The Shorties – My 2016 Short Story Awards!

shorty-award

Dale at Mirror With Clouds posted his top ten stories of the year this morning, which reminded me I had planned to do another edition of my “Shorties” awards this year. So, without further ado…

tyrion

Somehow I neglected to do the “Shorties” awards last year.  But here are the 2013 and 2014 editions if you want to see the past winners.  This year, for the Third “Annual” edition, we retain George R.R. Martin’s Tyrion Lannister, brilliantly brought to life by actor Peter Dinklage in the HBO Series, Game of Thrones, as our spokesman, taking to heart his quotation below. “A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge.” And… once again, as I did last year, I’ll stress that “shorties” is intended as a term of endearment not a politically incorrect disparaging remark about short people. 🙂  All the stories below may be found in the summary post for my 2016 Deal Me In Challenge.

  1. Favorite New (to me) Author:
    a) Maurice Thompson
    b) Edward Eggleston
    c) Ernie Pyle
    d) John Shivley
    e) Nora Bonner

Really a toss up here, between Pyle and Thompson, but I’m going to have to go with Maurice Thompson. Both his stories in my Deal Me In deck were among my favorites of the year!

  1. Most Memorable Female Character
    a) narrator (“Letter to the Man in Carnivorous Plants” by Lauren Ann Bolton)
    b) Aunt Gingy (“It Came from Burr County” by Marian Allen)
    c) Alice (“The Beautiful Lady” by Booth Tarkington)
    d) Eleanor Garen (“Profiles in Survival” by John Shivley)
    e) Katie Deane (“Autumn Full of Apples” by Dan Wakefield)

At the risk of heading toward an Academy Award-like sweep, I’ll go with the title character, Alice, in Booth Tarkington’s The Beautiful Lady. Such purity of heart is rare – and refreshing.  I did notice that there was a lack of memorable female characters in my Deal Me In stories this year. Of course, with a lot of non-fiction in the mix, there were fewer opportunities, but I’m going to keep a better eye out for them in 2017.

  1. Most Memorable Male Character
    a) Dan (“Autumn Full of Apples” by Dan Wakefield)
    b) Harrison Bergeron (“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut)
    c) Willie (“Mr. Blake’s Walking Stick” by Edward Eggleston)
    d) Zach (“The Legend of Potato Creek” by Maurice Thompson)
    e) Uncle Midas (“The Boyhood of Christ” by General Lew Wallace)

I’m going to go with the GENERAL Lew Wallace’s character.  His Uncle Midas was such a likable character, there is probably a likeness of him if you look up “avuncular” in the dictionary. 🙂

  1. Most Memorable writing
    a) Booth Tarkington
    b) Rocco Versaci
    c) Ernie Pyle
    d) Josh Green
    e) Michael Martone

I enjoyed all of these writers very much, but the Shortie goes to Tarkington. The clinching quotation (from The Beautiful Lady): “To fall in love must one behold a face? Yes; at thirty. At twenty, when one is something of a poet No: it is sufficient to see a grey pongee skirt! At fifty, when one is a philosopher No: it is enough to perceive a soul! I had done both; I had seen the skirt; I had perceived the soul.” Winner.

  1. Favorite Story
    a) The Pedagogue by Maurice Thompson
    b) Schliemann in Indianapolis by Michael Martone
    c) Autumn Full of Apples by Dan Wakefield
    d) A Reward of Merit by Booth Tarkington
    e) The Beautiful Lady by Booth Tarkington

So tough to decide, but since I’ve already “honored” Tarkington twice, I’m going to go with Maurice Thompson’s story, The Pedagogue – a classic Indiana “Frontier” story that sometimes reminded me of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Honorable mention to Martone, whose stories in the collection “Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List” have all been enjoyable thus far.

Well, those are some of my favorite stories, characters, and authors from this year. Which were YOURS?

 

What I’ll be Reading for the 2017 Deal Me In Short Story Challenge

IMG_3919-0

This year for Deal Me In (my 7th!) I’ve decided to try something a little new. I’ve decided to let fate decide, er, I mean let THE fates decide.  You know, the three fates from Greek Mythology?  Clotho, Lachesis & Atropos? (pictured below) In Plato’s Republic, Lachesis sings of “things that were,” Clothos of “the things that are,” and Atropos of “the things that are to be.” So I’ve roughly assigned some stories or essays that fit those categories.  But that’s only three suits, right?  I needed a fourth, and for some reason I recalled that the streets in the Indianapolis neighborhood I grew up in had literary names. (Hawthorne, Emerson, Riley, etc.) So I’m going to “take a stroll through the old neighborhood”and read things by the “author” street names in that neighborhood.  How’s that? I’ve also included some more essays in my roster, making this a non-pure “short story” challenge. But the rules are flexible on that. 🙂 I’m repeating my tradition of making “deuces wild” to allow some ad hoc selections throughout the year.  I will try to keep those in line with their suit, though.

the-three-fates-at-castell-coch.jpg

(above pic found at http://andberlin.com/2012/09/13/castell-coch-red-castle-near-cardiff/)

