Tag Archive | Pratibha

Sixty Seconds II with: Pratibha

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Pratibha.  This is her second win (though it’s her first in over a year). She’s served as a FF judge TWICE, and now runs The Literary Nest magazine. Read her winning story on her winner’s page here, then take one tiny minute to get to know her better.

1) What about the Iliad prompt inspired your winning piece? The setting prompt, a besieged city, immediately brought the worldwide unrest and several besieged cities. It was straightforward from there.

2) Do you outline, or are you a discovery writer? I am more of a discovery writer, but these days, I try to pay attention to the story arc.

3) How would you describe your writing style? I tend to do better with interior monologues of the characters.

4) When did you begin writing fiction? I wrote a lot in my head. My first story on the paper didn’t happen till 1998.

5) Introduce us to a favorite character in one of your stories. That’s difficult. But here are two that come to mind. The grandma from “Shade for Jolon” and the brave woman from “Hope Chest.”

6) What books have influenced your life the most? I have been saying this for a long time now, The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot. Although I think I have outgrown it by now.

7) What are you currently reading? I just finished The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and have put a hold on Wild by Cheryl  Strayed.

8) How do you combat writer’s block? By watching old musicals, children’s movies, and by hiking.

9) What is the best writing advice you’ve been given? Re-read and edit. Repeat.

10) What do you admire most about dragons? They are invisible friends who masquerade as frightening creatures to ward off bad influences.

Spotlight: The Literary Nest

One thing’s clear: Pratibha‘s no ordinary draggin. In addition to writing for us all the time here at FF, last year she signed on to judge a term. When that was done, she signed on again. And when that was over, well, she up and launched her own literary magazine, The Literary Nest

You can see why we had no choice but to talk to her about it! Pratibha, you crazy, fabulous writer — welcome to Spotlight!

The Literary Nest

The Literary Nest

What motivated you to found The Literary Nest?

There are only a handful of well-known print magazines that publish unsolicited work from unknown authors.  I wanted to open up publishing opportunities for skillful and imaginative writers who languish in oblivion because of the lack of publishing opportunities.

The literary world is filled with writings from MFA graduates, but there are many capable writers who do not have resources or inclination to pursue an MFA. I love to read the works by both formally schooled and unschooled writers.

There are many styles of writing that do not exactly fit the contemporary postmodern style, but there are unschooled and intuitive writers who write insightful fiction and poetry.  I have encountered a massive number of stories, novels, and poems in my fifty years of reading fiction and poetry, and have developed eclectic tastes and a wide open mind to welcome diverse styles.

There is a lot of good online and print literature in the world today. I wanted to curate a collection of works that I like to read.

>I wanted to curate a collection of works that I like to read.<

Why me? If you have searched through The Literary Nest‘s website, you must have noticed that the magazine has a single editor who does all the work. You might say to yourself, “Why should I trust my beautiful fiction or poetry to this one person?”, and you would be right to question. After all, shouldn’t the editor be a successfully published writer with … ahem… a “Pushcart Nomination” under his or her belt?

Let me answer your question with an equally apt question. Does being a writer automatically imply that he or she is a savvy reader? While you ponder it, let me share my experiences.  I have many writer friends as well as reader friends, and I am always amazed to learn from the readers about some the finer points of the story or a poem. The details do not necessarily come from its technical merit. They come from the emotional or intellectual appeal of the story. In other words, how a story or a poem speaks to the reader is often crucial. Let me illustrate it with an analogy. I learned the Indian classical dance style, Kathak, for ten years. The word “Katha” means a story in Hindi, and “Kathak” means storyteller. When I watch a dance performance, I am intrigued by the intricate footwork, the subtle hand movements, and facial expressions, scrutinizing each detail, and wondering about my own (in)ability to convey the story. However, the general audience is simply enthralled and transfixed without worrying about the technical details. They are paying attention to the movement of the story rather than worrying about the technical details.

As a reader, I prefer this type of seamless experience, and as an editor I strive to bring this experience to the readers.

What qualifies me?  I have studied literature in two different languages. I have an MA in English Literature and have taught English Lit to high school and college students. You can find a brief sample of my literary analysis essays here. I have practiced the fine art of reading the story and to extracting the essence, for the enjoyment of the readers. Consider me as a honeybee that collects the nectar from the blossoms and turns it into honey. (Yeah, I love mixing metaphors.) 

