Paul Heinz

Original Fiction, Music and Essays

Filtering by Category: Fiction

A Recording of my Short Story, "James's Arrival"

Ten years ago, after writing fiction for a number of years and working with a local writers group, I received my first little success, winning the James Jones Short Story Award for my story, "James's Arrival." At the time it was a great thrill, but more importantly, it spurred me on to continue and try to reach the next level. Ten years later, I'd be lying if I said I've reached the goals I'd hoped to achieve, but like I've said repeatedly, I'm not dead yet. 

Ten years after my little blip of success, I've had a chance to enjoy my story as if for the first time due to the work of the Elmhurst Public Library with their recent addition of "Adult Storytime for Grownups Podcast!" on the library website. Actor and writer Duard Mosley does me the huge honor of reading my decade-old story and breathing new life into it, offering nuances I never would have included in my own reading of the story.

Feel free to listen and download above or go to this link and scroll down to Episode 2, starting at about minute 5:35. If you go this route, before my story is a short bit of fiction from Duard himself! Enjoy.

When Aspirations Fall Short

I’ve never met author Hannah Goodman, but I’m fortunate for having made a long-distance connection with her back in 2011 that led to the publication of two of my short stories.  Earlier this year, Ms. Goodman announced that the young adult periodical she founded, Sucker Literary Magazinewas on hiatus, which was a bummer, but more of a concern was the reason for the hiatus, which Hannah has bravely blogged about at www.writerwomyn.com.  For the past year or so she’s shared her journey with depression, anxiety and overcoming feelings of low self-worth in the midst of trying to find a publishing deal for her YA fiction.

In her most recent entry, she describes how the nurturing environment she experienced while obtaining her MFA took a sharp turn upon graduation, when she began to encounter "a serious problem with envy and comparing." Social media played a significant role in her struggles as she immersed herself in Facebook and Twitter to help bolster her career, and over time, as she sunk into a hole of constantly comparing herself to others' achievements, her self-esteem took a big hit.

Hannah had gone “all-in.”  She’d made huge sacrifices to obtaining her dream, but a few years after graduation she was in a therapist’s office, concluding that she was “a complete and utter failure and sham of a writer.”  Her perceived failures as a writer were projected on her roles in life, most notably those of wife and mother.  Fortunately, she is in much better place today. 

Hannah certainly isn't the only one to be adversely affected by social media. Several studies have shown a link between Facebook use and depressive symptoms, and as rough as social media can be for any of us, I think it can be especially cruel to the aspiring artist who’s sacrificed so much to follow a dream.   

Of course, following one’s dream doesn’t mean that you’ll earn a living at it, but society sometimes pushes us into thinking that we will.  I wrote about this last year after watching the marvelous film Twenty Feet from Stardom, in which the amazing Mary Clayton laments her failed attempts to achieve her own stardom.  In this blog I asked the question, “Are we entitled to earn a living doing what we love?”  I argued no.  It reminds me of a story a friend of mine told me about his son who decided to pursue jazz guitar performance a number of years ago.  During his first jazz ensemble rehearsal the instructor said, “All of you who are here to make a living playing music need to leave right now.  Those of you who can’t fathom living without playing jazz can stay.”

This is tough advice, but it’s good advice.  I don’t know if Ms. Goodman received a similar message while pursuing her MFA, and I don’t know if she would have stayed if she had, but she is now taking a break from pursuing a book deal (but not a break from writing) and is studying to become a licensed therapist.

We do what we love because we love to do it.  If we can make a living at it, even better, but we should never stop doing what we love.  Hannah certainly hasn’t.  She’s continues to write, and goodness, if there’s ever any doubt about whether she’s capable, read her marvelous entry, “We Need to Talk.”  It's amazing.

Um...now I’m making an envious comparison.  I better get off-line and start writing!

A Poem: Mea Culpa

MEA CULPA

A windowless room

Withered olive branches

strewn across a barren floor

Pebbles ingested,

heavy, unable to pass,

denying sleep nor food nor rest

Mea Culpa

Summon Shakespeare’s tangled web

Joni Mitchell’s lonely river

@@Bathe in transgressions,

the meaty remains

of tense and troubled pasts@@

thick with the insecurities and belittlement of youth

The lashing out from loved ones

Their stern disapproval

Seek the source,

to learn

To finally, finally learn the lessons

Rather than lumbering and stumbling from year to year

from offense to offense

– the careless gesture, the words of venom –

from defeat to defeat to defeat

Until at last peace is proclaimed

or – let’s get real here – some modicum of peace

A morsel, perhaps

The passing of at least a few pebbles

to lessen the unbelievable burden

of being human 

 (Copyright 2015, Paul Heinz)

Short Story Wins 1st Prize and Publication

"I saw the pictures on-line.  I've got a monster's cold, blue blood pulsing through my veins."

My short story "I, Monster" is now available to read on-line or to download onto your Kindle or other digital reader, and it's also available in paperback at Amazon as part of the Summer 2015 issue of Sixfold.  Sixfold is an interesting publication whereby writers determine which stories get published and offer comments and constructive criticism for each other.  For my story, which won the latest contest and its thousand dollar prize, I recieved over fifty comments from readers.  If I ever decide to rework the story or expand it into a longer work, I'll have a good idea where to begin.

Please give "I, Monster" a read, and if you like it, go to Amazon and give it a positive review.  You never know where this could lead with a little help.  Thanks in advance.

Here's a quick synopsis of the story:

Seventeen year-old Shelby is the same age her mother was when she was kidnapped, raped and imprisoned by the man who would become Shelby's father.  Believing she has "a monster's cold, blue blood pulsing" through her veins, Shelby now lives her life as an outsider, but when she notices a car stopping alongside a classmate on the way home from school, she has a chance to change the outcome, and maybe herself.

A New Poem

I'm in a bit of a pissy mood tonight, and when you're in a pissy mood, sometimes there's nothing better than a poem.

 

Guy A and Guy B

 

I sat on the couch in your parents’ living room.

You sat in the chair across from me.

I said I wanted to ask you out before anyone else did,

because I’d heard some other guys were thinking about it;

I had to beat them to the punch.

And you said yes, but you had to wonder,

and I knew you had to wonder,

“Who are the other guys?”

And after we watched Tom Hanks do his best with subpar material,

we ate crab legs,

and you must have been thinking,

“Where would Guy A and Guy B have taken me?  A place that serves duck and lamb instead?”

I eat duck and lamb now.  But I grew up eating meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

For me, crab was a stretch.

You’re lucky I didn’t take you to a place that served

scalloped potatoes and ham.  That was a staple in my home.

So was beef stroganoff.

And tuna casserole.

For you, I ordered bottom dwellers.

By comparisson, a delicacy.

When I graduated, you wrote me a letter and got me a pen.

It was engraved.

And I wondered, “What did you get for Guy A and Guy B?”

Copyright, 2017, Paul Heinz, All Right Reserved