2016 Year End Top Ten: Series Two: Meg Tuite

Dear Reader,

With each subsequent issue of Literary Orphans Journal that’s released, along with the creative nonfiction side of the journal’s heartstrings you’ll find here at The Tavern Lantern, we strive to connect a network of readers with meaningful literary voices. And since the end of each year is slow-burning, we seek to fill the journal’s intricate spaces with a similar type of reflection. Below is the second installment of our 2016 Top Ten series. These lists are simple and meant to convey personally significant topics of the year from writers and editors we respect.

Let’s read together.

Brittany Warren,

(Managing Editor)

Top Ten List of Authors to Read in 2017

Many outstanding top ten lists have been weeded out and dispersed with zeal every year. These winsome philosophical poets and truth-tellers of the pencil/pen/computer/feather, who one might have masturbated, vomited on or tilted a head at depending on the onlooker’s stance, hold still and steady like a coin thrown into a fountain. Very unlike spitting or heaving into the political pond of 2017.

So, I felt charged to post a list of the top ten authors who make me happy and inspire in the wake of a racist, homophobic, rapist, sociopathic president who lives the statement that “orange is the new TANG”, with his wispy strands of a comb-over synthetic cap that when lifted, might show the calcification of a brain, or merely a neon stone that marks uncharted territory.

Thank you to Brittany Warren and Literary Orphans for this opportunity to gather some of my favorites together.

These are in no specific order. I hope you will put all of them on your reading list, if you haven’t already, and if you have or have not, please send out a book to someone you love!  These authors are not only masters of the language, but create unforgettable and mesmerizing characters that are timeless. Through their extensive research, relentless work ethic, and beauteous unveiling of the unconscious, each of these writers breathes life back into bodies long gone. The spirit of what walked this planet lives on in us and eternally through these voices. We realize there is no past that isn’t our present. That is the gift. We live with and through these voices.

Toni Morrison:


The Bluest Eye

Song of Solomon

God Help the Child



Tar Baby


Claudia Rankine:


Don’t Let Me Be Lonely

The End of the Alphabet


Ta-Nehisi Coates:

Between the World and Me

The Beautiful Struggle: A Memoir


Lucia Berlin:

A Manual For Cleaning Women


So Long

Where I Live Now


Show Me All Your Scars: True Stories of Living With Mental Illness

Anthology edited by Lee Gutkind


Tyehimba Jess:


Lead Belly: poems


Lydia Yuknavitch:

The Chronology of Water

Dora: A Headcase

The Small Backs of Children


Women Write Resistance: poets resist gender violence

Anthology edited by Laura Madeline Wiseman


Maggie Nelson:

The Bluets

The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial


The Argonauts


Janet Frame:

Owls Do Cry

The Edge of the Alphabet

Scented Gardens For the Blind

A State of Seige

An Autobiography

Faces in the Water

(and many more)

Any number is difficult, because every book read is absolutely necessary at the time. There is always something we take away when we pick one up. My advice is to read as much as you can and join Goodreads online. It’s a great way to connect with other readers and find out what they recommend and have reviewed.

Here’s to 2017 with lots of time to read and write and also time to connect with the unknown. Embrace it! Reach out! Be uncomfortable, listen, protect one another! LOVE!

O Typekey Divider

bio photo_april 2014Meg Tuite is the author of two short story collections, Bound By Blue (2013, Sententia Books) and Domestic Apparition (2011, San Francisco Bay Press), and five chapbooks. She won the Twin Antlers Collaborative Poetry award from Artistically Declined Press for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging (2014) written with Heather Fowler and Michelle Reale. She teaches at Santa Fe Community College, is fiction editor for Santa Fe Literary Review and a columnist at Connotation Press and JMWW. Her blog: http://megtuite.com

So Much Wishing & Packing at Christmas by Kelly DuMar

DuMar Banner Final Copy

My father arrives for Christmas with Sylvia, the widow of his best friend from childhood. In the year they both lost spouses they moved in together. Blissed out on the amorous effects of simultaneous dementia, they assume they’ve always been together. They delight in a never-ending present of a past they never shared.

Masking. A need to feign competence cements their bond. Sylvia solves the problem of ordering food she cannot name by saying, I’ll have whatever Dusty’s having. Dad solves the problem of missing items by endorsing Sylvia’s theory – thieves. While they’re out and while they sleep, burglars run off with Glen Miller cd’s, dad’s chain saw, tubes of toothpaste. Their amusements are simple. At night, they sit in the dark with flashlights on. Cuddled on the living room couch they create safe.

I need my father to have Christmas dinner with us, just as he always has. Sylvia is welcome. We had to sneak the car away from them after Sylvia’s daughter complained about their long days driving lost in New England. So, my husband picks them up at noon on Christmas Eve and drives them to our house with overnight bags.

From the couch in my living room after lunch, my father spontaneously shares a revelation. It’s strange. . . but I don’t know where I live anymore.

He no longer recognizes my home, in the town he lived in for fifty years. You live in Springfield, now, with Sylvia I say.

Is that right? I can’t picture it, he says, calmly. Sylvia breathes softly beside him.

O Typekey Divider

We walk across a field of dead grass to the woods as I wish – just the two of us. Under leafless trees, in silence, our feet crunch along the river’s edge. My father is with me for Christmas. When I slip my arm through his, he surprises me with another revelation. My mind isn’t working the same, he says.