Here are my stories/essays:

Suits:

♦♦♦Diamonds♦♦♦

Lachesis – the past

lachesiswaterhouse

♦A♦Letter from a Birmingham Jail – Martin Luther King (week 5)

♦2♦ – Wild Card

♦3♦I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou (week 7)

♦4♦ – The Perfect Past – Vladimir Nabokov

♦5♦ – The Lincoln Train – Maureen F. McHugh

♦6♦ – Winter, 1965 – Frederic Tuten

♦7♦– Go Back – Karen Joy Fowler

♦8♦ – Hippies and Beats – Edward Hoagland

♦9♦ – How She Remembers It – Rick Bass

♦10♦Winter Elders – Shawn Vestal (week 11)

♦J♦ – What it Means to be Colored Me (essay) – Zora Neale Hurston

♦Q♦ – The Hills of Zion (essay) – H.L. Mencken

♦K♦The Devil Baby at Hull House (essay) – Jane Addams (week 6)

♠♠♠Spades♠♠♠

Clotho – the present

Clotho

♠A♠ – The Future is Now (essay) – Katharine Porter

♠2♠ – Wild

♠3♠ – Tradition and the Individual Talent (essay) – T.S. Eliot (week 13)

♠4♠ – What Are Masterpieces? (essay) – Gertrude Stein

♠5♠ – The Mongerji Letters – Geetha Iyee (week 4)

♠6♠ – The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates – Stephen King

♠7♠ – Safety – Linda Fitzpatrick (week 9)

♠8♠ – Interview With a Moron – Elizabeth Stuckey French

♠9♠ – La Pulchra Nota – Molly McNett (Week 12)

♠10♠ – Watching a Woman on the M101 Express – Kamilah Aisha Moon

♠J♠ – Mr. Voice – Jess Walter (week 2)

♠Q♠ – The Big Cat – Louise Erdrich

♠K♠ – Double On-Call – John Green (week 8)

♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥

Atropos -the future

atropos-copy

♥A♥– Moving On – Diane Cook

♥2♥ – Wild

♥3♥ – Happy Endings – Kevin Conti

♥4♥By the Time You Read This – Yannick Murphy (week 1)

♥5♥ – Jeffty is Five – Harlan Ellison

♥6♥ – Divergence – David H. Lynn

♥7♥ – The Prize of Peril – Robert Sheckley

♥8♥The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything – George Alec Effinger

♥9♥ -Sex Ex Machina (essay) – James Thurber

♥10♥ – The Creation Myth of Cooperstown (essay) – Stephen Jay Gould

♥J♥ – The Paper Menagerie – Ken Liu

♥Q♥The Anything Box – Zenna Henderson (week 3)

♥K♥ – The Spirit Stone – Maurice Broaddus

♣♣♣Clubs♣♣♣

The old neighborhood – stories by authors the streets of my childhood neighborhood were named after (with one exception, but that exception still is an Indianapolis street name, just not one where I grew up) 🙂

♣A♣ – Leaf Girl – Elizabeth Pearl (week 14)

♣2♣ – Wild Card

♣3♣ – A Plea for the Constitution (non-fiction) – George Bancroft

♣4♣ – Dedication Speech at Chickamauga – Lew Wallace

♣5♣ –  Friendship (essay) – Ralph Waldo Emerson

♣6♣ – Old Christmas – Washington Irving

♣7♣ – The Corn Song – John Greenleaf Whittier

♣8♣ – The Snow Image: A Childish Miracle – Nathaniel Hawthorne

♣9♣ – Character (essay) – Ralph Waldo Emerson

♣10♣ – Legend of Two Discreet Statues – Washington Irving

♣J♣ – The Celestial Railroad – Nathaniel Hawthorne

♣Q♣ – Love (essay) – Ralph Waldo Emerson

♣K♣ – Strange Stories by a Nervous Gentleman – Washington Irving

Some of my sources for this year:

What about YOU?  Are you participating in the Deal Me In Challenge this year?  Why not give it a try?  It’s a fun way to keep yourself reading even when things get busy. I mean, who doesn’t have time to at least read one little short story a week, right? 🙂

 

“It’s The Most Wonderful Day of the Year!” – Announcing the 7th Annual “DEAL ME IN” short story reading challenge.

It’s December 21st, the SHORTest day of the year. What better date to take the plunge and sign up for a short story challenge? So, without further ado…

Welcome to the Short Story Reading Challenge, “Deal Me In 2017!”

IMG_5345-1

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Since I was a child, I’ve always loved a good story. I believed stories helped us to ennoble ourselves, to fix what was broken in us, and to help us become the people we dreamed of being. Lies… that told a deeper truth.”

                           -Anthony Hopkins (portraying Dr. Robert Ford) in Westworld, season 1, episode 10.

img_8795

Yes, I know you’re being bombarded with posts about all sorts of reading challenges for the new year, and they all sound like a lot of fun. But here’s a unique challenge where your reading burden is relatively light AND where you still can experience a lot of different authors and genres.

