Saturday, May 25, 2013

Open Season

How we began eight years ago...
Dear Readers,

After a long school-year's sleep, Outside the Atlas returns with greater strength & keener vision.  This summer, we will not only be sharing work from our 2013 interns, updates about the program, event announcements (we will be hosting at least 2 readings this year), but we will also be inviting other young writers from the area to share, submit, perform & participate more in the ever-developing creative writing community here in the QC.  More details coming next week, but since it's Memorial Day weekend, I wanted to share something I wrote for the founder of the YEW Program, master teacher & dear friend Tim Curry, to start this year's work off remembering where this program started so we can better understand & celebrate where we go next.  This is my tribute to Mr. Curry, available at Ink Node.

Thanks for keeping up with us, thanks for sharing with us--it's going to be the best summer yet.  Stay tuned...

All best,

R. Collins
Director, Young Emerging Writers Summer Internship Program          

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fortuna (An Elegy) | a poem/film by Nikki Steinbaugh

How awesome are the YEW interns? So awesome that they are venturing into filmmaking.  Here is a terrific poem from the forthcoming The Atlas written and directed by the excellent Nikki Steinbaugh. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Key to Adventure | A story by Amy Kirschenmann

Today's post is a short story, "The Key to Adventure," by awesome second-year intern Amy Kirschenmann.  Enjoy!


The Key to Adventure 

            “You’ve got to be kidding me, Kate,” I said to my best friend, frustrated at her inability to keep track of her belongings.  “Please tell me you’re joking.” 

            She sorrowfully bit her lower lip and shook her head no, crossing her arms over her tank top.  “I wish I was, Mia,” she replied, glancing around as though it would make her keys magically reappear.    

            There was no such luck. 

            I angrily sighed, doing my best not to panic.  I couldn’t believe it.  On the first roadtrip that Kate and I had been able to take without any parental supervision or unbreakable itineraries, Kate managed to lose her keys.  Not only did she lose them, but she lost them on the grounds outside of the St. Louis Arch.  They were going to be impossible to find, and the spare keys were at home, five hours away. 

            So much for being adult enough to go on a roadtrip by ourselves.

            “What should we do?” I finally asked.

            She shrugged her shoulders.  “We could sing the Simple Plan ‘How Could This Happen to Me’ song and cry,” she suggested. 

            “That’s not going to help.”   I stared at the ground, thinking back to all the places we had walked.  “Okay, here’s the plan,” I decidedly stated.  “We retrace our steps.  They’ve got to be around here somewhere.  I don’t think bandits would steal car keys when they’d have no idea where the car is parked.”

            “Smart thinking, Mia,” Kate complimented, starting to walk back towards the grassy area we had sat to watch some Civil War re-enactors shoot old guns.  “Maybe they fell out of my pocket when we sat down.” 

            They hadn’t. 

            They weren’t near the Civil War dudes.  They weren’t on the steps in front of the Arch.  They weren’t down on the riverfront.  They weren’t near the smelly and oddly green pond. 

            We retraced our steps twice, asking random visitors if they had seen our missing keys.  With pitying expressions, they all answered no.  Of course the abundance of employees that we had seen not twenty minutes before had all but vanished. 

            “We could try calling the information desk and see if a kind stranger has turned them in,” Kate suggested, pulling up the Arch website on her phone.  She wiped the continuous flow of sweat off her forehead with her arm, dialing the number. 

            I stared at her, hoping for good news while ignoring the nervous sensation coursing through my stomach.  “Well?” I prompted when she stuck her tongue out at the phone. 

            “Computers keep redirecting me and making me listen to weird polka music on hold,” she explained, grabbing my arm when an actual human answered.  “Hi, do you know if any keys have been turned in?”  Kate paused, taking in the information.  “Mmhmm, yeah, thank you,” she finished, ending the call.  Her hazel eyes clouded with disappointment as she shook her head no at me.  “No one has turned any keys in.”

            I shut my eyes tightly, wishing that I could wake up from this nightmare.         

            “I don’t want to have to call my mom and make her drive down here with the spare keeeeeey,” Kate whined. 

            “This is why you should’ve given me the key in the first place.  I have deeper pockets than your skanky shorts do.” 