Does that make you sad? I ask, perhaps because sad is what I can comfort.

No, he answers, matter-of-factly. It’s just different.

In the December chill, holding his arm, I walk us back across the field.

O Typekey Divider

Around 4:00 a.m. Christmas morning, sleepless, Sylvia and Dad are fully dressed and ready – bags packed – to return home. Dinner is twelve hours away. My sister and brother-in-law plan to drive them home after dessert. My children will wake in a couple of hours to open gifts. I coax them to the couch at dawn. By the fire they sip hot chocolate, heating, and waiting. When the children wake, they cheerfully open a few gifts. But mostly, they will spend Christmas day searching for the bathroom, sneaking upstairs for their bags, wishing by the front door.

Please stay for dinner, it’s Christmas, I say, lifting their bags back upstairs, offering cups of eggnog, boxes of chocolates. Smiling, they agree to stay a few forced minutes at a time.

When my sister and brother-in-law finally arrive in the late afternoon, their patience has expired. Stuffed with chocolates and eggnog, they will not be distracted by the smell of prime rib being served in the dining room. My sister and brother-in-law volunteer to skip dinner.

Upstairs, I lift their bags and find that Sylvia, unable to distinguish her belongings, has packed up the lifetime she’s lived overnight in our guest room – sheets from the bed she’d slept in, framed pictures of my children displayed on the bureau, a stapler from a desk drawer, men’s work shirts we keep for my father-in-law’s visits, and gift wrap, assorted, from the closet.

They are nearly out the door, hurrying ahead of my sister, when I check one last time and slip the pink cashmere shawl a dear friend from Paris has given me out of Sylvia’s bag.

They are thanking me. I wave, wishing them a Merry Christmas, which they will find later, in a darkened room, with a flashlight.

O Typekey Divider

Kelly Headshot Temp copyKelly DuMar is a poet, playwright and workshop facilitator from the Boston area. Her award-winning chapbook, “All These Cures,” was published by Lit House Press, 2014. Her plays are produced around the US and Canada and are published by dramatic publishers. Kelly founded and produces the Our Voices Festival of Women Playwrights at Wellesley College, now in its 11th year, and she serves on the board & faculty of The International Women’s Writing Guild. Her chapbook, upcoming, is “Tree of the Apple,” published by Two of Cups Press. More at KellyDuMar.com.

Pre-order “Tree of the Apple”

Photograph in banner cited from: Jakob Lawitzki (flickr)

Edited by Literary Orphans

2016 Year End Top Ten: Series One: Alex Schumacher

Dear Reader,

With each subsequent issue of Literary Orphans Journal that’s released, along with the creative nonfiction side of the journal’s heartstrings you’ll find here at The Tavern Lantern, we strive to connect a network of readers with meaningful literary voices. And since the end of each year is slow-burning, we seek to fill the journal’s intricate spaces with a similar type of reflection. Below is the first installment of our 2016 Top Ten series. These lists are simple and meant to convey personally significant topics of the year from writers and editors we respect.

Let’s read together.

Brittany Warren,

(Managing Editor)

Top Ten Diversions 2016

I am notorious amongst my peers and relatives for being stringently — some may say curmudgeonly — in opposition of anything with even the vaguest whiff of current trends. The novels, movies, music, comix, etc. I gravitate toward all seem to have the common unifying theme of originating in decades past. Having said that, I was humbled by Literary Orphan’s invitation to provide my own top ten list of 2016. Seeing as it’s been one hell of a year I decided to list some of my favorite getaway vehicles, in no particular order.

1. Netflix series Easy

While it may not be Netflix’s best original series, Easy captivated my interest by deftly portraying the unfettered minutiae of everyday life and love. I am appreciative of the fact that there are no unnecessary fireworks or smoke and mirrors to be found. No illusions or spectacular misrepresentations of how relationships thrive, or at times come to an unexpected screeching halt. Life happens in the quiet moments. The subdued exchanges. The conversations tucked between the happenstance and bustle of this crazed world which are too commonly ignored onscreen. Easy gets that shit.

2. Backderf’s The Baron of Prospect Avenue

This webcomic picks up immediately following the events depicted in Derf’s 2010 graphic novel Punk Rock and Trailer Parks. Through regularly updated installments on www.derfcity.com, the further adventures of the protagonist Otto unfold as he makes his way through the punk rock scene and cultural landscape of the early ‘80s. The main attractions for me are Derf’s inimitable style as well as his no bullshit approach to dialogue and storytelling. Appearances from icons like Lester Bangs and The Ramones sure doesn’t hurt either.

3. Nevermind turns 25

I’m not sure I have ever experienced more of a geriatric moment than when the quarter of a century anniversary for Nirvana’s Nevermind arrived. Though In Utero is by far my favorite Nirvana effort, Nevermind was an unequivocal milestone of my adolescence and was even one of the inspirations behind my own (unsuccessful) foray into performing music. On the album’s anniversary I found the blistering track list on heavy rotation. Standout tunes for me are “Drain You” and “Lithium”, but there remains to be a haunting comfort in that opening riff of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. It’s still fun to lose and to pretend…

4. Switched on Pop! Podcast

I never actively dove into the plethora of podcasts available until my wife introduced me to a number of fantastic shows. One of, if not my favorite of the podcasts introduced was Switched On Pop!. Hosted by musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding the show seeks to break down pop songs to figure out what makes them tick. Sloan and Harding dissect their selections in a manner anyone can follow. One of the aspects I enjoy the most is the fluid, conversational tone in which the two longtime friends conduct their analysis. Thus far I found the most entertaining episode to be the one which revolves around auto-tuning entitled “Pop Drops and Chipmunk Soul”.

