Author Archives: Bonnie Dodge

Once upon a time four writers had a dream. They made their dream come true.

I’ve tried to write this column a dozen times in the last month. I’m having trouble because I’m deeply moved by the subject. How to be honest. How to convey what I’m feeling. How to let go and move on. No matter how many different ways I begin, I end up in the same place, so please bear with me.

Once upon a time there were four women who loved to write and tell stories so much they formed a critique group that met regularly for years. Once a week they gathered to pour over their stories, offering suggestions and comments, and most of all encouragement. If a writer was entering a contest, she’d challenge the others, “You should enter too.”

Once a year these writers scheduled a writers’ retreat, taking a weekend to write, explore and laugh. One year they tramped around the Idaho ghost town of Silver City. Another year they explored Idaho City and its cemetery. Rocky Bar. The Hagerman valley. They attended bookfests and conferences and cheered each other on.

Eventually the writers organized what they called the Other Bunch Press. They held workshops; they published a book.

Life happens and things change. Jennifer Sandmann moved to Washington and Dixie Thomas Reale is writing stories from the clouds, or maybe the ocean where she loved to “swim” with the whales. Patricia Santos Marcantonio and I remain here in southern Idaho writing our fingers to stubs and loving every minute of it.

If you’ve been following us on Facebook you know that things are changing here at Other Bunch Press. We’ve changed our name as well as our website. What hasn’t changed is our passion for telling stories and sharing our love of writing with others. Our motto, “Everyone has a story, what’s yours?” remains the same. Our passion for bringing writers together is constant.

Pat and I are carrying on, happy to announce the formation of our new partnership, River St. Press. We’re releasing a middle grade book this spring called Billie Neville Takes a Leap. Please watch for it, it’s the story of a little girl who has a dream to be a daredevil like Evel Knievel. We’re also working on the third book of our Snake River Plain series, an anthology of family recipes, which we plan to release in early 2015. We will continue to hold workshops and bring writers together. We will continue to tell our stories.

We are grateful for your support and continued interest. Please come with us as begin our new adventure as River St. Press.com.

-Bonnie Dodge

 

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Call for stories and recipes

In honor of our friend and partner Dixie Reale, we are seeking recipes and stories for a new anthology of recipes from the Snake River Plain. Dixie wrote a weekly column from 1999 to 2009 for The Times-News and its supplement the Ag Weekly called “Grandma’s Recipe Box.” She was always sharing her recipes along with funny anecdotal stories. In that tradition we are looking for recipes and the stories behind them. The stories may be fiction, non-fiction, poetry or essays related to a family recipe.

 

Submission Guidelines:

 

1) The following word limits will be considered:

For fiction, nonfiction, essays and poetry – a story up to 500 words. Recipes are not included in the word count.

 

2) You may submit more than one recipe. There is no entry fee.

 

3) Preference will be given to Idaho writers and/or recipes relating to Idaho.

 

4) Use standard manuscript format—double-spaced, 12pt serif font Times, Times New Roman, or Courier New with one-inch margins. Poetry may be single-spaced. Please incorporate your submission into the body of an email or attach entry as a PDF file. No other attachments will be opened. 

 

5) Include your name, address, email address, phone number and word count with your submission.

 

6) Submissions will be accepted until April 1, 2014. We plan to release the anthology in the fall of 2014. Please send submissions to otherbunchpress@hotmail.com. Please put the words “recipe anthology submission” in the subject line. We will accept email entries only. You can submit your entry here.

 

7) If your story is accepted, you will receive one printed copy of the book.

 

Dixie loved to write and we would encourage you to have fun writing. We envision this anthology as a collection of great Idaho recipes and stories. This is your opportunity to share your family’s favorite recipe with others as well as see some of your work in print.

 

For inspiration check out Dixie’s story and recipe Celebrate harvest bounty with fresh fruit printed in the Ag Weekly on August 29, 2009. 

 

Look what we found

at our local Barnes & Noble!

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Don’t have a copy of your own yet? You can get one here.

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What We’re Doing When We’re Supposed to be Writing

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Happy New Year! What are your New Year resolutions?

