Published.

This arrived in the mail this week.
It is an advanced copy of Cicada, a literary magazine. The September/October edition.

Targeted to teenagers and early twenty-year-olds, Cicada features short stories and poetry from real, breathing, wonderful authors. In addition, readers can submit their own work. At the back of each issue a new “Creative Endeavor” is released. Creative Endeavors encourage readers to write a poem, take a photo, or draw a picture of a certain thematic topic.

Earlier this year, the topic “mystery” was the challenge. I submitted a poem, and, voilà, a few months later and it shows up on my door mat. Tucked between a stunning cover and back page, my mystery poem rests alongside other creative endeavors.

Mystery is a topic that befuddles me. I could never imagine crafting up a sneaky plot with double motives, sudden and frequent plot twists, and “Murder, murder, MURDER!” So I took a route that I could relate with. I wrote about that classic board game Clue.

***

Open the Box

Put your cards on the table.
But facedown so no one
will know. Slide them into
the envelope before eyes
wander and peek.

A flash of fire. What’s that?
It’s the missus in her red
dress. She glides ‘round
corridors with her blazing
hot candlestick.

A burst of maize. What’s that?
It’s the officer in his yellow
jacket. He clambers o’er
chairs with his polished revolver
ready and sleek.

But it’s the ghost white apron
that billows and covers the
pipe. Her cards overturned, she
can hide no more. Framed and
criminal sick.

Close the box. The mystery’s
solved for now. It’s always the
unexpected who act out of spite.
Don’t think fast, always think
twice. The Clue’s done for
tonight.

***

How nice of Cicada to allude to my poem—”Open the Box and look for the Clues!” the last line reads.

Thank you, Cicada. My advanced copies leave my chest a little tight and my smile a little wider. I’m not sure if this is all real.
I look forward to submitting to you again sometime soon.

We Ate Spam and Discussed Writing

I sure have mentioned Candice Ransom a lot lately.
Let’s see, she went with me to the Fair, rode along on the trip to the Paper Man, and will speak to my Governor’s School class later this year.

This Wednesday, we ate Spam, among other things, and discussed writing.

For those unaware of Candice’s importance, I’ll catch you up. Candice Ransom is the author of 115 (and counting!) books. From picture books to middle-grade to nonfiction to YA, this author has the experience.

She is also best friends with my mom.
Lucky me! In just the right amount of time, too—they’ve only been friends for a few months. If she were to have come in our lives any later, I wouldn’t have had the fantastic afternoon that I had this Wednesday.

I swear Candice has the record for the number of funniest things ever said.
She has eyes that can tell when a piece of furniture was built. “Oh, yes, look at the 70s table,” she says, as if it’s obvious. I’m left staring at it to see if the date was stamped on its surface somewhere.
She knows all the bird calls and trees by heart.
And, of course, she can write (extremely well).

She can also cook. For lunch on Wednesday, we had an exclusively sixties meal. Grilled cheese halves and deviled eggs lined our scarlet red Fiestaware. Fritos were readily available from a nearby dish. Ice clinked in my pink lemonade. Some odd food combination of pears, Miracle Whip and lettuce bumped into my elbow each time I reached for my fork (“Did people really eat that?” I asked my mom. “Yes,” she said.).

And, of course, there was Spam. I momentarily broke vegetarianism to try a quarter of a mystery meat sandwich. It wasn’t horrible, but I can’t say that I would have it again.

For dessert, we scarfed down our chocolate-frosted Jiffy mix cupcakes and licked our Tootsie Pops.

The table was decorated expertly to reflect the sixties. A Magic 8-Ball, Play-Doh, Silly Putty, and ephemera acted as centerpieces. A pink tablecloth and checkerboard floors tied everything together.

All the food! I enjoyed it all, but not necessarily for taste. All of it—even the Spam and Miracle Whipped Pear—showed me how a child of the sixties actually lived. In the same way that the ephemera brought me into the world of the sixties, this lunch brought me into the homes of the sixties.

To finish, Candice delivered a priceless tour of her office and her writing routines. And that’s what I’m most grateful for—she saw potential in me and took time from her career to give me a boost. Is it an unfair advantage? Maybe. I learned more Wednesday about the writing world than anybody who just surfs the web for writing tips. But it is an advantage that truly mattered. I can only hope that maybe one day I’ll be the one throwing the lunch, delivering the presents, and offering some fifteen-year-old advice.

To My Readers

Thank you to my British readers—

Thank you to my French readers—

Thank you to my South African readers and my Australian readers and my German readers—

Thank you to my Barbadian readers and my Russian readers. Thank you to my Bangladeshi readers and my Irish readers. Thank you to my Korean readers and Filipino readers.

Thank you to my readers who come from places I’d never heard. I now know where Maldives, Saint Lucia, Malta, and Lebanon are on the map.

Thank you to my lone reader from Luxembourg.

People from eighty-two unique countries have visited See Jacob Write. The vastness of my viewers’ nationalities overwhelms me. I want to write something that each of you will like, no matter where you live or what language you speak.

Leave a comment if you’re from a place of interest—international or American.

And, lastly, thank you to my American readers. You have given me thousands of views, and I hope to give you thousands of words.

The Ephemera Expedition

For those of you who are unaware, I am currently writing a young adult novel set in 1963 America. As with any historical novel, I’ve done globs of research. Up until now, my print research has consisted of dusty library books. With overzealous titles like The Age of Great Dreams, The Years of Hope and Days of Rage, and How the Sixties Changed the World Forever . . . I’ll admit, I started skimming to get to the one or two meager facts I truly needed.