            “I’m ignoring that comment about my perfectly acceptable shorts.  Can we sing the ‘How Could This Happen to Me’ song now?” she asked as we sat down on a bench next to the left side of the Arch. 

            I nodded my head, defeated.  “At this point, I see no reason not to.” 

            We glumly sang to ourselves, as I rested my elbows on my knees, cradling my head in my hands. 

            “Those are the saddest faces I’ve ever seen while at the Arch,” a distinctively young male voice called, interrupting our mournful singing. 

            I looked up to see a strikingly handsome guy about our age smiling down at us.  He put his hands on his hips, drawing my attention to the uniform he wore that I had seen on other Arch employees around the grounds. 

            Kate’s eyes lit up, no doubt noticing his attractiveness like I was.  She leaped to her feet, landing right in front of him with a hopeful grin on her face.  “Has anyone turned in a set of car keys?” she hurriedly asked.

            Or maybe it was just me admiring his hotness. 

            He teasingly grimaced at Kate, before looking over to me.  “Lost your keys, huh?  That sucks.”

            “You have no idea,” I said. 

            “You didn’t answer my question!” Kate exclaimed, throwing her arms out to her sides. 

            His grin stretched from ear to ear as he reached into his dark grey uniform pocket and pulled out our salvation.  “Are these the keys in question?”

            “Stephanie!” Kate called out to the stingray keychain on her key ring as she yanked them out of the guy’s hand, hugging them close to her chest. 

            “I’ll take that as a yes,” he chuckled.       

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Infinite Sadness | A poem by Abigail Morrow

So we didn't have a a post yesterday because we were all busy trying not to set ourselves on fire playing w/ fireworks (or just standing outside--dear lord it's hot!), but we're back on track today w/ a poem from another excellent first-year intern, Abigail Morrow.  Enjoy!

The Infinite Sadness  
by Abigail Morrow                                                                              

Seven stars for seven sisters above the seven seas,

And each a seventh sadness marked Greek Pleiades,

Amidst the reign of Taurus and in likeness to the dove,

Flies Merope, youngest sister, in a race from hunter’s love.

Is this her only sadness? No, though the others have but one,        

It is her second sadness for which the other sisters shun.

Merope wed a mortal man entrapped in Hades’ embrace,

And so in shame and sadness the Lost Pleiad hides her face.

Eldest daughter Maia bears a sadness of her own,

As she raises Hermes, son of Zeus, in the night alone,

Electra, second-eldest, bears a secret similar,

As she cares for sons of the Gods who cared not once for her,

Taygete, middle sister, is the last to bear Zeus’ child,

Mother of city Sparta, her punishment is mild,

The other three have sadnesses from other Gods immoral,

But none can match that of Merope, wife of Earth-bound mortal.

Once the apple of Atlas’ eye and daughter of the sea,

She wasted in the sight of Orion’s company.

Seven stars for seven sisters above the seven seas,

And one a second sadness marked in passing as she flees.

Who is the seventh sister who runs from his caress?

It is melancholy Merope and her infinite sadness.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"In Response to 'Wherever mama Walks is Flowers' by Nathan Vulgamott" | by Gini Atwell

We're going for a post each day this week...

Today's selection is from a brand new intern (no, we do not refer to them as "greenhornes" at YEW, although...), Gini Atwell.  I asked the interns to comb through a few dozen issues of various magazines & journals to find a piece that spoke to them in some way & then write a response to it.  This is Gini's response to a poem by Nathan Vulgamott which first appeared in the Winter 2008 issue of SAGA, the literary magazine produced by nearby Augustana College.  Enjoy!


"In response to: 'Wherever mama Walks is Flowers' by Nathan Vulgamott" | Gini Atwell


            I see Mama in the garden, burdened shoulders shaking in the tulips. The weight of the world rests upon those weathered shoulders, and a broken heart is all that keeps them from caving in. Sitting undetected on the front porch steps, I want to run to Mama and wipe the sweat and tears from her face, but I know there's nothing a silent child could ever do.

            Not so long ago, I remembered peeking from under the kitchen chairs at the end of long, summer days. Then, it was Daddy who collapsed on the floor, weeping and shaking in this muddy boots and overalls, blood on his hands from the womb of his favorite mare. Back then, it was Mama who pulled him up, who washed his face and hands and murmured kindness over a late-night dinner.

