Posted tagged ‘Motet’

bits and pieces

July 25, 2022

The word of the day is HOT. I know my part of the country, of the world, is not unique in this way, but we’ve been under days-long heat warnings, with cautions to stay indoors and watch out for our neighbors. The temps have moderated some, and we’re closer to “normal” for this time of the year, but I expect we’re living through our future in our present.

I’ve not been out to my little cabin in the woods for a while because it’s just too hot to do anything but sit in the comfy chairs on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake. But maybe with the moderating temperatures, I can get a visit in soon. And if the forecasted rain actually falls, maybe I can have a fire too.


My story “Motet” is now up at MockingOwl Roost. It appears on page 7 of the online edition; you should be able to scroll to it, though there is a page-advance arrow that appears at the lower left you can click on too. This is a short work, so you should be able to speed through it. This is one of those rare stories that came to me almost fully formed. I happened to be raking fallen leaves in my front yard last year and paused to lean on my rake and indulge in some introspection, which is the theme of the issue.

Also influencing this story was an art exhibit I had attended at my hometown museum, The Nelson Atkins. It was Janet Cardiff’s Motet, which has been described as an audio sculpture. Here is a link to the artist talking about her work, and you can hear some of it being “performed.”

Significantly, I think this is the first time one of my stories has appeared in the first half of a publication. In fact, it’s the first story in this publication. I’ve arrived!


The New York grands were here for 3+ weeks, which kept me busy most of that time. One of the things their momma (my daughter) does is enroll them in swimming classes while they are here. Apparently, access to public pools is limited in Brooklyn, and demand for openings in classes is high. So they come to the broad plains of the midwest where pools abound and can be enrolled easily. Daily pool time has been especially beneficial with the heat wave they endured while here. Their cousins Emmett and Alice, who live just down the road from me, were able to make many appearances and get in lots of swimming time too. And their Seattle uncle (my son) gave us all a big treat by renting a movie theatre exclusively for us, providing lots of snacks, and giving us our own screening of Lightyear. It turns out that most of the kids in our pack were still a little too young to sit through a full-length movie, but their restlessness was certainly tolerable given that we were the only ones in the theater. (Also, it turns out this is not an especially expensive thing to do. Who knew?)


Last winter, when Small Paul’s grandmother from Kenya was here, we had signed up for a 5K that would be run underground in an old limestone mine. She’d done a 5K with me on Thanksgiving morning (very cold!) and the novelty of an underground run was next on her list. But COVID concerns led to the race being postponed. Now it comes up next month. Grandmother is back in Kenya, so my son will wear her bib and he and I and my daughter-in-law will complete the 5K. Grandparenting, it turns out, is a busy occupation!


I may have mentioned here that I recently wrote a story called “The Enormous Earbuds.” It’s my version/rewrite/homage to John Cheever’s story “The Enormous Radio,” though I flip the script at the end. I had never used earbuds before, so my depiction of them was slightly wrong in the story. But my wife, who is always my initial reader and who uses earbuds, pointed out my mistake, which I then corrected. I have the story on submission at a few magazines; maybe it will find a home.

But I can now report that I have a set of earbuds of my own. Apple calls them AirPods, but I’m going to stick with earbuds since that’s the term I use in my story. Anyway, how did I live so long without these things? I listen to podcasts while on my treadmill and when driving to/from my little cabin on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks, and I had treated myself to a set of wireless headphones that clip over my ears (to stay in place since I’m so “vigorous” on my treadmill), and they’d been fine. But now I have these earbuds, and what a difference! As I write this I’m listening to a medley of classical pieces — update: I just changed it to Thomas Tallis’ “Motet” — which is a nice environment for writing a blog post. (Not sure I could do this when working on a piece of fiction since I pretty much have to “enter” that world, and most classical and jazz music needs to be listened to. So I’ll continue with brown noise then.)