5. Kate McKinnon

Saturday Night Live hasn’t truly exhibited exceptional comedy since its inception in the ‘70s. Others’opinions may differ, but my impression is the overall quality of the writing spanning the past few decades has been uneven at best. Aside from the flimsy gags and torturously prolonged sketches there have been a handful of breakout talents. One such talent deserving of much wider recognition and acclaim is Kate McKinnon. Her subtle deliveries and comedic timing upstage anyone unfortunate enough to share screen time with her. I for one believe that what the world needs at this juncture is a Kate McKinnon variety show.

6. Bridge School Benefit 30thAnniversary

Every October the Bridge School Benefit Concert converges upon the gently sloped hills of the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, CA. The Bridge School is a non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure that individuals with severe impairments achieve full participation in their communities. The lineup rotates annually releasing the schedule just weeks before show time. This year marked three decades of shows, treating those of us in attendance to acoustic sets by the likes of Nora Jones, Willie Nelson, Metallica, and one of the concerts organizer Neil Young. I spent an entire evening with my wife and in-laws being transported far from the election gridlock on waves of mellifluous performances. Substance ingestion is encouraged, though not necessary for full immersion.

7. The Cartoon Art Museum

The Cartoon Art Museum has been in operation since 1987, but 2016 decided to throw them a curveball. In April they were uprooted by the gentrification which has been pummeling the San Francisco creative scene for some time and forced to relocate. The odds were looking dicey until a new permanent home on Beach Street close to Ghirardelli Square was announced in November. They are set to reopen in spring of 2017 and I highly recommend a visit to anyone with even the slightest affinity for comics, animation, etc. I spent many a care-free afternoon or evening at the museum as volunteer, and even served as cartoonist-in-residence a time or two. The Cartoon Art Museum is not only an integral non-profit organization promoting literacy and the arts. They also make it a point to support and promote cartoonists at any level, regardless of the size of their oeuvre.

8. Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide To Earth

I loved Sturgill Simpson’s first two albums as they were beacons for the classic country fans wading through the bro-country sludge currently clogging the airwaves. To say the album was a bit of a departure is an understatement, though this is by no means detrimental to my listening experience. Simpson shines on songs such as the funk-tinged “Keep it Between the Lines” and the slow-burn reimagining of Nirvana’s “In Bloom”. Perhaps he is trying to distance himself from the Waylon Jennings comparisons. Maybe he simply needed to expand and explore uncharted sonic ground. Either way, Simpson never relents on the fundamental factors which make him a brilliant singer and songwriter.

9. Tom Hart’s Rosalie Lightning

Rosalie Lightning is precisely what I want from a novel, graphic or otherwise. You will not find any grandiose stoking of the emotional bonfire, spiraling into plumes of clichés. This is a tempered, yet no less heart-wrenching, reaction to an unimaginable tragedy. Hart does an amazing job of approaching the subject matter with a poise that is once tender and full of the rage that only a parent who has lost a child can experience. His artwork is uniquely personal, just understated enough to know I am in the hands of an author who has put in the time… personally and professionally.

10. Dancing in the Street sans music

Just watch the fucking thing. You’re welcome.

O Typekey Divider


Alex Schumacher has toiled away in the relative obscurity of minimum-wage jobs and underground comics longer than he cares to admit. Currently he produces the weekly illustrated feature Decades of (in)Experience for Antix Press, the bi-weekly column Bread Crumbs from the Void for Five 2 One Magazine, and the monthly comic strip Mr. Butterchips for Drunk Monkeys. His comics and stories have been published by the likes of Arcana Studios, Cultured Vultures, The Round-Up Writer’s ‘Zine, and Hobo Camp Review. More info can be found on his site https://alexschumacherart.com/.

Fragile Things by Janine Canty


Our almost baby is conceived on tacky brown hotel sheets. His father and I are a frantic tangle of limbs and teeth, leaving bite marks and saliva against each other’s throats. The next morning we stop at a Rite Aid and buy Doritos and condoms. Four weeks later we buy an EPT. My bladder is an aching pulse while I wait for my first morning’s urine. The warm rush is such a relief that I’m laughing and crying before I see the word “pregnant.”

For twenty something weeks my body does its thing automatically. This is my fourth time in the pregnancy lottery. My skin stretches. My belly is a drum. My son is an underwater acrobat. He is a bubble. A twist, a turn. A series of thumps in the dark. My naval becomes an inside-out love letter. His toes are a perfect ripple underneath my freckled skin.

He slips quietly away in the 26th week. While I’m sitting Indian style on a burnt orange shag rug. While I’m burning my palm on the toaster. Or mixing red Kool-Aid and tuna fish. Maybe while I’m eating the last mint Milano in the house. Or when an abrupt arm catches me in the chest. Sending me over a ripped green chair. While I”m falling in slow motion. Hands trying to grab the air. Landing in an awkward, pregnant heap. Laying on faded blue linoleum. The thing is, I don’t know. I will never know.