            I always wanted to be Mama, then, to be ox-strong and so wildly  beautiful. Seeing her now, I could scarcely recognize the woman kneeling in the dirt before me.

            When Daddy died, her strength went with him, buried in the family plot, as if saving a place for her body. Mama laid in bed for weeks, while the bread got stale and moldy, and the milk turned sour. The house was dusty and quiet during endless winter days, though at night I could her her muffled sobs in her sleep. As the frost lifted and the tulips sprung up from the earth, the weeds came with them, choking out the familiar reds and yellows.

           But today, I awoke to a clean table, soft new bread, and the smell of lilacs in the air-- the smell of Mama. Now, sitting on the stairs, a fresh glass of milk in my hands, I watch her sigh. Suddenly, through the shudders of her body, I see her tearing out the twisting weeds, watering the turned up ground with her tears. The sun hits her hair like a lackluster halo, and I silently send up a tiny prayer to Daddy. Although Mama seems so thin and dry, she pulls the weeds with vigor I never knew she had. She rips back the vines like tangled bedclothes and regrets, and through the morning haze, I can see the tulips blooming brighter than ever.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Two Poems by Heidi Stofer & Brigitta Meyer

Today's selections comes from two outstanding second-year interns, Heidi Stofer & Brigitta Meyer.  Please enjoy...& share the goodness. Thanks!


"Fate," by Heidi Stofer

I imagine the tender thread as it works between your fingers, my life strung up among your gnarled knuckles. It is frayed from the friction of swift weaving, knotted where it wore too thin. In some places it is thicker, intersected by another’s life line, patterned and opaque.

Equilibrium restored, I am a single entity. Fresh dye hangs from the hemp and makes the length seem not half so lovely as the width. And still the days stretch on in fibers, fading from the oils in your skin that soak up the colors.

Though I am young, my string sags on the ground with the weight of what meager truth has seeped into it. This threadbare ribbon of a mind sinks into the remains of civilizations, blurred by the remnants of past lives with the only certain edge at the end of a sword.

Please, take your time.

Until your shears cut my cord,

A fraying soul
"Denarius" by
Brigitta Meyer

Where’s the fairy floss?
Who killed the lilacs, the marigolds, the prairie roses?
They left scarlet in the clouds.
Dear amateurs,
Use bleach.
The sky is bleeding,
The doctors advise you to say your goodbyes.
But it’s just another day the town was painted red,
And thanks to the expansive atmosphere overhead,
The starsas usualhave to clean up the mess.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Greetings & Salutations

Welcome to the official web presence of the Young Emerging Writers & THE ATLAS.  Here you will find info about the YEW program, related news/events/opportunities & new work by our current interns published on a rolling basis, leading up to the release party for THE ATLAS, vol. 7 on Wednesday, August 8th at the Midwest Writing Center (you're invited).  Please check back frequently & please contact us at the MWC:  Thanks!

"Miss Scarlet" | a poem by Becky Hixon

Very excited to have our first contribution to Outside the Atlas, which comes from second-year YEW intern Becky Hixon.  This is the first of many works to be published here & an excellent way to get "clued" in to what this project is about.  Enjoy & thanks to Becky for the terrific poem!

Miss Scarlet by Becky Hixon

The highest number goes first.

She swept into the room accompanied by the glow of a candle’s halo,
Gliding across the floor, her dress falling like water
Rippling across her thighs, her neckline plunging and diving into her
Breasts. Knock-knock.
Who’s there?

“Take your time,” they said, “take your time.”

It’s the Maid in her pressed, white apron carrying a plate of cheese knife and all.
She came by way of the passage from the kitchen
So as to avoid the long walk.
She handed the plate to the Colonel, the handiest with the knife
And he sliced off a piece for the man in the
Green suit and the woman with the Feathers, but she was busy
Talking to the Professor.

“Ask your questions,” they said, “ask your questions.”

And so I did.
I asked where they were. I asked what they held. I asked who they saw.
It was then they realized there was one among them who didn’t play by the rules.
I found the proof.
It came as specks of crimson crystal dotting the room next door.

“Play your cards,” they said, “play your cards.”

It was Miss Scarlet in the library with the candlestick.