And dear readers, over the years I have written and thrown away more stories than you will ever imagine. I do not wish such a fate upon you. I want you to keep writing and flourish. I started this magazine to encourage and guide upcoming writers. I hope to feature works of some established writers as well.

So, give up all the notions of classifying the writing into genres, and send me your best writing. The Literary Nest is an online magazine, so I would not publish gratuitous sex or violence.

Here is the official mission of the magazine.

The Literary Nest is an independent non-profit literary magazine. It is a platform for the poets and writers from all across the world. We envision this to be a warm and beloved quilt of the physical and emotional landscape woven by of the thread of diverse voices. We provide publishing opportunities to the aspiring writers alongside the established ones. 

I read every word that comes into the mailbox. I have a few literary friends and students who read for me when I need a second or third opinion. I also have the greatest poetry advisor, Annie Finch, on the board. I reach out to her often. We’ve had a fiction advisor, Maureen Fadem. In the future I plan to invite guest editors for the themed issues.

What sets The Literary Nest apart from other magazines on the market?

I wanted a platform where significant writing that makes an emotional impact can be featured without restricting the content to a specific genre. The only restriction is that we don’t publish writing that is sexually explicit or contains graphic violence.

It is important to me to feature writers without regard to the geographical, cultural, or political boundaries. I am interested in the new and interesting voices.

I am against reading fees or contest entry fees, and I believe that writers should be paid for their work. I am on the lookout for the publishing models that will allow that. I need associates that understand the business of publishing.

How often do you publish?

We aim to publish four quarterly issues per year.

What are some stories you especially like?

Mikey, by Judy Salz – This is a short-short. It is told through an autistic child’s POV, and the voice is innocent and adorable.

The Man Who Lives in My Shower, by Dallas Woodburn – The story is told in the first person by a young woman whose boyfriend has died a violent, untimely death. I loved the psychological tension and the gradual resolution as the young woman walks through her grief.

I would like to point to one other story published in The Missouri Review that I enjoyed recently, Balsam, by Stephanie Coyne DeGhett.

Is there a particular feel that you’re going for? Do you like modern, contemporary, structure-defying, edgy, experimental pieces; or humorous; or slice-of-life; or traditional/poetic? dark pieces?

Yes to all. 🙂

I discovered reading at an early age. As soon as I could recognize the alphabet and form words, it became an obsession with me. I would sound out words on every road sign, billboard, newspaper, magazine, and packing material, anything that displayed writing. It was akin to solving the puzzles. It didn’t take long for me to graduate to more substantial reading. It was an escape mechanism. I grew up in a chaotic environment. Reading offered the powerful guideposts for a mind in a constant state of confusion. Of course, not everything I read was age-appropriate, and most of it went over my head. The only children’s book I ever read was Shyamchi Aai (Shyam’s Mother) by reputed Marathi author Sane Guruji, but the moralistic tone of the book made me feel awful about my own shortcomings. Reading kept me out of everybody’s hair; it was a sign of good behavior; being quiet was a virtue. When I visited relatives, they stocked up on books for me. I read “thought” novels about freedom fighters, socially conscious middle class men, while explicitly avoiding more romantic novels, not by free will, but because of the influence of my extended family.  Still, the books offered me an oasis away from the chaos.

This accidental exposure to “high” literature whetted my taste buds. I was fortunate to have been exposed to three languages at an early age, so I read in all three. The ocean of books was deep and wide, and the tide kept pulling me in. I read indiscriminately without any preconceived notions of what constitutes a “literary” novel. The books that made the impact on me were the ones that didn’t conclude with “happily ever after.” They left unanswered questions. The main characters were imperfect human beings. I questioned their choices, their decisions. I agonized over the unanswered questions. Over the years, I realized that those questions had no firm answers. The real life problems or issues do not have satisfactory resolutions; the questions of life do not have black or white answers. The flaws of characters, some of their incessant obsessions and phobias, made me feel that there is place in the world for everyone as long you examine your life.

