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Sue Spitulnik

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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Service–Military or Otherwise

When you hear the word SERVICE, what flashes through your mind? Currently, it may be a picture of doctors and nurses. It could be your favorite restaurant server, your mechanic, or someone in the military. I was an Air Force wife from 1972–1979 and I waited tables in the closest restaurant to the main gate of both an Air Force Base and an Army Post in Tacoma, Washington from 1978­­—1991 where most of the customers were active duty or retired members of the armed services. I moved back to the Finger Lakes area of New York State in 1991 and lost my connection to a military-based way of life. When I hear the word service my mind thinks military first, then may drift to other definitions.

I am a five-year member of the Rochester, NY Veterans Writing Group. We meet each month and I have only missed a few meetings since joining in 2015 because being with “my” vets has brought me home to a feeling I didn’t know I was missing until I experienced it again. When I started attending I found my “tribe” of brothers and sisters that “get it.” The group gathers around a table and writes personal experience memories brought forth from thought-provoking prompts. Once the allotted writing time ends, we read our musings aloud, sharing the highs and lows, and sometimes comical, points of military life. It’s a healing process and only safe to do with other vets who understand: the front lines come with exhaustion, bad food, blood, and death; the military comes with pride, service, boredom, and chaos; the home front can be supportive or fall away in a flash, and it takes 22 to 25 other members in the background to support the ones brandishing weapons no matter the circumstances.

I am proud to share, the groups’ anthology titled, United in Service, United in Sacrifice will be released in May 2020. The authors are veterans and family members ranging in age from 27 years to 95 years old. The stories start at WWII and move forward to Afghanistan. The authors’ goal is to help anyone understand the meaning and feeling of “tribe” or “brotherhood”  of the military and the sacrifice it takes to “sign on the dotted line,” hence the book title.

According to the National Conference for State Legislators, only 7.6% (in 2019) of all Americans have ever served in the United States military. I beg to differ because I was a dependent wife and had two children. No, I didn’t serve to the extent of following orders and being asked to brandish a weapon, but I carried a military dependent ID and served by being the back-up, the home front, who gave up my childhood roots, never gave them to my kids, then willingly packed and moved each time the Air Force ordered my ex-husband to do so. I made immediate friends with new neighbors and relied on other members of my husband’s unit as a family because I had no other choice. Becoming a military dependent changed my life by expanding the puddle in which I live.

Today I continue to serve by being the “Mom” of our writing group. I take the coffee pot to each gathering, check-in privately with a member when I can sense they need it, and present each new member a patriotic quilt on their sixth month attendance anniversary. I learned to sew when I was in high school and I’ve been making quilts ever since. I am very fortunate to have a large sewing studio in my home that has multiple cupboards full of many different colors of fabric, lots of it red, white, or blue.  My husband is often with me when I’m shopping for fabric. He carries the bolts I pick, chats with the person who cuts what I want, and pays for it knowing I am going to give most of it away. He’s a veteran too and his generosity keeps me occupied doing something I love, and gives both of us a way to acknowledge our fellow veterans.

The quilt pictured below was made for my WWII Veteran friend, Bob Whelan. It is a replica of the 13th Armored Cavalry (1944-’45) patch of which he was a member and is now the President of that unit’s reunion group. The quilt hangs in his study at home. The pattern for the recurring block is called Kaleidoscope. Fun fact; my husband was in the 50th Armored Division (1970-’76.)

WWII quilt

patqlt

The above quilt was a gift to Steve McAlpin

Vets

We had to say a final farewell to one of our own this past January. Some of “my” vets from left to right; Me, Gary Redlinski (Vietnam), Steve McAlpin (Afghanistan), his girl Carol, Holly Katie (family member), Vaughn Stelzenmuller (Vietnam), Bob Whelan (WWII)

There are so many different types of service whether it is in the military, to your family or community, at work, in your children’s schools, at the Carrot Ranch, etc. Service can be as simple as a smile in the check-out line at a retail store or brandishing a weapon not knowing if you’ll make it to the next day and all points and locations in between.

Charli Mills serves us by giving us a fun, safe, positive place to share the written word. I am thankful to be a part of Carrot Ranch and proudly talk of my international friends who keep my life puddle ever-expanding.

In the comments section please share your service story–military or otherwise.

