Recently I attended the annual Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference held at the Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel in Iselin, New Jersey. It was a wonderful conference, with multiple Bram Stoker Award-winner Jonathan Maberry giving the keynote address as well a couple of killer workshops. I got to catch up with some people I haven’t seen in a while, one of them my sister and fellow writer, Gretchen Weerheim (on the right of me, who writes this stuff called “science” fiction. Not sure what it is, but it sounds scary so I’m keeping clear). Anyway, here we are meeting at an alternate conference site, our dinner guests including not only my glamorous agent Marisa Corvisiero here on the right, but a few other notable literati including Linda J. Parisi, a New York editor, a couple more agents and a bestselling author. A rollicking good time was had by all, as evidenced by the potent potables in my pix, but if you think I’m going to tattle on who else was sitting at my table you must be daft. Your girl Gwen is selling it, sweeties, and still is as we speak. So if you want to get as lucky as I was, plan on attending Liberty States next March. You can thank me there for your good fortune.
Today I learned my short story “Hawks,” originally published in The Kelsey Review, had been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Needless to say I’m a tad excited, and in the (likely!) event that I don’t win…well, it’s kind of like the Academy Awards–it’s enough just to be nominated! What follows is an excerpt for your perusal…
Alex bought the bird feeder at a yard sale.
“Five bucks,” he said, flicking cobwebs off the little wood and plastic chalet. He mounted it atop a metal rail from an old king-size bed frame, tamping it into the yard outside our bedroom window. Beside it grew a line of former Christmas trees mixed with a few wild red cedar. “Food and shelter, right, Maisie?” He dumped a coffeecan of nut and berry blend inside, then slung an arm over my shoulder. “What else do you need?”
A sweet gesture, which certainly deserved a momentary break from my sarcasm. I said, “Thanks,” and pecked his cheek.
He smiled. “Let’s go in and see how it looks from the bedroom.”
When my parents retired and moved to Florida, I inherited my grandmother’s cedar chest. She had bought it years before she met and married my grandfather. Back then young ladies called them Hope Chests, filling them with all the items for a proper household: tatted doilies, antimacassars, starched white sheets, hand-sewn aprons, knitted baby booties. Now it sat below our bedroom window, holding blankets that came out smelling of mothballs. Alex lowered himself to it and pulled me down beside him.
“Look, the diner’s open.” He pointed out the window to the feeder, a few birds taking tentative hops forward. “And in case you’re wondering what they are…” He grinned, producing Peterson Field Guides – Eastern Birds.
“The directory,” he said, handing it to me.
“Thanks.” I leaned into him, idly flipping pages. “For the feeder, too.”
He kissed my neck. “Better seeing these guys in the morning than the back bumper of someone’s car, huh?”
“Sure,” I said. “Now only if they paid me to do it.”
He sighed. “Christ, Maisie, I thought it would cheer you up.”
“It does.” But I even sounded unconvincing to myself. “Really, it does.”
“Right.” He slid off the chest. “You want me, I’ll be in the studio.”
I read something once, don’t remember where, that men defined themselves by their jobs, and women by their relationships. If that were true, then in theory, I’d be just fine. I had a reasonably happy marriage. But that pearl of wisdom didn’t quite apply anymore. At least not to me.
“It came from the top,” the regional vice president had said. “I’m helpless, and that’s the truth. There really isn’t anything I can do about it. If they want you gone, you’re gone.” And that quickly, after nearly eleven years, this middle-aged middle manager was out on the street.
“That’s bullshit. You should’ve fought it,” Alex had said that night. “I would’ve.”
I looked to our bedroom window, the branches outside rustling in silhouette. “How? I was helpless. He said there’s nothing I can do about it. That’s the truth.”
“There’s always something you can do about it,” he had said, rolling over.
More birds flew into the feeder, perching on its ersatz front porch. One was small and gray and fat, with a pointy flip of feathers atop its head. I checked the Peterson’s: tufted titmouse. The other was an even smaller brown bird with a cocked tail and striped wings: house wren. The others I knew: two blue jays, big, noisy bullies, and a female cardinal, brown and red-tinged, sensibly less ostentatious than the males.
You should’ve fought it. Didn’t he get it? I tossed the Peterson’s to the chest. I was helpless. Absolutely, the truth. There was nothing I could do.