I don’t notice his sudden silence for a day and a half. Until I’m losing bright drops of blood into a toilet bowl at The Knights Of Columbus Hall. My pelvis has become a clenched fist. Furling. Unfurling. I am losing bits of breath and sanity with each cramp. They give me water and Valium to stop the screaming. A student nurse with tears on her cheeks juggles a cup with ice chips. My throat feels like a half cooked steak. They give me Morphine in an IV to manage my physical pain.


Nothing they offer me will save my heart.

The Morphine has me retching and drooling into a pink basin. Choking on the taste of my son’s death. My husband sits completely still in his torn Beatles tee shirt. Watching “Halloween” while my abdomen melts and my bones break dance with no one.

My body becomes thunder. It slowly pulls me apart. While across the room, Jamie Lee Curtis stabs the prodigal brother in the eye with a metal coat hanger.

My body is a failed sanctuary. Destroying me while it methodically tries to empty itself. I know that when I’m done puking and crying and thrashing, this body will never feel full again.

Would he have played the guitar? Would he have been tone deaf? Would he have been good at math? What would he have looked like behind the wheel of a car? On his graduation and wedding days? Holding his first child? Would he have tattoos and drive too fast? Would he call me on Mother’s day and at 2 am? What would his hand print look like in paint? What would his hair have felt like between my fingers? I imagine these things for him. For me. I try to call life back. I try to give my dead child experiences he never had. To make him into what he may have been if he hadn’t died in the dark, underneath my heart. The only life he knew happened in the dark. Floating in amniotic fluid between my ribs.

Every year on Oct. 13th and Oct. 14th I remember some new detail. Some small, needless piece of information. Something that is important only to me. Because I was his mom. I am his mom. I remember something new about that day. I talk about it. I write about it. I speak my child’s name out loud. Like a poem that’s never been published. A dream that never existed in daylight. Every year as I take an almost vicious pleasure in remembering him, I think: I’m over this. I’m really over this. Until I remember that “this” is not bad sushi. This is not an awkward blind date with bad breath. This is not tight pants. This was my child. This is my child. I am not supposed to get over this. It’s okay not to get over this.

This, was a small boy named Timothy. He had blue skin, black hair and perfect hands and feet. He never cried or kicked a ball. He never outgrew my arms.

These are the things I know. He was conceived in an ugly little dive in Pittsfield, Maine. On scratchy brown sheets that smelled like someone else’s hangover. My husband sang “Hard Luck Woman” into my ear. We ran, holding hands, laughing through a pouring rain, and across a parking lot filled with broken glass. We were drunk and without condoms. He bought some the next day at a Rite Aid. It was 12 hours too late. I tasted peppermint schnapps for a day and a half.

I got Dorito dust on my fingertips and read Danielle Steele’s Palomino on the ride home. I curled my naked toes around the dash, while inside of me cells danced and floated and divided and a brand new person began. My husband drove with one arm dangling out a window. I sang under my breath to Foreigner songs. He said: “Your hair is just so fucking beautiful when the sun hits it.” I am one day pregnant with a child I haven’t planned on. We will spend 214 days together, my unborn heartbreak and I.

People don’t know what to say or where to look. Not at my face, where grief has left deep, wet lines in my still young skin. Not at my arms, no newborn to congratulate me on. Not at my torso. Hollow. Guilty. Deflated. Ugly. Not into my eyes, where grief is a bottomless vortex. This grief is rude and loud, and just may be contagious. People leave flowers and food and prayer cards, while I stand in the shower with my milk coming in. They stand on the other side of the bathroom door, talking about God’s will, while I lean into the spray of water and milk and scream silently into a cheap Walmart washcloth.

If he had lived he would be 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 years old. He would be a soulful boy/child/man. He would have a goatee and soft, full lips. He would probably have long fingers and curly dark hair. He would probably wear glasses and squint. He would have been beautiful. Thin and jittery in the way of the perpetually hungry. I don’t know what he would have sounded like. I can only imagine that he would have grown into the husk and honey of his brothers’ voices. His father’s voice. I don’t know what he would have smelled like. Is it crazy to say I miss the scent of someone I barely knew? Mud and grass. Apple Jacks with Saturday morning cartoons. Steam and sand and Axe cologne. These are the smells I’ve assigned to my dead son.

Perhaps the vicious pleasure comes from being able to be in control of my own grief. To own my sadness. After the doctor pronounced there was no heartbeat, everyone tried to take over my grief.


The doctor turned my son from “The baby” to “The fetus” with a quick curl of his tongue.

Tried to give me distance from a tragedy that had occurred over my pelvic bone. My husband tried to take my head physically in his hands. Tried to guide my eyes to a place of unseeing. To bury my sorrow in the sweat and beer and ripped places of his decades old Beatles Tee shirt. Our son stopped for him on that night. Our marriage gasped a last breath not long after. Though we remained under the same roof for 11 more years. Though we brought another boy into the world 6 years later. A boy with long fingers and curly dark hair.

He is conceived on striped sheets. In a cotton candy pink room. The window is up. There’s chicken thawing on a counter in the kitchen and no condoms in the night stand. His father and I are a quiet puzzle of mouths and skin. Interlocking fingers. Fistfuls of hair. Bursting apart. Falling together. He is conceived in the middle of a summer rainstorm, to a rerun of Cops. Later we get up and make Chicken Parmesan. I wash the smell of conception off my skin with a tube of Mister Bubbles the kids left in the tub.

