just give me my twenty five-bucks.”

“Snot otter?” Donnie smirked as the salamander wriggled in his fists. “Is that what it’s called?”

The thing’s mouth opened and closed, snapping at the air while its tail flopped around, dribbling slime on my carpet.

I said, “Daddy called ‘em hellbenders. Heard folks call ‘em mud devils, or Allegheny alligators. Used to see a mess of ‘em back when I would go crawfishing out at Paint Creek.”

“You know they’ll get you high?” Donnie asked.

“Bull… if that’s true, how come nobody ever noticed it before?”

“Maybe it’s a mutation from all that crap they put in the water, or maybe they’re evolving, or maybe it’s always been that way, but nobody’s ever been brave enough to try it.”

“Donnie,” I said. “You’re about one brain cell from a talking monkey, you know that?”

“The kids at the other end of the trailer park showed me. Levi, Shaun, and Mary Katharine’s boy, they was all them doing it. They say it’s more popular than Justin Beiber. Now, just give it a couple licks and… whew, I tell you son, it will send you up like a rocket.”

Donnie held the hellbender out to me. “Go on, try it.”

The mucus-covered thing fidgeted and flopped in front of me, thick ropes of slime dripped from its rotten-looking flesh. It smelled awful; a mix of fish, funk, and rot.

“Like hell, Donnie,” I said. “I ain’t gunna do no such thing.”

Laughing, Donnie brought the salamander up to his own face. “I done it twice now, it don’t hurt none.”

He stretched the creature out, exposing its belly. I tried to turn my head, but I found myself looking.

Donnie swiped his tongue over the thing’s stomach. He slurped at it like it was a vanilla ice-cream cone, savoring the taste as the slimy thing squirmed and snapped in his hands.

After four good licks, Donnie set the hellbender back in the blue Tupperware box. He leaned back, eyes closed, as an expression of bliss washed over his face. Thick strands of cloudy mucus hung from his lips, dripping down over Donnie’s feeble goatee. Trembling slightly, he let out a deep breath and smiled.

I lit up another smoke and asked, “You good?”

“Beautiful,” Donnie said, his eyes still closed.

Donnie’s pale skin seemed to go almost translucent. I could see veins and arteries pumping wildly beneath the surface. Donnie’s neck bulged out on both sides, inflating into a fat ring.

I stood up. “Dude, y’alright?”

Donnie started to shake in the chair. His arms flailed at his sides while his feet kicked out spastically.

I snapped my fingers at Donnie’s face. He continued convulsing; foam rose up from his throat.

“Donnie!”

I grabbed the collar of his shirt and shook him. His hat fell off backwards onto the floor as did most of his hair.

Oh God, his face.

Donnie’s skin was waxen and droopy, like a basset hound. Most of the hair on his head was gone, leaving his scalp ruddy and scabby looking.

I yelled his name again and Donnie’s eyes snapped opened.

His eyes were a cloudy gray now, inhuman with no detectable emotion. Donnie shrieked and launched himself at me.

I tripped over my bathrobe, and we fell together onto my bed. Donnie’s skin knotted and blistered into sickly coarse warts as he hovered over me. His teeth snapped inches away from my face. I held him back with one hand, his skin foul and slimy to the touch. He held my right hand down against the mattress with a webbed-clawed hand, his nails slicing into my skin.

In my fingers was my cigarette.

Donnie’s mouth opened, a long black glistening tongue rolled out and flopped on my face. I screamed as it retracted back into Donnie’s mouth, pulling a hunk of my cheek along with it.

I yanked my hand free, ignoring the deep scratches his claws made. Jamming one hand under his jaw, I pushed up, locking his teeth together and stabbed the cigarette into his spongy gray eye.

“Donniemander,” or “Saladonnie,” or whatever you want to call him fell back and onto the floor. He pawed at the smoldering filter, kicking and screeching in pain.

I grabbed the baseball bat next to the bed and stood over him.

“Sorry, Cousin.”

After five or six swings, it was over.

Splattered with gore, I stumbled into the living room, calling Holly’s name, telling her to call 911.

She wasn’t on the couch. The speckled afghan was on the floor, along with a spilled bowl of Captain Crunch.

I looked up. The screen door was open, squeaking in the breeze. Outside, I could hear screams, gunshots, and the gurgling laughter of things that used to be children.

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