What is the goal of the challenge?

To read 52 short stories in 2017 (that’s only one per week – versions with a lesser story requirement are noted below)

What do I need?

1) Access to at least fifty-two short stories (don’t own any short story collections or anthologies? See links to online resources below)
2) A deck of cards
3) An average of perhaps just thirty minutes of reading time each week

Where do I post* about my stories?

(*You don’t have to post about every single story, of course, – or even ANY story – but if you have something to say about the story you read any given week, your fellow participants would love to hear it.)

1) On your own blog or website if you have one (I will link to your post at the bottom of my weekly post. I currently plan to do my weekly post on Sundays)

2) if you don’t have a blog or website you may comment on any of my Deal Me In posts, sharing thoughts on your own story – or start one at WordPress or blogspot – it’s easy and free to create a basic blog.

How do I pick which stories to read?

(The 52 stories themselves are totally up to you.) Before you get start reading, come up with a roster of fifty-two stories (you can use any source) and assign each one to a playing card in a standard deck of cards. It can be fun to use different suits for different types of stories, but that is optional. I’ve often included one wild card for each suit too, so I can maybe read a story I’ve heard about during the year, or read another by an author I’ve discovered through this challenge. Each “week,” (if you’re like me, you may occasionally fall a story or two behind – that’s okay) you draw a card at random from your deck and that is the story you will read. There are links to many of last year’s participants’ rosters in the comments to last year’s sign-up if you want to see some examples. I’ll be posting my own 2017 roster soon. My twists this year? I’m actually including 13 essays this time around (inspired by “o” at the Behold the Stars blog) One of my suits will be stories by authors who the streets in the neighborhood I grew up in are named after (Irving, Hawthorne, Wallace, etc.)  I think my other three suits will be loosely based on the three fates (Moirae) from Greek Mythology who, we are told in Plato’s “Republic” sing of “things that were, things that are, and things that will be.”  Not sure how I’m going to manage that, but I have a few days left.

What if I don’t have time to read a story every single week?

You don’t have to read your stories on a regular schedule (I almost always fall behind at least once during the year) and can catch up once a month if your prefer – OR try one of the challenge variations noted below, the Fortnight (or “payday” if you prefer) version is one story every two weeks or the “Full Moon Fever” version with just thirteen stories read or selected on seeing each full moon…

How do I sign up?

Leave a comment below with your URL and I will link you on my home page, where I’ll eventually have a section in my sidebar for “2017 Deal Me In Participants.” This year, I think I’ll try to go back to a weekly wrap-up post, linking to other Deal Me In participants’ posts I’ve seen recently too.  Late sign-ups are allowed and encouraged too.

What is the purpose?

To have FUN and to be exposed to new authors and stories and maybe get in the habit of reading a short story a week. Isn’t that enough? 🙂

Some short story resources:

Links:
Classic Horror Stories:
AmericanLiterature.com short story of the day
EastoftheWeb’s short story of the day:
The Library of America’s short story of the week archive:

Free online novels.com has a wide selection; or check here for a few more. Heck just google “free short stories on line” and you’ll have enough to last a lifetime of Deal Me In Challenges!  Check out The New Yorker too. Last I checked you could access a limited number of their published stories per month. If your local library is like mine, they’ll likely have a good collection of annual O’Henry Prize-winning volumes, or the yearly Best American Short Stories anthologies.
Looking for some really short stories? Try here

Deal Me In Variations:

The Deal Me In “Fortnight Version” – just use two suits from your deck and assign a story to each card, drawing a card every two weeks. If you get paid bi-weekly, you can use that as a reminder to draw a new card (I guess this makes the fortnight variation a.k.a. The “payday version.” 🙂

The Deal Me In “Euchre Deck Version”If you work for “one of those companies” where you only get paid twice a month on the 15th and 30th, e.g., use a euchre deck!  Note: I’ve experimented with an accelerated euchre deck version for a couple readathons, especially the 24 in 48 readathon, where, instead of trying to read 24 hours out of 48, I try to read 24 short stories in 48 hours. Also pretty challenging.

The Deal Me In “Full Moon Fever Version” – this would be the baby steps way to ease into the Deal Me In routine, basically reading just one story a month (who doesn’t have time for that?). Just use one suit or face cards only and you’re set. Seeing the full moon in the sky can also serve as a reminder – “hey, I need to read my next short story!” We only have twelve full moons in 2017, so maybe you can have a ‘discretionary read’ sometime during the year where you draw a thirteenth card.

You can try the using the new moons, as well, or BOTH new and full moons. In the past, we’ve had a couple Deal Me In’ers have a full moon add-on in addition to their 52 stories.

Other participants in the past have added their own wrinkles: Reading a story a week for only half the year, reading two at a time and trying to find a “connection” between them, reading essays, plays, poems, or famous speeches… Feel free to twist, spindle or mutilate this challenge any way you see fit to suit your own plans – the only element that should probably remain is the use of playing cards to determine your reading order.