Stephen King once said, “[..] We have fiction that we call literature, which has a tendency to be about extraordinary people in ordinary circumstances, and then we have popular fiction, which is supposedly about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.” (source)

Psychologist David Comer Kidd says, “What great writers do is to turn you into the writer. In literary fiction, the incompleteness of the characters turns your mind to trying to understand the minds of others, [..]” (source)

So my take is, “Do not be afraid to write what comes naturally to you. Do not worry about the audience, or the perfect ending with poetic justice. Write because you have stories, and not just because you have words.”

>Write because you have stories, and not just because you have words.<

There are many writers here in Flash! Friday who write fiction that could be considered as literary in my definition. So I hope they write longer, incisive pieces for The Literary Nest.

What should writers know before submitting?

Please do read the submission guidelines and the previous issues. Send us your very best work. Do not ever be discouraged by a rejection. Many times I would love to accept a given piece with some edits.

What contemporary authors do you especially love to read? 

I like stories, novels, or poems without regard to a particular author. I rarely like all the stories or novels by the same author. One exception is J. M. Coetzee. I liked everything by him so far.

Here are some of the novels I read recently (in last six months.)

Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee – This is the novel that Lee wrote before To Kill a Mockingbird.

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman – This novel is like a Rubik’s Cube; you have to put the story together by matching the pieces.

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins Plot – puzzle

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The last two novels have an unreliable narrator like the narrator in The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Also, these are popular fiction novels.

Currently I subscribe to Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner Literary Journal, and Glimmer Train. Also, I am always on the lookout for online stories and poems. You could say that I am a literary stalker.

Do you accept various formats? Stories, essays, poetry? Genres? Are dragons welcome? 🙂

Dragons are welcome as long they cast some light on their humans.

We publish literary fiction, poetry, and visual art. Read my answers above to see what is considered literary for us. No non-fiction yet. I like to live in the imaginary world.

When’s your next deadline?

The next issue comes out on Oct 15. The submission deadline is Sep 30th, 2015. There is always one week’s grace period, especially for dragons.

Any last thoughts?

I have used “I/we” too indiscriminately, but please be assured that I have no intentions to refer to myself in plural. Although as I am the public face of the magazine, it is a collective effort; hence the “we” reference.

And yes, do submit.

Please send all queries to theliterarynest (at) gmail (dot) com.

All the little draggins, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Here’s our website, and here are our submission guidelines.

 

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 39: WINNERS

Most of you didn’t know Beth Peterson, my sweet friend and former Flash! Friday writer & judge who passed away a few days ago. But it occurred to me today, when thinking about what I wanted to say to you, that in many ways Beth was just like many us. Her physical struggles with various disorders were tremendous, but she suffered them in silence. The last story she wrote here (link) was for the 1984 prompt, a tale about conniving to save the world. I can tell you, since she never would, of the great pain tormenting her on a daily basis, and what it cost her to write even this little story. 

A lot of you are in pain too. You share your amazing stories here, but you can’t always talk about your illnesses, or addictions, or what you’re going through. Clearly that’s a limitation/disadvantage of a public forum like this in which we’re (rightly cautiously!) getting to know each other.

So today’s winners’ post is dedicated to you. Thank you for sharing your hearts and brains and awesome senses of humor here. Thank you for daring vulnerability. Thank you for your support of each other, your beautiful tributes to Beth, your love expressed so generously to me. Thank you for making Flash! Friday the wonderful family it is. I am in your debt.

♦♦♦♦♦

Join us tomorrow for another fabulous Spotlight interview, this time with our own Pratibha, who will be chatting with us all about her latest venture, the lit mag The Literary Nest. You won’t want to miss it! Not to mention her interview is very interesting timing, as you shall soon see.

♦♦♦♦♦

Finally, heaps of thanks to Dragon Team Six, Josh Bertetta & Steph Ellis, for their hard work this round. How on earth they managed to choose winners is beyond me! Steph shares their opening thoughts today:   

Oh, what a wealth of stories this week.  The elements that could be incorporated seemed to strike a chord with so many of you, particularly the image of a besieged city.  We had warriors, refugees, beauty, death and loss.  And I will admit now to those that wrote their own personal tributes to the late Beth Peterson that I was freely resorting to tissues.  To make someone laugh or cry, groan or shudder merely by putting pen to paper is real power.  This shows the power of words, of your words.  Thank you for sharing them with me. 