Lose weight. Exercise more. Adopt a healthier diet. Drink more water.
You too? Do these top your list of New Year resolutions?

I know all about goals. When I worked in Corporate America, I had to set goals. Short-term goals, the one-year plan. Long-term goals, the five-year plan. I had to write them down and submit them to my supervisor signed as if I was pledging my life away. As a corporate robot I set goals, wrote them down and charted my way to success.

What worked in my corporate America world, doesn’t work so well in my Happy Writer World. I’ve been a writer long enough to know that in happy writer world the best laid plans often end up in the garbage. Rejection letters sting and waiting for agents and editors to return calls feels like a waste of time not to mention control. My goal might be to publish a book or a short story but the publishing world has other ideas. It all boils down to what can I do better. How can I make this story float above the slush pile?

Recently author Cheryl Strayed summed up precisely on Facebook how I feel about New Year goals and resolutions:
“Is there ever an end to the daily struggle to be a better person? I’m not asking this rhetorically. I’m wondering if there’s a time when you reach it, when you say “I can no longer think of any way to be a better person.” (Or maybe there are people who do not ponder every day how they can be a better person?) When I say “better person” I don’t mean that I constantly tell myself how awful I am but rather I’m very aware of the ways in which I could’ve done better as a friend, as a mom, as a spouse, as a sister, as a writer, as a woman with some serious aspirations for this thing called “balance” (ie: time for exercise, lounging, sex, thrift-store shopping, voracious reading). On a pretty much daily basis I think of how I’ve failed in many of these areas. It’s not a self-hate thing, but rather a deep desire I have to someday fall asleep thinking, “Well done, Strayed. You’ve got it down.” I’m reflecting on this as the first day of 2014 comes to an end here on the west coast of America. Not thinking “Well done, Strayed” but thinking instead, “Maybe next year. Maybe tomorrow. Keep going. Keep walking. Just try to do better in every action, intention, thought and deed.””

I once sat in on a lecture by writer William C. Anderson. When asked a question about “how to know when to quit editing” he said that he was so relieved when BAT-21 was finally published because he could finally stop changing things and move on to something else. He said nothing ever felt perfect, nothing ever felt “done.” Most writers I know strive for perfection when theoretically we know there is no perfect, only better.

I’m struggling with these issues today as I think about what I want to accomplish in 2014. How can I write better? What can I do to propel my work forward? How can I achieve balance in this less than perfect world?

For me the answer is simple. Begin each day with optimism knowing I’m doing the best I can. Dig in knowing there will be ups and downs and some days will be better than others.

C. S. Lewis said, “ You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” So here’s my New Year resolution. Relax and enjoy the journey. It’s a brand new year full of wonderful possibilities.

What are your New Year goals and resolutions? Do you set daily word count goals? How do your reward yourself when you meet them?
-Bonnie Dodge

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Book signing at The Twin Falls Center for the Arts

Book signing at The Twin Falls Center for the Arts

Author Sherry Schubert McCallister

 

 

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Gift and book fair this Saturday!

Please support local artists by joining us this Saturday for The Art of the Gift at The Twin Falls Center for the Arts. This gift and book fair features 15 Local authors & artisans. We will be there. Stop by and say hello.
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Question of the Month: NaNoWriMo, Who’s winning?

It’s day 20. By now you’ve written 33,336 words of your great American novel. You’re on the home stretch. You’re ahead by 3 words. You’re still in the race. You’re winning, right?

If you’re like me, probably not, although I know some writers participating in *NaNoWriMo this year have reached their goal of 50,000, or are really really close. But not you, you’re still slugging away at that mountain of words wondering why you let so and so talk you into this messy frustrating confusion when you’d rather be thinking about turkeys and Christmas trees. But you can’t because you have to stay focused on characters who won’t behave and plot lines that wander off into the desert and disappear. You’re tired, frustrated, and hate the project you’re working on. Or you’re behind in your word count and looking for any reason to stop writing and return to the real world.