Giveaways! I’m working on a system to actually do a few giveaways this year. Maybe one a quarter. Nothing extravagant, just maybe a B&N or Amazon gift card or something. Winners will be determined somehow by luck of the draw (naturally!) I’ll try to have that figured out and announced with my first wrap-up post of 2017.

So, how about it?  Are you UP for a challenge? If so, Deal Me In 7.0 might just be for you!  Shall we “Deal YOU in?” 🙂

Last of all, please help spread the word about Deal Me In. It’s been so much more fun the past few years with others playing along. Bloggers from all over the world have participated – from Great Britain to Ghana and from Tempe to Tasmania! 🙂 I haven’t been counting, but I know we’re well over the “1,000 stories read” mark by challenge participants – something I’m a little proud of. 🙂

Happy 200th Birthday, Indiana!

birthday01

cake image found at http://fmdg.org/

On December 11th, two-hundred years ago, Indiana became a state. The 19th state in the United States of America to be precise. 346 days ago, here at Bibliophilopolis we began a year-long celebration of the State’s Bicentennial year, retrofitting our annual “Deal Me In” short story reading challenge (What is Deal Me In??) to contain only stories with some Indiana connection. It’s been a long journey and, rather than spread out the final three posts of the rest of December (i.e. after Indiana’s actual birthday has passed), I thought I’d just do the last few early to get them posted closer to the exact date of Indiana’s birth.


Below is a list, in order, of the fifty-two selections for this year’s Deal Me “IN” project:

1st Quarter* 

(*Hey, I’m an Accountant; I’m breaking these up into quarters!)

Week 1: ♣8♣ – Mr Blake’s Walking Stick – Edward Eggleston

Week 2: ♦9♦And One for the Road – Joanna Parypinski

Week 3: ♥7♥The Gods of Indianapolis – Jason de Koff

Week 4: ♠Q♠ – Life on a Flat Top – Ernie Pyle

Week 5: ♥Q♥  – Drills – Laura Citino

Week 6: ♣Q♣ – Bobby and the Keyhole: A Hoosier Fairy Tale – Edward Eggleston

Week 7: ♥5♥I Can Hear the Clicking at Night – Ann Gamble

Week 8: ♣10♣ – The Legend of Potato Creek – Maurice Thompson

Week 9: ♥10♥Come Go With Me – Nora Bonner

Week 10: ♦8♦Shadowed – Christine Johnson

Week 11: ♦7♦What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell – Clint Smith

Week 12: ♦2♦Play Like I’m Sheriff – Jack Cady

Week 13: ♣A♣ – A Reward of Merit – Booth Tarkington

2nd Quarter

Week 14: ♦4♦Missing Athena – Josh Green

Week 15: ♠6♠ – The Gentleman of the Press in Skirts (Janet Flanner) – Fred Cavinder

Week 16: ♦5♦It Came From Burr County – Marian Allen

Week 17: ♠3♠ – God Bless You Mr. Vonnegut: And Farewell – David Hoppe

Week 18: ♥9♥The Passeur – E.E. Lyons

Week 19: ♥2♥Siddhartha – Abe Aamidor

Week 20: ♥A♥Letter to the Man in Carnivorous Plants – Lauren Ann Bolton

Week 21: ♠10♠ – Politics and Poetry (John Milton Hay) – Fred Cavinder

Week 22: ♦3♦The Penance of Scoot McCutcheon – Frank Bill

Week 23: ♣J♣ – Next Door – Kurt Vonnegut

Week 24: ♥6♥Ransom Place – Corey Dalton

Week 25: ♣2♣ – The Boyhood of Christ – Lew Wallace

Week 26: ♣6♣ – Autumn Full of Apples – Dan Wakefield

3rd Quarter

Week 27: ♠4♠ – Men From Mars – Ernie Pyle

Week 28: ♦10♦Schliemann in Indianapolis – Michael Martone

Week 29: ♠J♠ – Peyton Manning – Champion: This Doesn’t Happen Very Often – David Hoppe

Week 30: ♥8♥The Devil and James Whitcomb Riley – Jason Roscoe

Week 31: ♥4♥A Conversation with Tim O’Brien – James J. Hanna

Week 32: ♠8♠ – The B-29s – Ernie Pyle

Week 33: ♥3♥Everything Strange and Unknown – Joe Meno

Week 34: ♠A♠ – Poet, Prophet and Philosopher (Max Ehrmann) – Fred Cavinder

Week 35: ♦6♦The Circle Effect – Diana Catt

Week 36: ♣4♣ – Harrison Bergeron – Kurt Vonnegut

Week 37: ♦K♦The Table of the Elements – J T Whitehead

Week 38: ♣5♣ – The Old Soldier’s Story – James Whitcomb Riley

Week 39: ♥K♥Not in Kansas Anymore – Rocco Versaci

4th Quarter

Week 40: ♥J♥A Hundred Ways to Do it Wrong – Emily Temple

Week 41: ♠K♠ – Songs of Experience: Bob Dylan at the Egyptian Room – David Hoppe

Week 42: ♣K♣ – The Haunted Valley – Ambrose Bierce

Week 43: ♦Q♦Uncle Sack – Murphy Edwards

Week 44: ♠5♠ – Profiles in Survival: Eleanor M. Garen – John Shivley

Week 45: ♣3♣ – The Boarded Window – Ambrose Bierce

Week 46: ♠9♠ – Profiles in Survival: James Duckworth – John Shivley

Week 47: ♣7♣ – The Pedagogue – Maurice Thompson

Week 48: ♣9♣ – The Beautiful Lady – Booth Tarkington

Week 49: ♦A♦Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List – Michael Martone