Once again many thanks to my daughter Bethan for her efforts in getting the stories to me.

♦♦♦♦♦

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Most DangerousA Beautiful Face-Off by Brian S. CreekSE: From the dizzying heights of world adoration this year’s model falls into an abyss as she is supplanted by a younger, prettier version.  Initially you feel for her, admire her raising herself up again; but then that final sentence packs its punch, she’s ‘going to take that bitch’s face away’. JB: Vanity, envy, pride all wrapped up in this fast moving piece about the perception and influence of beauty in a consumer culture. And then that delicious little end, when the title takes on a whole new meaning!

Best Metaphor: Combination Lock by Charles W. ShortSE: Describing the woman in terms of a fortress dressed in cotton and lace and with the main tower a ‘tapestry of ebony locks’, its deadlights her eyes, was cleverly done.  Many had assailed her, only to be defeated by words, looks and more physical means.  To mount a successful invasion required ‘courage, commitment and self-sacrifice’, this was her combination lock. JB: Have to give two big thumbs up for the best use of metaphor this go around, from the physical description of the most beautiful woman in the world to her psychology. Love and war wrapped up nice and tight.

Best FarewellSupersouls by Firdaus ParvezThe second tribute piece we have placed this week. Such a sad image of a defeated writer kneeling, ‘head bowed over a broken wooden sword and a tattered paper shield’.  Yet I need not remind anyone here that when no more words can come, what has already been written remains for us still. The band on her hand, her Ring of Fire, sends her dragon flying, sets her free.  Lovely farewell. 

Best Victory: In Passing by Tamara Shoemaker. JB: Is this a tale of war and siege, or is it a tale of overcoming some inner turmoil, of “man against himself?” SE: Although this was not directly mentioned, I have read this story as another tribute piece to Beth.  Depicted purely in terms of a dying tower, every single line can be seen in terms of the knowledge of loss, of the pain of parting.  Elegant, subtle and once more, beautiful. And this is the line I will finish my judging comments on; after all, there is nothing else to say:

Fast, fast into the rising light you go, a chariot on the wings of the dawn.

♦♦♦♦♦

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Marie McKay, The View From Here.”

SE: When one light at the top of a tower block goes out, all light is extinguished ‘leaving rows … of blind eyes’.  An introduction that immediately tells you something is wrong.  Those who can see, look up; they do not want to ‘observe the carpet of corpses’.  A family is trying to survive. Thankfully the baby is quiet.  This is the imagery of an apocalyptic future caused by panic and doom mongering, not by anything tangible.  A grim warning for us all.

JB: A poignant piece for the point in our human history when so much fear mongering abounds. The baby sleeps, the baby is at peace, for the baby knows no fear. Fear is created, says the author. Fear is used by others to convince and control. It is not something outside oneself—not the guns, not the disease, not the undead—that brings our end. It is what is inside of us, fear. Fear, the opposite of love. And with so much fear spewed forth from those in power, those in the media, and those out on the campaign trail, I can only hope that this piece is somehow not, in some sense, prophetic.

Eliza Archer, “Immortal Beloved.” 

SE: Beauty can fuel many an obsession and the narrator of this story is utterly in thrall to the object of his desire which he intends to obtain at ‘any price’.  Friends try to deter him but he will not be dissuaded.  Throughout, he repeats how he has to have this woman, will brook no failure, it is fate, it is his destiny.  You know this man is already lost, even before his friends, his job and his liberty all vanish.  Yet despite this he had one hour, he had his ‘Mona Lisa’ smile.  Nicely done.

JB: Here’s a piece of flash with the classic twist at the end. You sit there, reading, following along, figuring you have an idea where the story is going and when that end comes, you sit there and maybe, like I did, smile, much like the subject of the twist itself.

@dazmb, “Becoming.”

SE: A gently misleading start to a story that eventually packs a powerful punch.  Sunlight and dust motes paint a peaceful picture, but she ‘eases’ herself to the bathroom.  Something is wrong, there is pain there.  ‘Today will be a good day.’ Who tells themselves that except those who are suffering and trying to turn their lives around?  The man, excused by her need for money to buy the drugs indicated by the needle.  The repetition about becoming a better person indicating she will change, she has ‘no choice’.  But does this mean she has no choice but to change or will the drugs give her no choice but to continue – you decide.

