YA Book Review: “Without Tess” by Marcella Pixley

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“Without Tess”, written by Marcella Pixley, is one of the best YA novels I have read in a while. I rarely give books five stars when rating them, but this one I did. The story revolves around the main character (Lizzie), and her dead sister (Tess). Lizzie is the younger sister by a couple years and was only 10 when her older sister tragically passed away.

The real star of the novel is Tess. As you read through the book and relive vibrant memories Lizzie shared with Tess, you come to both love and sometimes dislike Tess. Tess was a true believer in magic. She was creative and passionate. She was both loving and loyal, but at times cruel and violent. She was mentally ill, and at times downright psychotic. This novel is a lifelike retelling of what it is like to grow up with an extremely mentally ill sibling. It addresses the love, the hate, the sadness, the pain, the rage, the guilt, and all the other emotions that come along with such a disturbing family dynamic.

I had a deeply personal connection with this book, both as someone who grew up with a mentally ill sibling, and someone who eventually lost that sibling, mostly due to that mental illness. At one point the book even made me tear up, which is extremely rare for any book to do. Definitely recommended!

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Bronchitis (Again!) and Short Bits of Blackout Poetry

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I’ve come down with another nasty case of bronchitis, so I’m taking it easy, hoping the antibiotics kick in soon, and putting together bits of loosely created blackout poetry (using some magazines and comics I’ve read lately). Here are a few of these creative little bits:

1)
Not a single one
became a hugely successful
project,
save the seals, coins,
and animal bones.

2)
The result
of a terrible illegality
controls
a large new stairway
down
to the mounds of holy dirt.

3)
To arms!
To the ramparts!
To let me nap in peace.

4)
The pin
is mightier
than the sword –
if gouged
into thine eye.

These bits of poetry are short, random, and sometimes a bit nonsensical, but I enjoy playing with language, and even the most ambiguous ones have a sort of language musicality to me.

TV Blackout Poetry: American Horror Story

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Last night while I was watching the 4th season of American Horror Story (Freak Show), I had the idea to write a poem using a similar technique to the “blackout poetry” idea, but instead of using print, I would take a few random phrases or words from the tv show I was watching and put them together to make a poem. It was pretty fun and I do like what I came up with:

American Horror Story
By: Maranda Russell

Laundry detergent commercials
offer their brand of oddity
to the outside world.
Should you hear
sirens call,
remember,
nice don’t pay the bills!

So what do you guys think of my idea? Do you like the resulting poem? It is odd, but I like it.

Fun 6 Word Story Writing Prompts

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I must admit that I stole these 6 word story writing prompts from one of my favorite WordPress bloggers, Therapy Bits. I’m not sure where she gets these prompts, or if she makes them up herself, but I thought they looked like a lot of fun, so I started borrowing a few of them just to see what I could come up with. Personally, I tend to think of these 6 word stories as a minimalist form of poetry, even tighter and more concise than haiku.

So here are a few of the prompts and what I came up with:

“Curves”
Her curves couldn’t outweigh her personality.

“Belief”
To hold a belief is self-delusion.

“Doll”
One doll, with third degree burns.

“Mundane”
Mundane, but still better than Monday.

“Maddening”
A cat is a maddening creature.

“Offer”
Make an offer, I can refuse.

“Plausible”
Perhaps plausible, but is it infallible?

“Rebel”
Rebel against your own poor expectations.

I hope you guys enjoyed this. Let me know if you did and maybe I’ll do more in the future. If you want to share any 6 word stories you come up with, feel free to do so in the comments!

Does Any of It Matter?

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Do you ever wonder if it all matters? I sure do. I try to be positive most of the time when I think about the things I do and whether they make a difference, but when I get depressed, the voices of doubt tend to get louder. They say some pretty mean things:

Are you just wasting your time writing and making art? Who really cares?

Why would anyone care what you have to say? Who do you think you are?

You try to support others, but do they even notice? Does it even help them?

You only focus so much on art and writing because you can’t keep a REAL job. 

Your own family never cared that much about you, why would anyone else?

If you died today, barely anyone would notice or care. Your funeral would be empty. 

You are selfish and everyone sees through you. 

You are a drain on your husband and society in general. 

I know these are very negative (some would even say abusive) thoughts, but when I am feeling low, they play in my head like a stuck record. By writing them out, I am hoping they will finally shut the hell up. Do any of these thoughts (or similar ones) ever haunt you?

 

Poetry: Sleeping Poetic Genius

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Sleeping Poetic Genius
By: Maranda Russell

I wrote a poem
in my sleep last night.
The words, colors, and images
now blur in my mind.
I try to pin them down,
only to have them
wiggle away
like a puppy
desperate to escape
a confining embrace.

The poem was grand,
of this I am sure.
A masterpiece of language,
now shriveled and dried up
like an unlucky worm
laying dead
after a rainstorm.