Before you do, give yourself credit for attempting such a daunting task in the first place. Writing takes discipline. Writing every day takes a great deal of discipline. In a perfect writer’s world every morning you would rise to an already prepared healthy breakfast and a pot of coffee. You would write all day without distractions. You would retire at night with a ream of polished words, a real page-turner ready to meet your publisher. But in the real writer’s world you have to prepare the healthy breakfast, feed the pets and get the family off to work and out the door, maybe vacuum the rugs, or even put in a day’s work at the office before you can settle down and write. Squeezing enough time to generate 1,666 words a day is a chore in itself so why bother?

Because you’re a writer. Stories buzz around your head dying to be told. Because when you’re not writing, everything seems in a constant state of chaos.

If you’re stumped and ready to throw in the towel, here are some suggestions that may help you reach your NaNo goal this year.

Write from a different point of view. Or write in a different tense. Mixing it up might lend new energy to your writing.
Kill your internal editor. Now is the time to write. You can edit later.
Do some free writing if you can’t think of anything to write. Just the action of moving your fingers releases something in the brain allowing you to move forward.
Don’t stop to do research. Add asterisks. When your draft is done, you can fill in the blanks. And, you might discover that a date or fact you thought was important no longer is.
If you’re feeling low or depressed talk to other writers or read the pep talks provided on the NaNoWriMo website. Visit their “procrastination station” for inspiration.
Don’t delete, don’t edit, just keep writing.

So it’s November 20. Ten days to go. You’re 2,000 words behind. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and it’s easier to focus on the green bean casserole than keep your fingers and brain moving. But look how far you’ve come. You’re in the middle of your book where things usually tend to get messy anyway. It would be so easy to quit.

But instead of giving up, dig deeper. Time travel back to October when NaNo sounded like a great way to whip out a draft of your story. Capture some of that creative energy then sit down and start writing.

Because you can do it. You’re so close. You’re almost there.

-Bonnie Dodge

*NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. On November 1, participants begin working towards writing a 50,000 novel by 11:59 on November 30. It’s free and a fun way to write a novel. For more information visit NaNoWriMo.org.

 

Dixie Thomas Reale – “Mush”

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Our friend and partner Dixie Thomas Reale succumbed to cancer September 1, 2013. One of a kind is an overused description, but in Dixie’s case, it was true. She had a great sense of humor, a fierce will, and loved to tell stories. Here is one of our favorites, published in Voices from the Snake River Plain.

MUSH

It was war, and I would wait until it grew mold. I didn’t care. I’d show her! When Mama said we couldn’t leave the breakfast table till we finished our mush, my sister Jose and I made vomiting sounds.

Mama had sugared and creamed our oatmeal to make it tempting, said it was “Goldilocks’ porridge,” but we weren’t convinced.

“You’ll eat. That’s final,” she warned.

Mama had read an article about the health value of oats and decided her children would eat some every morning. I wanted Cheerios like my cousin Alice ate in her daffodil-colored breakfast nook with the plaid on the wall. The more Mama pushed the gruel, the more determined I was that I wasn’t going to eat it. I would have Cheerios instead.

Daddy looked out the window, studying the rose bush on the far side of the yard, resolved to not hear us. We sat on our bench along the wall, gagging and giggling while our parents ate.

“You’ll stay there till you’ve eaten it, bowl and all,” Jose mimicked.

She whispered that she’d show Mama, but I could tell right off she didn’t have the guts. She gave up and ate her mush a few minutes after the family left the table. I guess she realized she was gonna be stuck there for a long time. Not me, I had my mind made up. Maybe Mama could make me sit, but she couldn’t make me eat.

The rest of the family went about their morning while I fidgeted. Nine thirty, ten o’clock, still I waited. Mama wasn’t going to give in and neither was I. It was a beautiful spring morning. I wanted to go outside, run through the grass, roll down the hill, climb around in the hayloft, and rub the fur on Calico’s back till she purred.

Although Mama didn’t intend to be, she was helpful. When she took a stack of dirty dishes to the kitchen, I grabbed my chance. I sneaked across the room and dumped the cereal out the window. It dribbled down the spiked leaves of the irises planted below and puddled on the ground around the lilies of the valley and violets. I hoped nobody would notice.

When she returned to the dining room my bowl was empty. I was beaming. “Such a good girl! See, it’s not so bad,” Mama said. I ran off to play.