JB: There is an elegance in the imagery’s simplicity here and it puts me right there in the story. I can see all of it as it unfolds. They story of a young woman whose life up to this point has, how shall I say it, not been all that…healthy. But she stands there, dialoguing with herself, becoming stronger as she realizes what she must do she must do only for herself.

Richard Edenfield, “Helen of Troy and the Anti-War Love Song.”

SE: This story was pure poetry.  A lyrical telling with so many gorgeous images evoked in such an extraordinary manner.  In particular : ‘Body of her water joined like a record album rippling out in grooved seance. Not science. A turntable of air you balance on and sing.  Sample lovers with a kiss, food for potential devouring. I wait turn at soft guillotine.’  Those two paragraphs alone are perfection.

JB: Recalling the reason why the Greeks went to war with the Trojans, this little story, chalk full of poetic metaphor (each a story in its own right), turns the Iliad’s reason for war and tells us that mutual recognition is the way to peace.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Foy S. Iver, “Let Me Not Die Ingloriously.”

SE: I loved this very moving tribute to Beth Peterson, sadly a lady I was never able to compete against (being a relative newcomer) but who, it was clear, stood tall, both in the real world and our flash universe.  How else to say goodbye, to describe the final parting except via the medium of flash?  It was the poignancy of the analogy between a besieged city and a failing human body that tugged at my emotions as did the continuing dialogue between the friends and family at her side as they accompanied her on that last journey.  They told stories, played music, talked to her, wrapping her in their love whilst inside her body’s own defences slowly failed.  I don’t want to discuss in detail the imagery used – except that it was expertly done –  it would make my comments too clinical, too analytical.  Now is not the time for that. Now is the time to pay tribute to a true testament of friendship.  Warm.  Touching.  Beautiful.

JB: The inevitable is on in this, to me an almost psychedelic tale, conjuring a myriad of images from medieval to modern times. A chaotic piece (from jazz to funk to electronica) for a chaotic time yet there is a stillness in it brought about by the one constant voice, a reassuring voice. It is the calm of the hurricane for which the violence about them cannot disturb.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Rasha Tayaket, “Glory” 

SE:  A story telling a truth that only a heroic warrior knows – the real price of Glory. To the world ‘Glory’ is when stories of his deeds are told, mothers name their children in his honour and he is lauded by the gods.  This is the veneer of Glory.  But as it goes on, what the warrior suffered to achieve this status, what lies beneath the heroic veneer, is slowly revealed.  Through repetitive use of those first opening sentences at the start of each subsequent paragraph, the writer has created the perfect framework and a steady rhythm for the warrior to develop his tale, to tell his truth, reinforcing as it does the contrast between the external gloss and the internal ‘mortal suffering’.  Slowly his Glory is weakened, first by Pain, then by Fear, until at last Death arrives; the bell finally tolls for him and Glory no longer has any value.  Lovely writing.

JB: While there is no plot (I myself don’t require plot in flash), here is another great piece where the larger story is behind the story, where the “story” is simultaneously built upon and deepened with each subsequent paragraph. From Glory in the first, to Glory and Pain in the second, to Glory and Pain and Fear in the third, each addition nuances what precedes it; we move from simple hero worship, to the hero’s actual experience, that which celebration of the hero tends to forget and neglect: pain and fear. Pain and fear, two experiences all human being share. Whereas heroes may be celebrated as something other, something beyond pain and fear, our forgetting that they too experience pain and fear makes us miss what it means to be a hero. Pain and fear equalize us, and in the end of our story comes the greatest equalizer of all.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker, “Cold Comfort.” 

SE: Oh, so beautiful and yet so world weary!  She treats being the most beautiful woman in the world as a job almost – ‘somebody has to do it’.  Throughout this story there are some terrific uses of imagery, all adding up to complete the picture of a jaded beauty.  She is tired of being admired, regards herself as a ‘slab of beef in the marketplace’, just another commodity to be examined, perhaps purchased.  She is tired of their singing, their dancing, their mandolin playing – sounding like a ‘chicken that squawks with each tug’ (loved the humour of that image).  Yet she feels separate to their courting, they are not quite the ardent suitors they proclaim to be, none ‘scale the walls’ to be with her and she can only listen to their laughter which ‘tickles the air’, witness their comradeship which carries on below.  The warmth of the atmosphere amongst these men is in stark contrast to the coldness of her place up on her pedestal.  But it is not just the men who have put her there because of her beauty, she is there because of her own vanity, ‘there is only room for one in the mirror’.  Initially she made herself out to be a victim because of how she was perceived by others but in reality it is she who is keeping herself separate.  Very tight writing to produce a perfectly penned portrait. 

