Tuesday, March 29, 2016


by Ashley Inguanta

The beginning was such an odd place. And like all beginnings, it was also an ending. The short version: At 12, I became obsessed with language, with writing. The long version is a bit different, a bit unexplainable, a bit miraculous. Here it goes.

I don’t remember what it felt like before the beginning, before I started to write—almost every day—trying to understand a feeling I could not put words to. Even though I could not find the words, I thought words were the answer, so I wrote them, and I read them, hoping to discover a definition, something concrete.

All I had was an image, a feeling inside of my spirit. I was 12--beginning the 7th grade--and a few days before the first day of school, I decided to “walk” my schedule, going from class to class, to make sure I didn’t get lost. I remember this: Looking through the window of my English classroom. I remember seeing a woman—she was young, and she was lovely. She was sitting with the rest of my teachers, so I assumed she would be one of mine that year. I felt a rush. I didn’t understand why. But I wanted to.

At first, I thought this feeling was purely spiritual, simply because I hadn’t felt it before. I couldn’t find the language to accurately describe it, but it was good—so good that I told my parents I no longer believed that a loving God would send me to hell. If God could create a feeling like this, how could a place like hell exist? That was my logic. I stopped going to church because I was no longer afraid of things I could not see.

Now, at 29, I understand that I had a crush (yes, it was that simple), but at 12 years old, I didn’t know that having a crush on someone of my own gender was possible. I remember going to a psychic in Port Jefferson, asking her why I felt this way. She said, “Do you have romantic feelings towards this woman?” I said, “No, no. Not at all.” I lied. I knew it.

From there, I began to find the language. I wrote about love at 15, about a dream I had—in this dream-place, it was okay to love someone of any gender. The piece I wrote didn’t overtly say this, but I tried to describe it the best way I knew how. I left gender out of the equation because I was terrified of having others know, but finally, I was getting there—grounding, understanding. I called the piece “Stardust Garden,” and it wasn’t quite a story, and it wasn’t quite a poem either—but that was okay. I was finding my voice, and I knew that was a gift. I won second place in my High School litmag, and I wasn’t even going to enter it. My homeroom teacher thought it would be a good idea, so I tried.

Before my homeroom teacher encouraged me to enter “Stardust Garden” into the litmag contest, I remember sitting with her and crying. I couldn’t stop crying. I remember telling her I had a feeling and I was scared, that I didn’t know what to do with it. She told me it would be okay. And I wrote. And I grew. And I haven’t stopped writing. As long as I continue to love, I will never stop.


Ashley Inguanta is a writer and photographer who is driven by landscape, place. She is the author of three collections: The Way Home (Dancing Girl Press 2013), For The Woman Alone (Ampersand Books 2014), and Bomb (forthcoming with Ampersand Books in 2016). Her work has most recently appeared in The Rumpus, PANK, Bartleby Snopes, Adrienne: A Poetry Journal of Queer WomenThe Good Men Project, OCHOCorium Magazine, and the Rough Magick anthology. Ashley is also the Art Director of SmokeLong Quarterly, and this year she received an Orlando Weekly "Best Of" award for her poetry. Four-wheeled and wingless, Ashley is from Florida and now lives in California, and she finds blessings on even the longest of highways. 

Visit her website at ashleyinguanta.com. Also find her at Echo and Dime, which you can find here: echoanddime.com / echoanddime.tumblr.com / instagram.com/echo-and-dime / ashleyinguantaphotography.com / instagram.com/ashley-inguanta

Photo of Ashley Inguanta by Lauren Laveria / Lauren Rita Photography

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

JOURNEY TO PLANET WRITE: Awakening With No Memory of the Life Before

by David S. Atkinson 

My story is one of those “character wakes up in a strange place with no memory of where he was before” type tales, because I don't really remember when I came into writing. There must have been some particular moment, but I no longer remember what it was. I remember writing short stories, poems, and such at least as far back as fourth grade including a western mystery novel centering on the perpetrator possessing a brass knife that left a very distinctive wound, which fell apart when I couldn't figure out at age 9 how a knife would leave a very distinctive wound. 

My parents were big into reading and writing, always encouraging my sister and I towards the same, so maybe I simply considered it to be something people did.

For a long time though, it was bad. Very bad. I was into a lot of science fiction and horror at the time, so I wanted to write it. That's all fine. I adore a lot of science fiction and fantasy out there, but it has to be good. Mine wasn't…for a very long time. Still, I kept at it. I submitted my first short story my junior year in high school, done up on a typewriter sitting in a spare room of the foster home I was at for a year. I had a lot to learn. For example, I learned that postal submissions wanted return envelopes and didn't care for single spacing. I also learned that the science fiction and fantasy I was writing wasn't coming out anything like the science fiction and fantasy I was reading. My Lovecraft pieces were the worst.

My tastes started leaning more literary as I focused more on trying to figure out why my stories weren't working. I figured I had to get the elements down before I could build interesting things with those elements, since building interesting things alone hadn't been working so well. I picked up a few writers’ workshop courses in undergrad. Those seemed to help what was wrong in my stories, so I decided to go back for more. Once I had my law degree down, I went back for a BA in English as preparation for an MFA. Going through both of those, I finally started seeing my stories come up to where they needed to be to function.