I count days on a calendar full of loons. Standing still in my in-laws’ kitchen at camp. Middle of the night dark and water lapping against the dock. I count and count again. Tears grow cold on my face. I count until numbers lose their meaning and dawn begins crawling across the floor, toward my toes. Then I wake up my husband with the word: “pregnant.” He bundles me like stained glass into the car and drives 10 miles into a town so small that if you blink, you’ll miss it. I sit beside him, afraid to speak, afraid to breathe around this brand new fragile thing inside me. My body has proven it can’t be trusted with fragile things. I do the public toilet hover dance and pee on the stick provided by a rural clinic nurse with an infected nose ring. I pace through the waiting room, ignoring the 8-year-old Time magazines and ripped copies of Highlights, until the doctor with the Bozo hairdo and the yen for eating paper comes out and smiles around the word: “positive.”

I don’t think of this brand new fragile thing as a baby. I don’t think of it as forming cells belonging to me and to his father. I refuse to talk about names. I refuse to touch the flesh above my pelvis. I continue to breathe shallowly around the newness in my core. In the seventh week there’s some mild cramping. Blood on the Charmin in my hand. If I close my eyes, the blood will turn into a dead baby in my palm. If I breathe too deeply, my body will become a grave. There’s something heavy banging around in the dryer. My knees are shaking. The kids are killing each other over an episode of Golden Girls in the living room. I put on a flannel nightgown and my husband’s tube socks. I crawl into bed and talk to some doctor I’ve never met. He says wait and see. He says if the worst happens, we can try again. I wonder what he knows about the worst. I stop breathing shallowly and start breathing fire. I shock both of us with my vehement words: I want THIS baby. My 5-year-old climbs into bed beside me and we read Winnie the Pooh. My voice doesn’t shake when I become Winnie the Pooh, and Rabbit, and Tigger. I don’t flinch when my son places a small hand over the flesh of my belly and whispers: “Are you listening, baby?”

O Typekey Divider


Janine Canty is a writer posing as a human. She puts on scrubs by day and passes meds in a busy nursing facility. She writes by night. Usually in a ratty robe and fuzzy socks. She is passionate about Pepsi, chocolate, and her granddaughters. And words. Words are her thing. Especially the gritty and uncomfortable ones. Her work has previously been featured on The Manifest Station and The Weeklings, as well as Sweatpants and Coffee. Her most recent essay appears in the lit journal, The Dandelion Review. She can be found on Facebook​.

Photograph in banner cited from: Michael Mandiberg (flickr)

Edited by Literary Orphans

LITERARY ORPHANS ISSUE 27: Letter From The Editor

Last month I celebrated an artist near and dear to my heart, one whose music sparked my imagination and gave me strength to strive to be greater. This month, our phenomenal managing editor, Brittany Warren, shares a similar orphan. Please read her incredible letter down below, and let us know who your favorite orphans are in the comments.

–Scott Waldyn, Editor in Chief

Dear Orphans & Orphanettes,

Science fiction is unbelievable. Please don’t take this statement to mean that I don’t see any credibility in the genre. In fact, I’m pedaling the opposite here. “But Brittany, you haven’t given us any italics, or even an exclamation point to indicate your intrigue,” you state aloud. Well, that’s because I want you to really feel my emphasis, without my having to show you. Aside from this, though, I want you to move forward with your own opinions.

We are currently digesting a historical battle to prove that propaganda is rigid and rough in all the right places—that propaganda against one or the other will benefit several. Get into my car, it emphasizes. You know who I am.

After facing the rich, soapy lathering of egos from atop the highest pedestals, we’re left questioning, what comes next?

What we need is something to remedy the counter intuitive nature of today’s progress  friction. With this, Literary Orphans is enthused to bring you Issue 27’s chosen orphan, the renowned science fiction writer, Alice B. Sheldon.

Sheldon, born in 1915, was a prolific writer within a predominantly male genre. For her, progression meant adopting the pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr., as no one believed that a woman could possibly write the way she had. In particular, with there being so much movement regarding gender, I feel a certain fondness for her short novella, “The Girl Who Was Plugged In.”

P. Burke is Tiptree’s pickled lady protagonist who’s deformed and not “lady” enough, so her brain is sourced to control the body of pretty doll Delphi remotely as the face of illegal advertising. And oh my, oh my! The way the story’s narrator repeatedly refers to the reader as a “zombie” and a “dead daddy” really lights a special, special spark. For in this instance, the reader is made to appear clueless to the powers that be, and oblivious to the idea that gender, genre and voice are all-inclusive.

However, this isn’t a story that’s to be read blindly, regardless of what our fancy, new nicknames as readers might suggest. There are similarities within Tiptree’s work that are quite kindred with our scenarios of today. She speculates that who and what we’re led by is always hovering over us as something influential. But sometimes, the guise of influence is a big, blushy mistake. So, we must move forward of our own accord, as individuals. Certain voices and mindsets just aren’t as cotton candy sweet as rhetoric dictates.

Much like the purpose behind Sheldon’s work, the writers we feature in Issue 27 are purposeful, too, and every type of wonderful. Whether you flock to poetry, fiction, non-fiction, or visual art, we’ve got it all. The final decision of what to read is so special, it would be as if you made it yourselves, without pressure. Only you, Dear Readers…it’s up to only you.