JB: The stories detached tone underscores the protagonist’s aloofness as she sits alone resting on her balcony. The author’s choice of metaphor—likening the woman to a slab of beef in the marketplace—and one of her suitors—a chicken that squawks—dehumanizes the story’s nameless players. I found in “Cold Comfort” a tale not simply about vanity, of which the beautiful woman accuses herself, but a poignant commentary on social values. Is vanity the “fault” of the vain, or is it something else? Is vanity likewise the result of social values as it appears when the woman’s suitors dance and sing for her and she grooms herself for the masses? When society values the beautiful and puts beauty and image on a pedestal, what becomes of relationship? Our author tells us those who seek the beautiful for the simple sake of beauty become shadows, losing, again, what makes us human.

And now: for her second time, but first since August 2014, it’s faithful FF writer & litmag editor,

DRAGON WINNER

PRATIBHA!!!

for

“The Pink Dawn

SE: Words cannot always adequately express what is happening in our world today.  Report after report has filled newspaper columns with their focus on economic migrants battling authorities in Calais to get to the UK or from Greece to Germany causing much disquiet in these countries.  Yet amongst that flood of people were the refugees whose story was being forgotten – until the recent tragedy of the Syrian child whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach.

Like the photograph, this story brings home the horror of the current situation in a fresh way, opening jaded eyes and, perhaps, jaded minds to the more terrible aspects of this modern day exodus. 

Told in a child’s voice, the narrator’s continued innocence of what is going on around her, contrasts strongly with the horror of her situation.  The child asks questions and is hushed, she and her sister are held ‘warm and snug in Mama’s hug’.  They are not told who the rebels are or why things are happening. Their parents are still trying to keep them children, still protecting them, so much so that throughout this story you sense how completely loved and secure that child feels.  The world is her friend, she delights in that first blush of dawn, the warmth of her mother’s arms.  She is safe, feels no threat – until they get into the overcrowded boat. 

In those last few sentences, all the safety, all the innocence is finally lost.  She is noticing all the people around her, the pushing and shoving, the feeling of water beneath her feet, seeing her sister floating in the water.  She doesn’t know her sister is dead, but we do.  Just as when the child says she is ‘ice-cold’, we know what will happen to her.  There is no need to add anything else; use of stark, simple language without falling into the trap of sentimentality make the ending more effective, packs a more powerful punch.   A topical tragedy written with the lightest of touches.

JB: We’ve probably all seen the pictures of the refugee child dead on the beach and in this topical piece. Recalling much more than it tells, this heart-wrenching tale takes us from the comfort of being held by mother, to hope and the future with school. But here is an innocent child, ignorant as a child can be of larger social/political/religious processes outside him/herself over which s/he has no control and yet the child’s life (and what remains of it) is determined by those very processes. Much too sad, much too real.

Congratulations, dear Pratibha! Please find here your freshly updated, super sparkly winner’s page. Your winning tale can be found there as well as (shortly) over on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for this week’s Sixty Seconds feature. And now here’s your winning story:

The Pink Dawn

“Papa, it’s too dark. I can’t see anything.”

“Just hold on to Mama. Quick. The boat will leave without us if we are not there soon.”

I clutch Mama’s dress, and she pulls me up. I am propped on her hip and Sheena is snuggled against her chest in a knapsack. We are warm and safe in Mama’s hug. Mama isn’t crying now. Her face is stern like when she wants us to focus on our homework. The school is closed. Mama says the rebels took over it. I don’t know what rebel means. She just hushes me if I ask.

Mama and Papa walk for hours in the dark, and then the dawn opens her eyes, and they are all pink. It’s nice! I am warm in Mama’s hug.

I’ve never seen so many people. They push and shove.

Water’s under my toes. Is that Sheena floating? I’m ice-cold.

FFwinner-Web