 

My Peaceful Workspace – flash fiction

If someone asked where I would like to have an epic quilting space, I would answer, on a bluff overlooking the Oregon coast, or high in a sky scraper with lots of windows to admire the scenery day and night, or perhaps on Flathead Lake in Montana to view the mountains and water. But let’s be logical about this; if I’m sewing I’m not looking at a view. I think I’ll keep the 600 square feet in the basement of my current home. Peace resides there and my cats keep me company. Besides I’m usually working in my pajamas.

In response to Charli Mills September 6, 2018, prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an epic workplace. It can be real or imagined. Go where the prompt leads.

September 6: Flash Fiction Challenge

Thank a Teacher

Do you have a teacher that made a big impact on your life? Is there one teacher you remember over all the others because he/she could help you understand anything?  In my experience most teachers do their job because they love it, not because they are getting paid well to do it, except maybe private tutors. Continue reading “Thank a Teacher”

My First Guest Post

Raw Literature: Support System

by Charli Mills

By Susan Sleggs

I have read and heard in classes a writer should be able to condense a raw piece of literature down to one word or subject. That’s easy to do when I write flash fiction from a prompt by Charli Mills because she gives us the one word as a starting point. I find it challenging and fun. I love reading all the different takes on that one word. We certainly think and write with a different slant. When applying my craft in other venues such as poetry, memoir or other fiction that one word isn’t so easy to decipher. What is easy is to give credit to my support system for any writing I may accomplish. They encourage me with praise, and sometimes a nudge.

I first met my now husband in 2001. I told him I had a novel running around in my head but didn’t know how to go about writing it. He listened patiently for almost ten years then one evening while we were out listening to a Frank Sinatra impersonator, he noticed tears running down my face. He asked why. I told him I had just figured out how I could tie my story together. On the way home, he firmly said, “Now you have the missing piece, sit down and write it or quit talking about it.” I knew he was serious and I wasn’t about to quit talking about it. Halfway through the two-and-a-half-year writing process that started in 2013, he wished at times to never hear me mention it again. It became my total focus. Another nudge happened when I became frightened about the fact all my characters are a part of myself. I wasn’t sure I wanted my readers to know me so well. He assured me only a few people would be able to recognize that, so I went back to writing.

The first couple of weeks of actual writing I realized how much research I had to do. I wanted to find an Air Force pilot to model a character after. I called the local Veteran’s Outreach Center, and they directed me to the Rochester Veteran’s Writing Group whose doors are open to all vets, family members, and friends. As an ex-Air Force wife, I walked fearlessly into that first meeting on May 2, 2015, and not only found my pilot, but one that flew the exact airplane I wanted information about. The group has twelve regular members; two from WWII, three Viet Nam and the rest from Iraq and Afghanistan. We write from prompts every month and share our memories in a safe, non-judgmental situation, just like at Carrot Ranch. We have become special friends who understand PTSD, sacrifice, brotherhood and share the love of writing. That ex-pilot and I have read, critiqued and edited each other’s manuscripts. He is one of my best cheerleaders.

During the same time, I started taking classes at Writer’s, and Books, a Rochester, NY, based non-profit that promotes writing and reading. I learned about story arc, not using the word was because it tells instead of showing action and that the publishing industry doesn’t like exclamation points. I also joined another local writing group, the Lilac City Rochester Writers which is made up mostly of published authors who are willing to help other writers. I have learned much from their programs. It’s amazing when you put a group of people together who have the same passion how quickly they all become mentors to each other.

People have told me it doesn’t matter that I don’t have a college education, but I disagree. There are so many things I have had to learn the slow hard way that had I more education I would have learned in writing classes like the first draft is not the completed project. Writing is never done; there is always one, or many more adjustments that can be made. At times I find that disheartening and I retreat to my sewing room where I finish a quilt and give it away relishing the fact “done is done.”

In my quest for writing knowledge, the fact you must keep writing to improve became apparent, so I started a blog in July of 2016 (susansleggs.com). I share memories and information based on the National Day of Calendar. That’s where Robbie Cheadle found me and became my first international blogging friend. The Tanka Tuesday poetry challenges she entered grabbed my attention. I didn’t use the prompts for poetry but for the keywords in my first efforts at flash. She also introduced me to the Carrot Ranch. I took a flash fiction class in September 2017, and to my delight learned I could write short fiction. I submitted my first 99-word flash at Carrot Ranch last November and look forward to a new challenge each week. The content of my blog has changed, and my group of national and international friends keeps growing.