Thousands of pages, I must’ve read.
And did I get much out of them?
No, not really.

I was reading about the sixties from books that were mainly published in the nineties.

It wasn’t until local author Candice Ransom, my mom, and I took a trip to Whiting’s Old Paper that I discovered the true heart of the sixties.

According to Merriam-Webster’s, ephemera (plural) are paper items of no lasting significance.

Well, Merriam-Webster, I think I’ll have to switch to Oxford for a while.

Candice calls John Whiting “The Paper Man,” so I did too. It was very well, considering he didn’t call me by my name either. “Is this what you were looking for…ah…Jason?”

Confused names aside, we shuffled through The Paper Man’s store in Mechanicsville, Virginia. Rows upon rows, boxes upon boxes, shelves upon shelves, piles upon piles of paper! It wasn’t a large space, but I reckon anyone under the age of twelve could get lost in there for weeks. Let my pictures describe—

Only one corner of the shop

And only one shelf of boxes

Candice and I left with dusty hands, armloads of paper, and empty wallets. My purchases leaned toward magazines of 1963.

TV Guide: Reading this, I wonder if people anxiously awaited the latest schedule and crossword puzzle each week.
Teen Screen:
Reading this, I wonder why all the “teen” stars were really thirtysomethings in beige turtlenecks.

I wonder about Lyndon B. Johnson’s composure during a month so wrought with havoc. I wonder how he coped with acting as VP, then, poof, President of the United States.

The upper part of this 1963 November calendar talks about the dangers and precautions of poisons. I wonder what kind of turkey people ate back then.

I wonder why I’ve never heard of Elizabeth Ashley, front cover model and “Broadway’s Brightest and Newest.” Maybe it’s because her front cover debut happened the same day as JFK’s assassination, I wonder.

And I wonder about the recipients of these publications—Mrs. M. Vandermeer, Mr. George R. Mercer, Mrs. Jo Ann Kanavel, and Mr. E. Dunkum. I wonder if they were like me and thew magazines away because they never really had time to read them. I wonder how they lived in the 1960s. I wonder if they would ever expect some young teen in 2012 to buy their old mail. I wonder how life before in their time even functioned—a question each young generation asks, I suppose.

I just find it amazing that so much happened before I was born.

The things in these magazines—the articles, the pictures, the ads, especially—take me the closest to the sixties that I will ever get. Questions and thoughts boil over in my mind, and then fly out of the keyboard into books and blog posts.

So thank you, Paper Man, and thank you, ephemera.

And you’re wrong, Merriam-Webster.
These are items of worth.

A Monday Sojourn

“. . . And during his off-weeks, he trekked the globe as a traveling writer and eager snapshooter. The sights of the world inspired his writings and photographs. One Monday, after the three o’clock showers, he sojourned on the . . .”

Fredericksburg fairgrounds?

It was Candice Ransom’s idea.

Such great friends with Candice, my mom agreed that an outing to our local fair would invite many photographic opportunities.

So Candice and Mom were in.
Since Mom was in, Dad was in. Voluntarily or not, I do not know.
Naturally, I had to go too. I couldn’t have people think that I’m a reclusive vampire of a teen.

My expectations were low.

Overpriced rides, sickening fried food, and scorching heat against a backdrop of smelly farm animals and even smellier rednecks?
No thanks.

But what I discovered truly surprised me.

I smiled, I laughed, I meandered, I experienced.

See, the fair can be viewed two ways. Way number one is my initial reaction. And that way isn’t necessarily incorrect. The rides were overpriced, the food was fried, and the animals did smell.

But way number two takes pockets of that first perspective and brings out the best in them.

See for yourself…

‘Round and ’round and ’round, we go! The colors of the carousel horses—bright teals, magentas, Crayola’s mac ‘n’ cheese orange—take me to some sort of whimsical dream. And with a little bit of carousel history from Candice, a new book idea was born inside my little head!


What fair trip doesn’t include a Ferris Wheel? I’ll admit, Ferris Wheels as a teen aren’t the same as a little kid. Those rocking benches have been replaced with non-rockable gondolas, and the number of times we went around seemed minimal. But there’s something about being up so high. So high that you can see everything and feel like you can just make one quick jump to the heavens.

Skee-ball. It is a sad day when neither the mother nor her son can get enough points to win the smallest-of-the-small prizes. “But, together, we have more than enough points!” Mom said.

Ah, the treats. The food itself may be all that whitish-yellow fried color, but the food stands are colorful wonders. Sneaky, sneaky.

This . . . just looks nauseating. But the whoosh of air as it passed by us brought the smells of the fair. It was like this little death trap of a ride was an electric mixer combining the different corners of the fairgrounds.

The view from the top.

The view from behind.

***

So many photos, I know.

The fair truly was a visual experience. What is at once a landscape of barren grass, screaming kids, and tobacco-chewing, pony-tail-whipping men can easily become something better. Granted, I’ve applied some Instagram effects (the ultimate snapshot enhancer) to these photos, but their essence is still there.

The fair is no Italian Riviera or Mount Everest. It will not pose for you or sell you any postcards or make its way into your vacation photo album.

But is a memorable experience.

Nowhere else can you see both dressed-up potatoes and duck races, all with a smile pushing into your cheeks.