We hope you enjoy the new issue.


There is purpose in reading together,

Brittany Warren

Managing Editor

Read Issue 27: Tiptree HERE.

The Metallic Click by Edd Jennings


Cold wind found the crevices in my coat. I looked forward to the night and snuggling deep inside my bag. Dry, I’d know warmth. The night would be good; I needed to forget the little far off cry the wind carried on irregular intervals. It wasn’t loud, and it may not be so far off. It lay somewhere in tomorrow. By “tomorrow,” I meant tomorrow’s direction of travel. None of my ideas of the origins of this pleading sound satisfied me. The season ran too late for it to be the lost fledgling of a large bird. A man needs to come to peace with the idea that no matter how long he’s out there, he’ll never learn every sound.

In the morning, I would eat. As my last act before the light faded, I pulled a raw caribou roast out of the meat bag and left it inches from my head in the four-quart pot in the tent’s vestibule. One layer of nylon separated the meat from my head.

It’s gone.

During the dark hours, I woke to the metallic click of teeth against tin. If an animal approached that closely, I needed its exact position before I acted. I listened for a long time, my hand on the curved grip of my rifle. The normal sounds of the night returned, and I slipped back into sleep, hand on rifle.

In the dawn, I crawled outside for a quick look, bare feet on hard frosted ground. My check showed nothing missing or damaged other than the meat in the pot. I can afford the meat. I have and can get more. The only animal large enough and bold enough to do this, and who would not have done more, is the Arctic fox. The hard ground wouldn’t yield the prints to confirm my speculation.

Under an overcast and low sky, the wind pushed hard up the northeast shore of Dubawnt Lake. I took too much pleasure anticipating how much less pain the day’s paddle will cost me with this tailwind pushing my canoe.

My bare physical description of a sudden wakening to the unknown fails. My reaction won’t be the same as another’s. I imagine a reader pausing over these lines years from now, but only pausing. Most of us go to sleep with the conviction we will pass an undisturbed night secure in our own bed.

If awakened to a disturbance, most people may well know a flash of something as primitive as fear, but the overriding conflict pits curiosity against lethargy. The expectation something dangerous might stalk us in our sleep has no place in our perception of the world.

If I live in the same world as the next, I never responded to it in the same way. I learned young that minus the normal activity of the day, sounds too obscure to notice in the light held a new importance. Lack of visual imagery freshens the hearing. A house or a place in the outdoors almost never knows the complete absence of sound. If a place suddenly drops into silence, in itself, the silence says something that maybe has more importance than an out of place sound, or maybe it doesn’t. Every place has its sounds, the ones that say everything is as it should be.  Humidity, temperature, the wind, or the season can change these sounds, but the changes occur slowly. Sometimes the abrupt sound of a limb breaking or a rock shifting means nothing, but these sounds are the ones I listen for, that bring me from a dead sleep to lurch into full alertness.

Almost all of the men I knew as a child lived through World War II. Stories about the heat of the Tunisian desert, the cold of the Ardennes in winter, or crossing the Owen Stanley Range in the New Guinea highlands with a mule train made the backdrop of my childhood. These men had lived through hundreds of confused night actions. Many of them talked about the war years, sometimes to me, more often reminiscing among themselves, or maybe they spoke to something out there in the night they could touch, but I couldn’t.

On that day, my Great Uncle Forest Wilkinson held a Japanese Arisaka service rifle, a war trophy half-customized into a deer rifle. The conversation in my father’s gun room had lulled, and he dropped the awkward safety on the Arisaka. The heavy metallic click filled the void left in a room full of people gone quiet; this distinctive metallic falling sound made an impression unlike anything I had heard before or since. My Great Uncle dropped the safety to remember once more that sound once so important in his life.  To the family members, deer hunters, and children he said, “I learned to know that sound a long time before I knew it was the safety. That’s all you would hear, and you knew they were coming.”

As a small boy, I would lie in my bed clutching my teddy bear, listening to the sounds of the old house and the darkness beyond, waiting for sleep. Long before I was ten years old, I added a Colt Single-Action Army .38 Special as another totem to clutch in my sleep. The little bear, I eventually set aside. The Colt, and my habit of listening for the unexplained sounds of the night, that I always understood somehow intertwined in a future I had yet to live, I kept.

I found that plaintive lost sound when I paddled past a tiny rock island with a completely worked over goose carcass, the last scrap of meat eaten long days ago. Beside it was an Arctic fox, this year’s pup. It was crying.

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Edd B. Jennings is a bit more flotsam sitting in a backwater of the literary world, stagnating, perpetually working new contacts for the next meal. Once a professor of Shakespeare told him, “You will treat my Creative Writing colleagues with respect. You will not work them with stories of starvation to shame them into gifting you the leftovers.” Another occasion, he found himself at a famed writers conference in the fair city of New Orleans, unwilling to spring for a ticket, he hobbled in on a cane he didn’t need and told the gatekeeper-girl, “I don’t really know how to read. I just need a place to sit down.” It worked. Whether it’s dog soup on a shingle beach on the Arctic coast, or ear fungi scraped off a rotting branch in the wet woods, he keeps turning up alive one more time. Maybe he’ll become a famous writer. Maybe he won’t. Don’t matter. It’s the ride that counts.