This is where my novel in story form, Bones Buried in the Dirt, came from. As part of that very literary realistic fiction, I'd been doing a few child narrator pieces focusing on the same character. I started thinking about a whole series, covering a single story arc, which never brought the child forward to adulthood but instead gave impressions of the adult he would become. That gelled early into my MFA program and my work on that as my thesis eventually gave form to the novel.
Bones Buried in the Dirt turned out so well that I finally felt that I could write stories. About that time, wild hairs started creeping into my writing. Since I could handle a story, I started to bring in more interesting elements.
However, The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes, though it fit that model of interesting things enhancing a solid story, was a bit of a frolic from my main path. Joseph Michael Owens recommended Donald Antrim's The Verificationist and I got this really odd, greatly mistaken idea what the book was about. I told Joe about my mistake, and he told me to write that. I did, and it turned out to be one of the oddest writing projects I've ever gotten involved in, a young woman who may or may not be endlessly trapped in a Village Inn with her ex boyfriend and her ex-best friend, his current girlfriend.
Once I managed to get The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes out of my head, I found myself still going with those odder stories I'd been working on before. Going against the idea that myths are often supposed to explain the world, I was going with the idea that our lives are inherently inexplicable and wonderful and what we have to do is figure out how we are going to get along with that. The momentum I'd picked up carried me right through the end of Not Quite so Stories, where I find myself pretty much at the present.
The story doesn't end there though. I started hanging around the monthly F-bomb Flash Fiction Series in Denver. Much of what I'd been working on up until then was too long for reading there, but I had a few pieces that were the right kind of length. They were really odd pieces, strangeness that made The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes seem like straightforward realism. Going to F-bomb regularly, I started working more on those pieces, writing in a form I hadn't played with much previously. It's growing into something, literally as people read this. What that will be isn't clear yet, but I can only hope that it doesn't doom us all.


David S. Atkinson is the author of Not Quite so Stories, The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes (2015 National Indie Excellence Awards finalist in humor), and Bones Buried in the Dirt (2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist, First Novel). His writing has recently appeared in Wilderness House Literary Review; Bartleby Snopes; Apocrypha and Abstractions; Cease, Cows; and others. He coedits the book blog Eleven and a Half Years of Books and his writing website is http://davidsatkinsonwriting.com/.

Photos: Top, David, age 3 or 4, already committed to reading. Middle, Visiting the influential Balzac

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

JOURNEY TO PLANET WRITE: The Power Lines of Story

by Andi Cumbo-Floyd

I was 7. I had the blue satin trim of the blanket tucked into my palm as my fingers flicked against the folded smoothness of it, and I was watching the power lines go by as my dad drove us across some part of America. I don’t remember which part because it didn’t matter. I wasn’t interested in the destinations mostly. It was the journey I was watching as those power lines swooped by. 

As we rode, I made up songs, none of which I can remember now, 35 years later. But they were stories those songs, my first writing, maybe. The way I took the journey of highways and laid it into language. A girl with her blanket imitating the Jack Kerouac I she didn’t know. 

I was 27. I had a Uniball Vision Elite pen tucked into my hand, and I was writing as fast as I could on the second floor of Guilford Hall at Case Western Reserve. Ted Gup, my writing professor, was sharing why he loved Tracy Kidder, and I couldn’t capture the language of his vision fast enough. The words were whipping by me like electric poles. I was on fire, and I didn’t know why. 

Weeks later, when I stood at Prof. Gup’s door to talk about my PhD applications, he said, “Andi, I wonder if you might want to consider an MFA instead.” He laid out the benefits – two years instead of five, lower cost – and then he said, “Maybe you’re a writer.” 

He wrote, in an analysis of my work that semester, that I had “a bohemian sensibility and a unique voice, and that the largest danger to her work is that she will begin to parrot herself.” 

It felt like he wrote a love letter to my soul. 

I was 35. I had an MFA diploma tucked into a trunk in my house, and I was writing as fast as I could to get the 35 end comments onto composition papers. My office was filled with a papers – compare/contrast essays, drafts of short stories, business reports complete with pie charts. I was suffocating in my office without windows. 

Weeks later, I sat in a brew pub with three of my dear friends, my colleagues in the English department, and I was telling them I was going to be resigning in one year. I had worked 10 years to become a full-time professor, and I was going to leave after 3 years. I cried as we talked, and they – good friends – thought I was sad about leaving teaching.

I still miss my friends – my heart aches with the journey away from them. 

I am 41. I have my hair tucked into a bun, and I’m wearing my father’s old sweatshirt as I type out these words at our dining room table. I am looking out the window, but I can’t see our goats. Our two hound dogs are on the couch near the woodstove. My life is filled with farming and with words. 

These days, I take the journey of words and lay them out in books, stories of enslaved people and the strength of their lives. I write novels where teenage girls save history, and I read books for clients who ache to have their stories reach the world. I’m still a girl writing the journey – maybe more Wendell Berry and Alice Walker than Kerouac now. I try not to parrot my own voice. 

My window is stationary most days, but out the door, I can see the power line that ties our farm to the road, the path that carries my words into the world.


Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and farmer who lives on God’s Whisper Farm at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, 6 goats, 22 chickens, 4 dogs, and 4 cats. Her books include Steele Secrets, The Slaves Have Names, and Writing Day In and Day Out. You can connect with her at her website, Andilit.com

Photos: Top by Chris Lawton via Unsplash
Steele Secrets available at Amazon