Week 50: ♠7♠ – Educational Testing: Just Another Job – David Hoppe

Week 51: ♦J♦Murder on Indiana Avenue – Andrea Smith

Week 52: ♠2♠ – Working a Jigsaw – Barbara Shoup

During the course of the year for this project, I read more than twenty authors for the first time, and several I know will become future favorites.  My favorite suit was easily “Clubs” – the “legendary authors” suit, but each suit had its own merits and I did enjoy reading some short, non-fiction works for the first time in a Deal Me In challenge this year.  So much so that I may include a suit of essays in my 2017 version. We’ll see.

Well, thanks to all those who followed along this year, and especially those that commented on some of these 52 posts. If Deal Me IN was a new discovery for you this year, I hope you’ll consider doing the challenge in 2017.  The official sign-up post will be on 12/21/2016.

 

“Working a Jigsaw” by Barbara Shoup – selection #52 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠2♠ Two of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Spades is my suit for short Indiana-related non-fiction works.

The Selection: “Working a Jigsaw” from my copy of the “Not Like the Rest of Us” anthology of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, which along with Deal Me “IN” 2016, is a fellow Legacy Project of the Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

The Author: Barb Shoup, the director of the Indiana Writer’s Center in Indianapolis. A couple years back, I enjoyed her novel, “Looking for Jack Kerouac” but didn’t blog about it. My buddy Dale at the Mirror With Clouds blog did, though.

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up postlegacy project seal of approval 2For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. The 2016 iteration of Deal Me “IN” is also a “Legacy Project” officially endorsed by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission!

Working a Jigsaw

“The puzzle becomes a piece of my life. An object. A week in time. The ghost of an unwritten story. And this snippet of understanding: every beautiful thing is made of many pieces, each one complete in its own way, utterly, maddeningly, gloriously itself.”

In “Working a Jigsaw” Shoup describes a planned week-long personal writing retreat where she intends to get some serious work done without distractions. Describing items she’s packing for the trip (books, notebooks, computer, printer, paper, pens, etc) she then adds “As an afterthought, I brought along a puzzle.” It’s not just any puzzle though, it’s a jigsaw puzzle of a painting by Vermeer, she “impulse bought” when in Wales.

Over the course of her week, she becomes seduced by the puzzle, being unable to walk past it without stopping to work on it. She is “…mesmerized by the task of fitting the pieces together. I look at each piece carefully. I look at its shape, its markings. Is there any clue in it to the whole? A dash of orange, a thin green line, a silver curve? An eye, a fret, a finger? Usually, there is not. Usually, each piece seems much like any number of other pieces I pick up – and at the same time maddeningly unique. Hours and hours I meant to spend writing pass as I stand staring at the picture of the painting, then at some section of the puzzle I am trying to complete.”  

Shoup describes going through many of the frustrations puzzle workers are familiar with, surmising, for example, at one that “…surely, there must be some pieces missing.” Sound familiar? In the end, though, she begins to realize that working the puzzle has a lot in common with her writing:

“Just now, I am typing these black words onto a white screen. Am I working? I am not doing the work I planned to do. I am working a puzzle, looking hard at a painting in order to put each piece in its place, and, from time to time, I am writing down facts and memories and odd insights float up, pieces of another, bigger puzzle. This puzzle has no picture on the box to help me, though. Just pieces.”


I looked up Vermeer after reading this story and, although I’m not certain, I think I may have found the painting that the puzzle in this story represents.

♫♫Personal Notes: Do you enjoy jigsaw puzzles? Did you do a lot of them as a kid, but don’t do them any more? I bet a lot of us fall into the latter description, myself included. Sort of. I remember several large puzzles we had when I was a kid that we liked to do over and over again. One was of a couple boys giving spoonfuls of castor oil by a woman while they were sitting among scattered green apple cores as a sign that they had over indulged. Another favorite was one of the presidents. It was unique because it was circular in shape, which small portraits of the presidents around the border and a seal of the United States in the middle. Of course, we were frequently vexed by lost or missing pieces.

