SAND CASTLES BY FORREST MILLER 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 19
Being this age in this age
is making sand castles
in front of an approaching tide.
We see the driftwood. We dig for sand dollars
and pretty shells. We write our names.
We inspect with curiosity
the hollowed-out crab shells
and seagull carcasses.
Gleefully, we try to outrun the waves;
we still get wet. Then the sea comes
and washes it all away, grinding down
the bones, the shells, the names.
When we have gone, the sea rolls back out
leaving nothing but empty horizon, clean sand,
and the echo of waves.
I am an Army veteran trained as an interrogator, broadcast journalist, and psychological operations specialist. I served deployments to Cuba, Bosnia, and Afghanistan. During my 26 years in the military I met a lot of interesting people. Some I miss intensely others I’d rather never see again. The media often portrays soldiers as victims or predators. The truth is obviously a lot more complicated. There have been many military memoirs about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars but relatively little fiction. Maybe it’s presumptuous to say I hope to fill this gap. I’ll say it anyway. Virtual Army Reality is an excerpt from my novel in progress, Deployed. My work has appeared in the Kore Press anthology Powder: Writing by Women in the Ranks from Vietnam to Iraq, Cadillac Cicatrix, Downstate Story, Talon Magazine, and Verdad, as well as in many military publications.
I’m so excited because this is my first English story. I’m a Mexican writer living in Los Angeles. I’ve worked in the media for almost 20 years as a DJ, writer, and producer. I was also a copywriter for major advertising agencies. I’m the author of a short stories book Slim Viaja en Segunda (Carlos Slim Travels Second Class). I write a blog Los Angeles y sus Demonios (Los Angeles and its Demons) for the Huffington Post Spanish edition. email@example.com
I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, in one of those large, rollicking Catholic families typical of the 1960s. On any given day, there might be games of pitch and catch in the hallway or tackle football in the back bedroom. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was about 18. I moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas and still live in Austin now. I have published more than 25 fiction and non-fiction pieces in a variety of literary journals and served as a ghostwriter for a self-help book published by Simon & Schuster. I have two grown children and four lovely grandchildren.
I began writing in my mid-teens because I thought, and still think, fiction is richer than life. For writers of fiction, here’s my advice: write every day, submit your work wherever you can, reject the word “rejection” (your work hasn’t been accepted for many reasons, not rejected), explore both the print and on-line worlds, which are converging (as in 34thParallel Magazine), and finally, write whatever truly moves you with no concern for where it may be published. What matters is that you connect with yourself before worrying about connecting with editors and readers. Writing according to formulas, market-expectations, or the norms of a writing instructor or program is something you do when you’re starting out. When you’re past that point, you’re on your own, and no one will be able to make up for a lack of belief in yourself. That’s up to you. Robert Earle wrote At a Starbucks in Laguna in 34thParallel Magazine Issue 07. Raponikon@mac.com
I am a traveler. I have traveled the world. From China to India, Europe many times. Most of the Mediterranean rim countries and all of Latin America and parts of Africa. I’m not sure why I travel. Maybe looking for something. I was born in Oklahoma as a coal miner’s son and the family immigrated to California via the copper mines of southern Arizona, one step behind the dustbowl drifters of the depression. We were dirt poor with an alcoholic father who only stayed sober long enough to barely feed his family. Mendocino County in the late 1940s was a magnet for loggers and boomers who worked long enough to get a paycheck and moved on. As with most poor young men in the 60s I went to Vietnam. I was a desk clerk with a military police unit. Luckily I returned with my brain and body mostly intact. After a couple of years of Junior College I ran out of money and worked for the Northwestern Pacific Rail Road as a telegrapher, clerk, freight agent, and drawbridge tender. And I worked as a truck driver hauling logs, lumber, and freight. I have crossed this country more times than I care to remember. Worked as a roadie for rock bands and road shows. Along the way I met my wife and now have four grown children.
I had always been told I was a talented writer and had written poetry as a hobby. After college I set off backpacking around the world. I had not settled on being a writer since I still had concerns about the financial aspects. I did know, however, that I loved writing and wanted to give it a try even if it was something on the side. That being said, I felt it was important to broaden my horizons travelling. After a year, however, I had made very little progress in terms of figuring out my life. I did, however, start to feel like I was finding my voice in my writing and decided it was time to start sending out submissions to see if I could get anything published. And so, I find myself today in the position of still not really knowing what I want to do with my life. I am only now beginning to consider myself a “writer” or a “poet” but I do feel grounded and enjoy working on my writing and seeing where it takes me. thegreatfires.blogspot.com
Before getting married, my fiancé and I went to a screening of Cold Mountain. After the movie we could hardly speak; we could only sob. At the time, I knew such emotion would be rich for a poem; but over the years, I could never quite determine how to express that emotion—that is, not until last year when my wife and I separated. Our split gave the poem an extra leg of support, a new strand for braiding, and a clue to the curious and tragic salt in those post-cinema tears. I teach writing at College of Alameda in the San Francisco Bay Area and publish Alehouse, an all-poetry literary journal at alehousepress.com. I live in San Francisco with my son and our Norwich terrier.
Every weekend Maya and I have submission Sunday. We spend the day going through Newpages.com looking for a literary magazine with that perfect mix of experimental/surreal writing that isn’t so out there that it’s embarrassing to tell people that we were published by them. This week we came across your magazine (accidentally of course) and your submission page seemed nice enough. I’ve been writing fiction for over ten years. I’ve got an Msc from the University of Edinburgh and an MFA from the University of New Orleans. Until recently I never submitted my work anywhere. Partly because I’m lazy. Partly because it’s difficult to find places that seem like a fit for my work. Maya’s shaking her head as I write this. She knows it’s the laziness. I have been published in a few places such as SOL Literary Magazine and Rio Grande Review. One of my stories will appear in an anthology of writers in Mexico this summer. I live in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. nathanfeuerberg.com
Boucheron is an architect in Charlottesville, Virginia, who writes on housing, cities, gardens, intentional communities, electric motorcycles, and love gone wrong. His work has also been published in Cerise Press, Cossack Review, Echo, Inform, Mouse Tales Press, Northern Virginia, Piedmont Virginian, Prime Number, Real Estate Weekly, Rider, Talking Writing and Virginia Business. Boucheron’s Imaginary City pen and ink drawing is featured in 34thParallel Issue 17. boucheronarch.com
I am a third year student completing a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing) and a Diploma of Languages (Spanish) at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. Gold on the Ceiling was inspired by a quote by David Foster Wallace, the awesome music of The Black Keys, and the handful of fairy lights strung up in my room. The piece is quite allegorical, so I suppose, and hope, that it should read differently to different people. Gold on the Ceiling was a way for me to explore the weird headspace I was in at the time of writing the piece; it’s kind of manic but apathetic. I’m idealistic and I’m also a massive over-thinker, so I use my writing as catharsis for a lot of my hopes, and way more of my anxieties. It’s also heaps fun, and my somewhat flip decision to go to university to write began what is probably the most positive experience of my life so far. I’ve met some rad people, who’ve confirmed what I think I’ve known all along (and certainly what Lewis Carroll knew for sure) that we’re all mad, and we’re all normal. firstname.lastname@example.org
I never really look to achieve anything when I write a story, except to get myself to a better state of mind. I write because I feel that I have to; it gives me a sense of purpose, as clichéd as that might sound. I wish there was a more clever way to say this, but without writing I would feel aimless and invisible. Someone recently asked me why I would choose to embark on a career so littered with obstacles and rejections, something so elusive and unpredictable, with no promise of success at the end of the tunnel. I simply responded that I could never do anything else.