The next day I dumped the mush on the irises once again and congratulated myself on my clever solution. By day three I couldn’t ignore the blobs of dried oatmeal clinging to the purple flowers and the puddled mud and sour milk underneath. Mama spent a lot of time in her flower garden, she was sure to see. I’d better not dump it there again.

So I called Pedro, my puppy. He came to me through the flowers, wagging his whole back end, he was so eager. I leaned out the window and held the cereal down for him to reach. He gobbled all the mush. Back inside, I set the empty bowl on the table. I could go on like that forever, no one suspected a thing. It was too easy.

I was cocky. The family had barely finished breakfast the next morning when I whistled for the dog, leaned out the window, and held the dish down to my little buddy stretching up on his hind legs when—whop! Right on my behind. I was jerked back inside, sitting at attention, the mush in front of me. Somehow Mama had grabbed it before any spilled.

I was miserable. I’d observed that when my sister dropped a crust of bread on the floor she didn’t have to eat it. When Daddy spilled the serving bowl of corn Mama scooped it up and wiped the tabletop with the dishrag. I tried it. Only one little spoonful dripped out of the bowl. I gagged down the rest for the sake of the experiment. It worked. I didn’t have to eat the dribbled stuff. The next day I got bolder. I carefully placed two large globs right beside my fork. Again I didn’t have to eat the slopped part. That was the answer.

I decorated the room. The entire bowl was drizzled and splattered one spoonful at a time across the mahogany tabletop, the wall, the bench, and onto the floor. There was so much of it that gray puddles ran into one another making small lakes. Once Mama saw the mess she scraped it back into the dish and slung it in front of me. Now it was cold and slimy, had a faint flavor of English wood oil, and smelled a bit like floor polish.

“You will eat this,” she said.

I sat there wretched and alone, sequestered with my punishment, till the rest of the family came in for lunch. And still I lingered with my gruel while they ate sandwiches and soup.

The day after my spilled mush episode I woke to an empty house. The family had gone to the berry patch to pick blackcaps. The cursed bowl waited malevolent and disgusting. I lolled on my seat playing with a strand of hair, studying the ceiling, my head hanging backwards over the edge of the bench.

How could I get rid of this stuff without eating it? I was tracing lines on the bottom of the dining room table with my finger, pretending that I could write, when suddenly there it was. I got on my knees to examine it. A little shelf designed to store extra leaves was built into the bottom of the table, and it was empty. I patted it to be sure. The bowl fit that shelf like the two were made for each other. I was out of the house in seconds.

The dog episode had taught me one thing—patience. I made sure I waited a while after the family left the breakfast table to hide my mush. When Mama asked what I’d done with my dish, I lied sweetly.

“I washed it and put it away.”

“What a big girl,” she said.

It never occurred to me that Mama would eventually run out of cereal bowls. In my child’s mind she had an endless supply, but one day she asked Jose if she had broken any while washing dishes. I didn’t care that my sister might get the blame for something I had done. She was four years older and liked to boss me around. Besides she caved in over eating the mush. It would serve her right. I didn’t volunteer any information and was too young for Mama to suspect I’d know anything.

My plan worked wonderfully until one morning Mama was cleaning house, trying to track down a sour odor in the dining room. There they sat, lined up like guilty children waiting to be spanked, on my little shelf. Ten rancid helpings of fuzzy, rotten mush.

I truly believe if it hadn’t been moldy, Mama would have made me eat every bite, she was that mad. But the next morning at breakfast a brand new box of Cheerios sat in the middle of the dining room table and mush was never mentioned again.

Bonnie Dodge places 3rd in annual Kay Snow Writing Contest

Bonnie Dodge won 3rd place in the annual Kay Snow Fiction Writing Contest at the Willamette Writers Conference In Portland, Oregon, with her entry, The Bones of Pele.

The winners of the 2013 Kay Snow Writing Contest are:
Fiction
1st place – “God is Pleased to Hear the Children Pray” by Ruby Murray
2nd place – “Coyote Calls Down the Gods” by Bruce Campbell
3rd Place – “The Bones of Pele” by Bonnie Dodge