the brain of teaching

The brain of teaching and conferencing has me and I haven’t been able to revise or draft as much as I have been wanting. I hope to go back to the Highland Stories this weekend because I have been discussing Denis Johnson and Amy Hempel stories and I have been inspired to pair down those stories even moreso than I have before–I do feel with those stories less might be more since they are rougher and less plot driven…

prose home movies

The first time I heard of the ‘prose home movie’ I was in Will Hochman’s Major Authors course studying my beloved JD Salinger. I remember it was a seminar course and we sat round robin style and Will made fun of the white socks and black shoes I was wearing at the time. He admitted to me later he didn’t think I was a strong student from my first appearance. Maybe it was my oversized shirts with the cuffs that covered my hands or my winged tipped shoes I wore trying to be like my Uncle Jake or Kramer the hipster dufus from Seinfeld. But from that reading in his course I was taken with the concept.

And that term we read Franny and Zooey–along with every other collected and uncollected work by Salinger–and Buddy informs the readers that he is writing a prose home movie or a home movie in prose. And after I referred to all my writing that way, though I knew I had nothing similar. It would take me years to comeup with decent material–to take the time to wonder and speculate on my own family and the connections I had lost or yet to appreciate. I only had the talk of it. The questions for family. And now every single piece of writing since my MFA thesis defense has been consumed with family connections and imagings.

And more recently, since translating some home movies to play on my computer and playing with Windows Media Editor, I do feel as if my work on these little films has tried to give more intimate moments into the fictional Ortiz family. The family I write about that is very close to my family and my relatives…a way to blend non-fiction and fiction in more powerful ways. A way to blend the Jaramillo Family as the video is titled and the fictional Ortiz family. It has made the writing more clear and given me some sort of a understandable means of perception for not just one story but several projects. And I am finding such joy and wonder inventing the family tree.



We would like to accept “Sled Story” for publication in Shape of a Box.

You give a solid reading of a solid story/excerpt and I would like to use that footage.  I could just link from it, but honestly, I’d prefer to take the footage so I could add credits and the “cover art” so that the video is also hosted directly on the Shape of a Box site.  If you give me access to download from you account I can do that or I can set you up with getdropbox to send me a copy. Let me know what you think. If we go that route and you’d like to present with cover art etc (as I would like to do) you are also welcome to submit intro/outro music as well as a piece of cover art.

 You retain all rights to the piece in question.

 Shape of a Box would appreciate an acknowledgement if the piece is published elsewhere in the future.

 We look forward to working with you on publishing your piece. Please make sure you have included a short bio, noting any websites for our readers but make sure to include the http: linkage so I can copy and paste it later.

 Thank you!

 -Jessie Carty, Editor Shape of a Box

free writing–monte stories

(Here is some very rough freewriting I wanted to get down while my poetry students took their midterms. I will have more to come as I want to follow this and see where it goes.)

Lena is standing in Felipa’s kitchen and her crock pot boils over and rattles every once in a while spilling hot water onto the burners and the crackling sound of steam fills the room up to the low ceiling. Her kitchen is the size of a small bathroom alongside a bathroom the size of a closet and alongside a closet which is the size of a cabinet. She keeps her coffee mugs underneath the table in old milk crates because she has no cabinets. When she pulls one mug from the crate and hands it over to Carlos sitting in his broken down and rusted looking wheelchair the old man immediately blows into the mug to free it of dust and imagined spider webs before filling it with the black liquid for his morning energy. He must have coffee and toast before he can hit the bathroom and he must bring the newspaper with him, this I find out later, so he can read the Star Journal over the amount of time in there. Because someone has to help him navigate from bed to chair and from chair to toilet he tends to stay in there awhile. Especially if Felipa is on the phone or making up the beds or fixing her own lunch for the day of work ahead. Poor old man, Lena remembers thinking. The poor, poor old man, she might’ve even whispered into the air after the coffee and after Lena watches Felipa manages the old man into the bathroom and as the door shuts behind.  Poor man, shit, Felipa says, pushing his chair into a corner and beginning her morning chores of dishes and then sweeping. She acts is Carlos’ daughter is not there. She pretends to be alone as she works. I’m the one who does all the work. You should say poor, poor Felipa. No one around here ever says that.

When Felipa has the man out and Lena helps the old man into a fresh t-shirt and into a clean pair of pants, the excess material cut down and unkempt but safety pinned free from his chair. When she has him settled Felipa can breathe and think of herself. She can head into the bathroom after ironing her own dress and fixing her hair. She can spend those stolen moments in the bathroom and put on her make-up, her red lipstick and rouge with her only gold necklace and hair pins. It is only then that Carlos can smoke and talk to his daughter about Bruna and Jeri. They speak in the largest room of their institutional housing—the projects as everyone calls them–the quiet of the back bedroom while Lena sits on the edge of their bed and talks to her father. He asks his daughter to open the back window so he can smoke his nasty smelling cigarillos and release the dark smoke from his nostrils.           

It used tobe I went outside to smoke, hija, Carlos explains in a small and almost pathetic sounding voice. I used to go outside and she would lock my wheels and leave me for hours but the neighbors asked me what are you doing out here, Carlos? What are you doing? And I couldn’t answer them. I could just say the wife has me out here. And it got back to Felipa somehow.

And when he hears the bathroom door click he throws the vacha immediately out the window…