Photograph in banner cited from: kelly (flickr)

Edited by Literary Orphans

Do You Still Play With Dolls? by Julia Strayer


Because I’d have done anything to get out of holding the light for my father when he peered into the engine–unbolting, ungasketing, unfanbelting. Smelling of oil and grease and sweat. Talking about clamps and wrenches and oxygen-gasoline mixtures. I ran inside, claiming the need for a bathroom, a snack and a drink, and when the phone rang–one of those black, rotary dial originals from the ‘60s–I answered. An important survey, the man said. A few questions, he said. Would I answer, he asked. I said yes.

What grade are you in?


Do you still play with dolls?


Do you play sports?


Which ones?

I run.


I run fast.


I’m good at tether ball.


I’m the fastest runner in my whole class.

Do you get hot when you run?


Do your panties get wet?

I drew a quick breath and lingered with him in the silence.

Do you wear cotton panties or silk? 

I bit my lip, swallowed.

Do you like how they feel against your smooth skin?


I looked at the receiver, at the pinprick holes where his voice leached out, and placed it on the hook. Slowly. Until it settled in the cradle and clicked. And I sat in the cool quiet of the house, as my heart rattled and my hands shook. Wondering how I didn’t see it all coming earlier. Stupid. Embarrassed. I should have known. No different from second grade when I didn’t know a test answer. Week-long Iowa Basic Skills tests, how I secretly changed Monday’s answer on Tuesday so no one would discover I didn’t know that a frankfurter was a hot dog. Who doesn’t know a hot dog?
My father never heard the phone ring, and I never told him it did.

Back outside the engine coughed to a start, and I felt safe, grateful to hold the light for my father as he showed me the carburetor. He let me adjust the butterfly valve so it fluttered open and shut to let in the right amount of fresh air, and the engine smoothed to a hum.

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Julia Strayer’s writing appears in Glimmer Train, SmokeLong Quarterly, Post Road Magazine, Mid-American Review, South Dakota Review, Fiction Southeast and others. She placed first in the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers, and her work has been anthologized in The Best Small Fictions 2015. She earned an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and teaches creative writing at New York University.

Photograph in banner cited from: Kumar nav (flickr)

Edited by Literary Orphans


LITERARY ORPHANS ISSUE 26: Letter From The Editor

Read More LITERARY ORPHANS ISSUE 26: Letter From The Editor

Dear Orphans & Orphanettes,

The best moments in time are solidified by music. Wherever we are, it’s always surrounding us, impacting the big (and little) events of our lives. Whether it’s the muzak lulling us to sleep in the elevator or the classic tune in the bar the night we make one decision that will alter the course of our lives forever, we can’t escape music. We can’t run from the harmonious chaos of sound.

We can only give in, let our bodies sway to the beat, and succumb to the symphony that’s rewriting how we’re interpreting the world around us. When we let it overtake us, little moments become powerful memories. And when that music returns again at a later date, everything comes rushing back to us — sight, touch, emotion, sound.

It’s why classic rock radio stations thrive. Why oldies and easy listening remain integral genres for older markets. Whole generations of people are tuning in to relive the memories of years past.

As a new generation overtakes the American workforce as the single-largest generation currently employed, music thought lost in time makes a resurgence, and entertainment companies are more than happy to oblige. For anyone following pop culture trends, nostalgia is king. All the properties, toys, sights, and sounds of 80s and 90s children are vogue. Remakes, reboots, re-imaginings, and references take precedence as this dominant generation battles against the encroaching wave of time.

And in light of all this, many Millennials are discovering that the pieces of entertainment that defined their childhoods were more than just recollections of Saturdays spent in front of the television. Behind these memories, behind the music that solidified them, were pioneers.

shirleywalkerA quick Google search of the name “Shirley Walker” will reveal a small but devoted fan base of people who grew up with Batman: The Animated Series, among other DC-related cartoons. What Google won’t reveal as quickly, is the weight and meaning of her achievements.

Shirley Walker was one of the first female composers in Hollywood. In an industry predominantly run by men, she was one of the few who broke through the mold and used her talent for music to help build the collective dream of future generations.

She wrote her scores by hand. She orchestrated and conducted those compositions herself. From 1986 to 1994, she served as a board member (and later, vice president) for The Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL). When Shirley wasn’t composing her own music, she was conducting and orchestrating for others, earning countless credits on everything from A-list films to children’s entertainment.

And her lasting legacy? She redefined an icon that has existed since May 1939. When a whole generation of adults look back on their youth, remembering countless Saturdays spent with one of the most recognizable superheroes the world has ever known, they’ll think of the music. They’ll hear the heavy vocals or the moody, noir-inspired themes and leap back in time. To a simpler moment, carefree, innocent, and so full of wonder.  And it was all her doing. It’s the greatest gift one creator can release to the world, and it’s an inspiration for us at Literary Orphans.

In Issue 26: Shirley, we honor a woman who, against all odds, defined our formative years.

We’re all in this together,

Scott Waldyn

Read Issue 26: Shirley HERE. 