Periodically I enjoy a rebirth of jigsaw puzzle working. This has happened a couple times during family reunion weekends at various Indiana State Park Inns, where the “community room” usually has a bookshelf full of games – including jigsaw puzzles – to fend off guest boredom on rainy days or post-hiking evenings. Then there was the fateful day I was having coffee with a friend who told me about the jigsaw app you could buy for your iPad or tablet (see a recent before & after example below that I worked in between blog posts). Warning: Do NOT get this app! It will eat up vast chunks of your time and prevent you from getting important things done. Oh, and you’ll love it. 🙂


Well, with this post, my Deal Me “IN” 2016 project is complete. I’m a couple weeks ahead of schedule because I was desperately trying to finish on Indiana’s exact birthday (12/11) but I missed it by a day. Soon I’ll have a summary post with links to all the stories I’ve read this year.  It’s been quite a fun challenge and I’ve “met” a lot of new authors that I’m sure I will see again over the years.  I’m already starting to plan for the “7th Annual” Deal Me In Challenge in 2017.  The official announcement/sign-up post will be on 12/21, the shortest day of the year. Thanks for reading!

“Murder on Indiana Avenue” by Andrea Smith – selection #51 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♦J♦ Jack of Diamonds

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Diamonds is my suit for Stories by Contemporary Indiana Authors.

The Selection: “Murder on Indiana Avenue” from my copy of the short story anthology “Decades of Dirt” – a production of the Speed City Chapter of Sisters of Crime.

The Author: Andrea Smith (pictured at left from a reading at Bookmamas Bookstore), an Indianapolis writer who was born in Chicago, and who I’ve read once before, in the “Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks” anthology.

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up postlegacy project seal of approval 2For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. The 2016 iteration of Deal Me “IN” is also a “Legacy Project” officially endorsed by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission!

Murder on Indiana Avenue

“The yellow brick Walker Building was shaped like a slice of pie. Set on an angle right at the tip of Indiana Avenue, the four-story structure took up a huge chunk of the street.”

(image above found at stenzcorp.com)

Eve and Gabriel Dawson are a jazz musician/singer couple from Chicago, in town (Indianapolis) to perform at the Stardust Theater.  The club is run by a friend of theirs, Lester Sanders, and their appearance at his club is kind of a mutual favor for both parties. When they arrive, they awkwardly walk in on a confrontation between Lester and some unsavory types.  Their friend subsequently waves it off as nothing, but sure enough, later in the evening their performance is interrupted when the police swarm the club investigating a murder, and Lester is their prime suspect!

Eve and Gabe proceed to do some amateur detective work of their own, enlisting the aid of an attorney whose office is also in the Walker Building. A couple twists and turns later and they have their man.

I’ve never been a big reader of mysteries, so don’t feel that well qualified to rate them. I do think it must be incredibly hard to write an effective one in just about 20 pages, but the stories I’ve read from the two anthologies produced by the Speed City (Indianapolis) Chapter of “Sisters of Crime” seem to be able to pull this off.

What are some short story format mysteries that you have read? Any you’d care to recommend to me?  Deal Me In 2017 is just around the corner…

“Educational Testing: Just Another Job” by David Hoppe – selection #50 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠7♠ Seven of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Spades is my suit for short, Indiana-related non-fiction works.

The Selection: “Educational Testing: Just Another Job” from collection of essays titled “Personal Indianapolis.” This is the fourth piece from this book that I’ve read for this year’s Deal Me “IN” challenge.

The Author: David Hoppe –An Indianapolis writer who has labored for Indy’s “Alternative Weekly” Nuvo Magazine since 1998.

 

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up postlegacy project seal of approval 2For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. The 2016 iteration of Deal Me “IN” is also a “Legacy Project” officially endorsed by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission!

Educational Testing: Just Another Job

“In test-scoring centers, dozens of scorers sit in rows, staring at computer screens where students’ papers appear… each scorer is expected to read hundreds of papers. So for all the months of preparation and the dozens of hours of class time spent writing practice essays, a student’s writing probably will be processed and scored in about a minute.”

I struggled with this piece, which was my least favorite of those that I’ve read thus far in Hoppe’s book, Personal Indianapolis. I have no children in school so perhaps lack a good vantage point of the issues the essay covered, but I have followed news stories about standardized tests for years, and have frequently been amazed at how big the time gap between testing and receiving results is. I also naively hadn’t realized that the standardized testing included a writing sample from the students (i.e. something that can’t be scored in an automated fashion). I had just been picturing a multiple choice, computer scored exam like many we used to have even way back when I was in school.

Hoppe had come across an article in the Monthly Review by Dan DiMaggio titled “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Test Scorer.” (linked here if you’d like to read it) and kinda jumps on the bandwagon of condemnation regarding the process. While I agree there seems to be much that should be condemned, I felt Hoppe’s piece was superfluous once I had read the “source” article. It’s frankly a little sloppy too, as an instance of ‘bad math’ had me in an uproar pretty early in the essay:

“DiMaggio, who lives in the Twin Cities, says he has personally read tens of thousands of papers, for which he has been paid at a rate of 30 to 70 cents per paper. That means he has to score forty papers every sixty minutes to make $12 an hour”

Wait. It only means that if the rate is at the bottom of that scale. What about the 70 cent rate?  At the top of the scale it would be $28 an hour, right? Shouldn’t it read something more like “scoring forty papers every sixty minutes might only earn him $12 an hour,” or even “That means he has to score forty papers every sixty minutes to make $12-$28 an hour”? My loyalty as a reader goes out the window pretty fast when I feel I’m being manipulated by partial truths, whether they are intentional or not.