I had only been one week into my former job when I decided to quit smoking. Sick of freezing on door stoops and coughing up a bronchial passage every morning, I figured it the perfect New Year’s resolution. Fortunately, the person I was replacing gifted me with a virulent dose of the flu, so the first day or two, I didn’t even miss it. But by the third day, when I was finally able to breathe again, I felt every vein, neuron and impulse collapsing under the weight of its unrequited lust. But even that wasn’t the worst part, former smokers warned me. That came two weeks later when the chemical addiction wore off, and the psychological dependency tightened its grip. I scrambled for ritualistic substitutes: hazelnut latte for the after-dinner smoke, cinnamon Altoids for the drive home, fingernails for long phone calls. I even mourned the camaraderie of sidewalks and loading docks, joining my former cronies outdoors to revel in their secondhand fog. But with nothing to flick or puff I soon became suspect, a smokers’ Carrie Hatchet, and little by little they disowned me with each smugly satisfied inhale. I couldn’t help noticing the similarities now. And how much worse they actually were…
See more at The Kelsey Review homepage.
© Copyright Gwen Jones 2012 All Rights Reserved.
Exploring relationships, dealing with loss, and observing nature are all themes that jump off the pages of the 2012 edition of Kelsey Review, an arts journal published annually by Mercer County Community College (MCCC) and now available free at public libraries throughout Mercer County. Now in its 31st year, the 2012 Review features 26 works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry by 16 writers who live, work or study in Mercer County.
Writing contributors include Vida Chu, Lisa Cugasi, Beverly Mach Geller, Elaine M. Gutterman, Lois Marie Harrod, Jean Hollander, Ken Jaworowski, Gwen Jones, Lavinia Kumar, Robert McHugh, Carolina Morales, Dan O’Brien, Wanda S. Praisner, Steve Smith and Alan Teplitsky.
Print copies of the latest edition of Kelsey Review are available, free, at libraries and selected bookstores throughout Mercer County, or view and enjoy it here in a new, innovative turn-page digital format. You can print, share, and download this publication. Many thanks to Review editor Dr. Ed Carmien for all his help and for thinking “Hawks” is worth the read!
Publisher’s Marketplace – In Women’s/Romance Deals…
Gwen Jones’s ANDY DEVINE TAKES A WIFE, a reporter decides to interview a man who had the nerve to post an antiquated and down right rude ad for a wife, never expecting to find her very own Mr. Right, to Tessa Woodward at Avon, in a nice deal, for publication in June 2013, by Marisa Corvisiero at Corvisiero Literary Agency.
You’ve read the excerpt, you’ve salivated for more, and NOW, after months of waiting, you’re finally going to be rewarded! HarperCollins Publishers has bought Andy Devine, though you’ll probably see its debut under a slightly different moniker. Who cares! Andy sure doesn’t, and neither do I, as we’re both thrilled to the point of incoherency! Many thanks to my Avon editor, the lovely Tessa Woodward, literary agent/goddess Marisa Corvisiero of the Corvisiero Literary Agency, and beta reader, fellow writer and friend extraordinaire, Linda J. Parisi, who knows genius when she sees it fall flat on her face. And MANY THANKS to the beautiful people at Liberty States Fiction Writers and their Create Something Magical Writers Conference for bringing HarperCollins and this writer together. Beyond fabulous–ALL of you!
Tenative date for publication is Spring 2013, but stay tuned for more info!
In case you’ve been living under a preconceived notion or two and don’t know where “the center of the universe” is, well, that’s pretty simple – it’s New Jersey of course! How can you think otherwise?
Hello there, the name’s Gwen Jones, and since you’re obviously of good taste, it’s no surprise you’ve found my website. I’m a writer of discerningly good fiction, more often than not that’s Women’s Fiction or Romance. I might as well tell you right from the jump you’re not going to get any of that schmaltzy prose out of me, whatever I’m writing. I’m fond of teetering on the edge, and so are my characters, and I’m not averse to tripping them up if I have to. My women are smart, sexy and know their way around a whiplash remark, and if their men can’t take it (or dish it right back) then they’re not their men for long.
Anyway, that’s the way I roll, so why don’t you take a look around. There’ll be much more to come in the future, but I think you have a enough to get you started. Drop me a line or two if you have any questions or comments or even some advice. Not like I’ll listen.