“Motet” edits

April 25, 2022

I mentioned before that my story “Motet” has been accepted by a lit journal. It’s going through the editing process right now, which is a little new for me since most of my published stories have been accepted as written (or with occasional minor suggestions shared via email). I don’t want to suggest that my prior stories were so brilliantly written that they never needed fine tuning. (The vast imbalance of rejections to acceptances makes that clear enuf.) Rather, I want to show the novelty of my current experience.

I received a redline of my story through Google Documents. I’ve dabbled in that tool before, mostly using it for backup storage before I went to the cloud. (And I should probably go in there and clean out a bunch of old stuff now. Though that is where I found the germ that became Obelus!) So I knew of the document sharing function it had, but I’d never used it. Now I am (I think).

The story as submitted was only 860 words long, but the editor found about a dozen points in it to question/suggest/revise. Many of these had to do with removing passive voice constructions, which I was fine with. There were some verb tense changes suggested as well, Some I accepted and some I didn’t. (One helps imply that a remembered character has died, for example.) There were also a couple of word choice suggestions. Most importantly, and one I didn’t yield on, was the word “counterpoint.” “Motet” is a vocal musical form, as is “counterpoint.” I used that word metaphorically to describe the “arguments” as a homes association meeting. The editor wanted to change it to “counterpoints” in the plural form, making it a more literal conversation rather than musical harmony. So I pushed back on that. I hope he accepts it.

The biggest change of all was the deletion of the last sentence. It sort of sums up the point of the story, and the editor didn’t think that summation was needed. He thought the story ended better with the preceding sentence. Curiously, the few times I’ve had substantive edits to my stories have nearly always been with the endings. (“Velvet Elvis” was considerably improved because of this.) So I yielded on this point as well.

I could see the editor’s points on the suggestions, and I agreed with most or gave counterpoint on others. We’ll see if any of that goes through. I don’t know if I transmitted the story through Google Docs correctly. I sent him a follow-up email just to be sure. There will be a second round of edits, so I should find out then.

Update 27APR22 – The editor reports that he has accepted my responses and arguments to his redline and that the work is done. There will be no need for a second edit. If I opened the correct final version on Google Docs, then the story is in the version I wanted in the end. I guess I’ll see when it finally goes online. I’ll let you know when that happens.

a twofer day

April 15, 2022

One day in February, I had received four rejections for submissions I had made. All at once like that was brutal, but that’s the nature of the biz.

I can balance that with the two emails I received today telling me that two of my stories were accepted! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten two acceptances in a single day, but I’ll take them.

One story is called “Motet,” and it’s the internal monologue of a man as he is raking the leaves in his front yard, reflecting on the neighbors whose leaves have blown into his yard. It’s in the spirit of community and diversity and harmonious blending, and I wrote it last fall when I was . . . doing a lot of leaf raking. I guess it would be called flash fiction since it’s only 860 words long, but I wrote the story I had, and I don’t think adding anything would have improved it. The publication that accepted it (“we are thrilled to accept your piece”) is called The MockingOwl Roost, an ezine that’s been around for a couple of years. I had responded to a call for stories on the theme of “Introspection.” Only 12 days passed between submission and acceptance, which is pretty good in my experience. It looks like “Motet” will appear in the journal in the middle of July.

The other story is one I wrote recently titled “The Retreat of the City Folk.” It’s about two city folk who buy some rural forest land and then have a conflict with a neighbor that costs them time and trouble and money. It’s based on a case of timber trespass that actually happened to me and my wife on some property we had before we acquired Roundrock. The point of my short story was that the two characters were almost literally “babes in the woods” and were outsmarted at every turn. In fact, they don’t get a word of dialog in the story, which is intended to show how passive they are. My story will appear in an upcoming issue of Floyd County Moonshine, a print journal that’s been around for 14 years. It’s based in Appalachia, but it is interested in “local color” stories from all over, including, it seems, the Missouri Ozarks. I had submitted the story only yesterday, and it was accepted today. (That’s the second fastest acceptance I have ever received.) I’m not sure when my story will appear, but the journal is published twice a year.

These acceptances are great news, but they also mean I have to withdraw a number of other submissions I’ve made for the two stories, but that’s the nature of the biz.