Overall, though, this piece and the DiMaggio article that inspired it, left me disappointed in “the system” once more and even glad I don’t have kids that are being “taught to pass tests” that people who often are not even educators themselves are scoring in an assembly line fashion.

What about you?  Any teachers out there reading this?  What are your thoughts about standardized tests and their value?  I’d love to hear more from the front lines on this issue.

Next up in Deal Me “IN” 2016: “Murder on Indiana Avenue” by Andrea Smith

P.S. Yes, I’m even getting a little bit ahead of schedule now, as I’m hoping to be done by Indiana’s ACTUAL bicentennial date of 12/11/16 rather than the end of the year.  We’ll see if I can make it. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday – Favorite Authors Read for the First Time in 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is a vastly popular weekly meme sponsored by the good folks over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s assignment: Top Ten “new to us” authors  we read for the first time in 2016.  I’m all about discovering new authors so this seemed like a perfect week to  participate. 🙂

toptentuesday

I have a mix of old and new; in no particular order, here goes:

 

10. Ernie Pyle – famous *Hoosier* war correspondent in World War Two. I’ve read several entries in his book “Final Chapter” and also bought another book of his (Home Front) and have ordered a biography on him too. I must like him.

img_6711

9. Susan Wallace – wife of General Lew Wallace, who you may of heard of, she wrote the book “The Storied Sea,” which I read and enjoyed in hopes of attending a book club meeting but sadly couldn’t make it when the date came around.

old-sue

8. Paul Beatty – My awesomely named “Book Club II: Son of Book Club” read his book “The Sellout”this year. Confirming our gift for being trendsetters, it later was awarded the Man Booker Prize. 🙂

paul beatty.jpg

7. Lu Cixin – His “The Three Body Problem” was also read by the same Book Club as #8. This was our first book read after we reformed following a long hiatus. It was picked because I lost a bet on a football game to the person who was the instigator of our reforming. The winner of the bet got to impose a reading assignment to the loser, so he also made it our book club’s choice. It was one of my favorite books of the year! Almost sounds like I got off easy with that bet…

three body.jpg

6. Meredith Nicholson – a writer from “The Golden Age” of Indiana literature, I found his novel “The House of a Thousand Candles” a real delight. So much so that I bought and read a biography of him a month later.

MeredithNicholsonCover.jpg

5. Sarah Layden – Another local author who I’ve also had the good fortune of meeting a few times at local events. Her book “Trip Through Your Wires,” which I read back in February, is getting some great reviews.

tripthroughyourwires-web

4. Maurice Thompson – another author from Indiana’s “Golden Age” he may be my favorite discovery this year. I’m working my way through his collection of stories titled “Hoosier Mosaics”

hoosier-mosaics

3. James Baldwin – technically not totally new to me, as I had read a short story by him, but I finally got around to reading his famous “Go Tell it On the Mountain” and was quite impressed.

baldwin.jpg

2. Lauren Ann Bolton – I read a story of hers from Butler University’s “Booth” literary journal and it (“The Man in Carnivorous Plants”) was one of the stories that made me think the most this year. Always a plus for me. Sorry, couldn’t find a pic in my cursory search.

1. Mark Haddon – I finally got around to his famous novel, “The Curious Incident of the Dog N the Night-time” last month for another book club. It led to one of my favorite discussions we’ve ever had with that group.

Mark_Haddon_14092.jpg
Well, those are some of my favorite new to me Authors discovered in 2016. What are yours? I’m working on my reading plans for 2017 now, so suggestions would be most welcome. 🙂

“Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List” by Michael Martone – selection #49 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♦A♦ Ace of Diamonds

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Diamonds is my suit for Contemporary Indiana Authors

The Selection: “Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List” from the short story collection of the same name (with the subtitle: “Indiana Stories”).  I own a paperback copy, and another of its contents, “Schliemann in Indianapolis” made an earlier appearance in this year’s Deal Me “IN” challenge.

The Author: Michael Martone (his picture at left (that’s an Indiana flag shirt!) found at http://www.erinpringle.com/2014/07/2014-summer-library-series-four.html ). Last year I was quite impressed with “Winesburg, Indiana: A Fork River Anthology” which he edited, and I had heard of this volume through the grapevine so it found a place on my Deal Me “IN” roster. He was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and is currently a professor at the University of Alabama.

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up postlegacy project seal of approval 2For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. The 2016 iteration of Deal Me “IN” is also a “Legacy Project” officially endorsed by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission!

Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List

“During the war, the top hemisphere of the streetlight globes were painted with a black opaque glaze. They stayed that way after the war. No one seems to mind. Parts of dead insects show in the lower half of the globe. There’s more and more of them in there summer after summer.”