When Charli Mills asked if I wanted to share my writing process I was elated and humbled as my journey is far from over. My novel, even at the end of its eighth draft needs more work. I have let it languish for the last year, and since I have learned to write more concisely, I’m thinking rewrites to tighten the scenes might even be fun now. I need to get to it. The problem remains, my story is a soap-opera type family saga, and they are not the in thing right now.

As to my process, there is something I can’t explain. Insights come on a regular basis when I am listening to live music whether it is a crooner, jazz or country. And the irony of the whole situation is I am known for always having an opinion and lots to say, so being recognized for doing something short and concise makes me laugh and want to forge ahead.

Thank you to my support system, especially the folks at Carrot Ranch who keep giving me challenges, are positive, and I’m getting to know better as each week passes.

***

Susan Sleggs is a retiree who blogs from her home in the Finger Lakes region of New York state. She spends as many hours quilting in her sewing studio as she does writing in front of the computer. Memoir, fiction, and free-form poetry are common writing genres, but flash is her current passion.

<<♦>>

Raw Literature posts as an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99-word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

Charli Mills | March 20, 2018 at 1:29 am | Tags: support networkSusan Sleggsveterans | Catego

Quilting is a huge part of my life. When I am not writing, I am quilting in one form or another. That means I might be shopping for fabric, or cutting the pieces for a new quilt, or sewing those pieces together (actually called piecing), or sewing the top-batting-backing layers together which is the quilting process. There is a quilt in every room of my home, yes, one even hangs in the kitchen. Continue reading

Food and Friendship

“Dadgum, That’s Good!”™ is much more than just a Southern phrase and the title of John McLemore’s best-selling cookbook series. John’s signature dishes and cooking style leave a lasting impression wherever he goes – especially in the South, where people love to proclaim, “DADGUM That’s Good!” The McLemores show their love for others by sharing great meals – and stories – around the table so whether it’s a delicious meal, time with your loved ones, or the perfect combination of both, today is a day to celebrate all things “DADGUM good!” [courtesy National Day of Calendar} Continue reading “Food and Friendship”

Control What You Can-Flash Fiction

 

“In the past three weeks, we had to move into our new house before the painters and rug layers were done, there were two deaths in my wife’s family and our daughter was in a car wreck and can’t go back to work.”

“How are you coping with such trials?”

“I’m a patient man, but I want answers. I’m praying a lot.”

“How about your wife?”

“I helped her unpack the quilting room and I cut fabric for her to sew, then sent her to lunch with her friends. She felt better after accomplishing something and receiving healing hugs.” Continue reading “Control What You Can-Flash Fiction”

My Favorite Pastime

Brooke's finished

Once again the National Day of Calendar gave me the opportunity to talk about what I want. I finished this t-shirt quilt yesterday. It is my great-niece’s high school graduation gift. It fits nicely into this blog post because I had to thread and rethread the needle on my new mid-arm quilting machine (still free-motion) because it was skipping stitches and the thread kept breaking.  Continue reading “My Favorite Pastime”

So this is National Clean Out Your Computer Day. I thought, yeah, they will give me instructions as to “how” to do it. Not to be. The calendar says delete old files, put things in folders, delete duplicate information and old apps not being used. I understand that would be a good thing to do, but alas, I don’t know how to do it.

I recently attended a couple of sessions of a Word Press Meet-Up group. I had heard they could help me learn how to use Word Press to my advantage. Unfortunately I ran into the same thing. They talked about all the neat things one can do with Word Press, that’s the program I am using to write my blog, but they never got into the how of things. When they did get close, the speakers were using so many initial terms I had no idea what meant, I got frustrated. I did ask a guy I was sitting next to where I could learn the how and he told me You-Tube. I need to schedule a time to attempt that feat.

I like writing, but it isn’t super easy for me. When I hit a question or unknown of how to use the computer to get to where I want to go, instead of trying to find an answer, I give up and return to my sewing room where things are easy for me. I still make mistakes in my quilting, mostly because I have convinced myself I know exactly what I’m doing when sometimes I don’t, but I can easily and quickly come up with a finished product for someone to snuggle under.

Maybe what I need in my life is an extra teenager that will be patient with me and walk me through the steps of cleaning out old files. I’m sure my computer would appreciate being less burdened.

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