Mind Canyon (Mind Cañon) by Edward Nugent

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Though it is early, the sun is intense and promises a withering day ahead. I swing my hydration pack onto my shoulders, adjust the drinking tube, and take a swallow from the bite valve. Picking a path through what appears to be widely spaced chaparral should be easy, but there is actually little open space between the spreading, spiny branches of the palo verde, mesquite, ocotillo, and uña de gato bushes. Chollas fill any clearing in the brushy forest, ready–with their bulbous branches covered in hair-like spines–to grab the incautious or unsuspecting passerby. Pitayas reach up and spread their arms like huge green and black striped candelabras. Cardones dominate the canopy; their thick, green trunk and forked branches reach twenty feet or more into the clear, blue desert sky. The ground is hard and rocky. Finding a livestock trail that threads through this forest is welcome.

The trail is not straight but curves and bends; weaving up and over the rounded ridge, it descends into the wide, rock-strewn bed of an arroyo. I turn left and walk upstream. Though it is dry now, even here, where the arroyo has widened to at least sixty feet, the magnitude of the late summer floods is marked by the high line of debris a few inches higher than my head. Branches, uprooted bushes and trees, even stones, are driven, wedged, and wrapped around the paper white trunks of the palo blanco trees rooted on the silty islands of the braided watercourse.

As the arroyo narrows, the sandy, stony bottom turns to a boulder-strewn passage that, instead of walking, requires a ballet of hopping and balancing to the imagined crescendo of surging water and crashing stones. There are interludes where the floods have swept the floor clear and clean all the way to bare rock to reveal shallow sandstone ledges, like pages of an open book, each page a single layer; an episode, in the cycle of a once covering sea.

In the rocks, I can see the epic of their creation: The Earth is split as the Pacific Plate pulls from the North American Plate. The ocean pours into the widening gash. The Baja Peninsula rises from the newly created Sea of Cortez. Volcanoes spew clouds of ash; layers of rose and gray lava flow and bury shales, sand stones and conglomerates, and in many places, metamorphose those marine layers into more durable schists and gneisses.

Magma bulges and heaves from below, which fractures the layers above as it forces them upward. The pressure and heat shoot molten minerals into the fractures where they cool and harden. Sun, gravity and the seasonal rains sculpt the nascent range to reveal peaks and carve canyons. The Sierra Giganta is born. 

I gain elevation quickly, though almost imperceptibly, as the canyon narrows. White, dark gray, green, yellow, and orange intrusions angle across walls of layered taupe, maroon, and pink. Where the stripes cross the canyon floor, they form dry dams several inches high to barriers that must be climbed or skirted. The walls widen and recede, as I reach the catchment basin. The canyon’s serpentine twists and bends are now behind and below me.

In the shade of a mesquite tree, I stop to rest, snack and reflect on the landscape. It is late spring.  The low-growing plants are brown or tawny yellow. Most bushes and trees are leafless. Even the dusty green branches of the palo verde trees are bare but tipped with tiny flowers that resemble a crown of pale yellow-green mist. With their bristling, prickly beards, old man chollas gather in patches. The cardónes green skin covers their frame of vertical, wooden slats that expand to store water from the rains, only to contract during times of inevitable drought.

As I stretch out in the patchy shade of a mesquite tree, I see a flit. I look closely and can see a cardinal; its vivid red matches the flower blooming at the very tip of the otherwise lifeless-appearing Palo Adán. I hear its distinctive tiú, tiú, tiú, tiú. The longer I am still, the more bird songs I hear. I recognize the descending scale of the canyon wren and the whirring, lu, lu, lu, lu as a white wing dove takes flight. It is canyon music.

A whisper of breeze, like breath, sweeps up from below. Each canyon has its own distinctive breath. Here, the breath is intermittent, cool, faintly scented with copal. It softly brushes my skin.  My mind drifts with the breeze.

What suite would Copeland compose to capture this landscape? What instruments could conjure the rending of continental plates, the blasts of spewing volcanoes, the groans and shrieks of a mountain range being born? Could its movements rage like the flood, and rise and fall like the wind? Would birdsongs form its chorus?

Can this place, this moment, be expressed in word, canvas or song? Once roused, must imagination seek expression in form?

In the heat of the afternoon sun, I stir. The spell broken, I must return.

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Edward Nugent received his B.A. in English Literature from the University of Notre Dame, and an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Colorado.  Rendered unemployable, he went to trade school and received a JD from the University of Colorado.  Retired after thirty-six years as a criminal defense lawyer, he pursues his once youthful ambition to be a writer in Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico. His essays and poems have appeared on the website We Say Go Travel and in Reflections by the Sea, a collection from the Loreto Writer’s Workshop. He has also co-authored Hiking Loreto: Hikes, Walks and Explorations in Loreto, the Sierra Gigante and the surrounding area.

Photograph in banner cited from: Jon DeJong (flickr)

Edited by Literary Orphans

Extinction by Alex Schumacher

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Bio-picAlex Schumacher has toiled away in the relative obscurity of minimum-wage jobs and underground comics longer than he cares to admit. Currently he produces the weekly illustrated feature Decades of (in)Experience for Antix Press, the bi-weekly column Bread Crumbs from the Void for Five 2 One Magazine, and the monthly comic strip Mr. Butterchips for Drunk Monkeys. His comics and stories have been published by the likes of Arcana Studios, Cultured Vultures, The Round-Up Writer’s ‘Zine, and Hobo Camp Review. More info can be found on his site https://alexschumacherart.com/.

Photograph in banner cited from: Al Ibrahim (flickr)

Edited by Literary Orphans