What list?  Why Fort Wayne? Is there any truth in this? These are all questions I asked myself when I first heard of this story. Perhaps reading it would provide some answers…

Perhaps not, though. Other research indicates that Fort Wayne was potentially a prime target during World War II – due to industrial production, etc. – whether or not it was really on a list is a bit unclear.  This “story” (it felt more to me like I was reading a prose poem) is about a city that was once on ‘high alert’ during wartime, and centers around the narrator’s grandfather who lived in those times.

It tells of times where the city would practice blackouts – one particularly vivid episode was when the grandfather (he was a “block warden” because “everyone remembered the way he’d kept calm during The War of the Worlds.”) participated in a demonstration to emphasize the importance of absolute dark. “Grandfather said that the (Civil Defense) man lit a match when the rest of the city was all dark. He said that you could see the whole park and the faces of everyone in the park… The man blew out the match with one breath. The people went home in the dark. Were they wishing they could do something about the stars.”

It also seems that the grandfather never quite fully exited the “war footing” mentality and even decades later would still see and feel things about the city in that context and through the lens of a slight paranoia.  This gave the story a haunting quality.

I enjoyed this piece less than the other one I read for Deal Me “IN,” but it was still quite good and I’d like to once again recommend the book Martone edited “Winesburg, Indiana.” Which is full of great, short vignettes about the people of a fictional Indiana town.

Have you read anything by Michael Martone?  What did you think of him?  What are some of your favorite literary depictions of the “Home Front” during the war?  One I can think of is the excellent “Under the Apple Tree” by Indiana author Dan Wakefield.

Deal Me In Bonus: Trivia question:  Which iconic 1968 cinematic space traveler hailed from Fort Wayne, Indiana?

Below (from Trip Advisor) Fort Wayne, Indiana

fort-wayne-is-indiana

“The Beautiful Lady” by Booth Tarkington – selection #48 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♣9♣ Nine of Clubs

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Clubs is my suit for “Legendary” Indiana Authors

The Selection: “The Beautiful Lady” (actually more of a novella than a short story, but it was too late to change now! J

The Author:  Booth Tarkington of Indianapolis.  One of the standard bearers of The Golden Age of Indiana Literature. He also won the Pulitzer Prize. Twice.

 

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up postlegacy project seal of approval 2For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

The Beautiful Lady

“To fall in love must one behold a face? Yes; at thirty. At twenty, when one is something of a poet No: it is sufficient to see a grey pongee skirt! At fifty, when one is a philosopher No: it is enough to perceive a soul! I had done both; I had seen the skirt; I had perceived the soul.”

Just the quotation above should be enough to let you know what kind of story this will be, but I will drone on a little more about it… The narrator of the story is a man of twenty-four who is down on his luck in Paris. He has a half-brother who is seemingly a villain. He had a “full” brother who is now dead and whose two children the narrator tries his best to support and pay for their schooling at a nunnery. The beginning of the story finds him so penniless (franc-less?) that he has accepted a humiliating job for the term of a week. The job is to be a living advertisement for a theater and consists of him having to shave his head bald, allowing an advertisement to be painted on the top of his head, then to sit at the venue with his eyes pointing to his lap so passersby will see the ad and perhaps be curious enough to buy a ticket. He hates it. You probably would too.

One solace he has is that the act of shaving his head bald adds years to his appearance, making him seem as if “a man of forty.”  He hopes this will lead to no one recognizing him on the street to observe his humiliation. One day, the appearance “upon the lid of my lowered eyelid” of a beautiful grey pongee skirt (yeah, I had to look that up) is what sets this story ablaze. The wearer of the Pongee skirt (the Beautiful Lady of the story’s title, naturally) is accompanied by a young man who pauses to laugh at the narrator. She is shocked and sympathetic. “Ah!” she cried. “The poor man!” Her voice:

“…was North-American. Ah, what a voice! Sweet as the mandolins of Sorento! Clear as the bells of Capri! To hear it, was like coming upon sight of the almond-blossoms of Sicily for the first time, or the tulip-fields of Holland. Never before was such a voice.”

The narrator doesn’t see the lady during this “encounter” but perhaps will again during his next “job.” For my part, I loved this story. It was a bit predictable in its plot twists, which honestly stretched credibility to its seams, and also in its saccharine sweetness, which makes my admission of liking it something of a guilty pleasure, I suppose. It made me think of times in my own life where things weren’t going as I hoped or maybe when I was “ashamed” of a current employment or living status, and doesn’t it always seem to work out that you run into people you haven’t seen in a long time when you’re looking – or at – your worst? I believe Tarkington captures this phenomenon nearly perfectly in this story, which is one of my favorites of Deal Me “IN” this year.

What have you read by Tarkington? The Magnificent Ambersons? Alice Adams?  Some of his shorter works? I’d love to hear about your encounters with this author.

Next up in Deal Me “IN” 2016: Selection #49: “Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List” by Michael Martone. (I’ve been wondering all year what this story is about…)

« Older entries