Essays

Her?!

“PLANK AND HOLD!” the trainer screams.

I make my way to the ground, prop myself up on my elbows, stretch my legs out and get in a plank position.

During the one minute “active break,” my sweat starts to race down my forehead and lands in big droplets on the ground. I can see my reflection in them. As I struggle to “keep my butt down,” my elbows slide on the foam mat.

I’m trying to keep my core tight. I look down, a loose shirt covers my hanging belly.

Once the painful and long minute is over, I bring my knees to my chest and stand on my feet. My muscles ache and my joints crunch.

The main trainer, a young, energetic, potentially psychotic man, comes up to me.

“I want to get some video of you today on the pads.”

Translation: He wants someone to video me sparring with him using boxing gloves.

 

Heather Wyatt is a teacher and writer by day and food tv junkie by night. Her first book, My Life Without Ranch, is out now from 50/50 Press, published Fall 2018. The creative non-fiction title features that love of food, but also explores the dangerous relationship we can all have with it. Her new poetry chapbook Call My Name is out now from The Poetry Box!

She lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama with her husband and has a slight obsession with her two dogs. She both graduated from and instructs English at the University of Alabama. She received her MFA from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky in poetry and since 2006, her poetry has been featured in numerous journals. Most recently, her poems have appeared in places like: Jokes Review, Number One: A Literary Journal, and A Walk with Nature: Poetic Encounters that Nourish the Soul. Her short story “A Penny Saved” was published in Perspectives Magazine in 2018. Her essay “Self-Defense” is in The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review September 2018 and her essay, “Hot AF” is in the magazine Robot Butt (2018).

Eric Carle, Eric Carle, Let Me Ask You Something for a Change

Eric Carle, Eric Carle, I hope you can see:

This daddy (that’s me) reading stories to three.

Eric Carle, Eric Carle, your words that I’m reading,

they’re the last my kids hear each night before dreaming.

Eric Carle, Eric Carle, please don’t think me a stalker,

even though I know your stories by heart, as do my sons and my daughter.

 

Matt Muilenburg teaches at the University of Dubuque. His creative nonfiction has been featured in Barrelhouse, Southern Humanities Review, Storm Cellar, Barren Magazine, Superstition Review, Atticus Review, and elsewhere. Matt is an associate editor of fiction for Southern Indiana Review and lives near the Field of Dreams movie site.

Sorting

Father tells the story of when, less than one year old, I was parked on the floor of his study. As he sat and wrote, the baby entertained herself. Quietly, he says. He should build a monument—I think—to such mute, nice, unobtrusive daughter giving him no trouble at all. Forget it. Father laughs, smirks and grins, making fun of me as he exclaims with a mocking tone, “Oh, that hair on the carpet!” He refers to the fact that I’d spend uncountable time (hours, he claims and I bet he lies) trying to lift from the rug a quasi-invisible hair, mesmerized by the delicate task I had chosen. Why is hard to guess and a question Father, for sure, never asked himself.

 

Toti O’Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish Last Name. She was born in Rome then moved to Los Angeles, where she makes a living as a self-employed artist, performing musician and professional dancer. Her work has most recently appeared in Scryptic, Voice Of Eve, Blue Tiger Review, and Projected Letters.

Uniform: Fitting In(to Clothes) in North Louisiana

I know what fat girls look like. There are a few fat girls in our grade, the grades below us, like the round girl who always wins the talent show because her mother is always a judge. I do not categorize myself as a fat girl, not in fifth or sixth grade, but I do know my clothes don’t fit right, have a history of fitting poorly no matter what. Part of the problem, I am convinced, is my mother: she doesn’t understand what the other girls are wearing. She is taking me to the wrong stores. If we went to another store, we’d find it, what the other girls have. But I’m not in control here, as much as I want to be. I know what I’m looking for, and I know we keep missing it. Maybe just one more store. Maybe between the dressing room and home, something magical will happen. Maybe if we buy this and I wear it to school tomorrow, I won’t have the same jokes made at my expense. “Meg’s so hot,” the boys say. Even classmates who don’t know what sarcasm is can hear it dripping from their voices, the exaggeration, the italics. “Meg, will you go out with me?”

 

Margaret Emma Brandl’s writing has appeared in journals such as Gulf Coast, The Cincinnati Review, Yalobusha Review, Pithead Chapel, Cartridge Lit, and CHEAP POP. She earned her PhD at Texas Tech University and her MFA at Notre Dame and serves as an associate editor for Iron Horse Literary Review. Visit her website or say hi on twitter (@margaret_emma).

The Gift

My racial biases developed in layers with attitudes and perceptions accreting from my earliest years. My parents’ behavior—their words and body language—when encountering someone different in color or features or accent, swayed me in a patronizing direction. Playmates, teachers, relatives, and other adults, through their conduct, instilled an intolerant bent in me. I held disdainful assumptions as truth. Similarity was attractive; I viewed the dissimilarities in the thick lips, broad noses, and kinked hair of African Americans as unattractive. Many spoke with an accent or in a dialect I regarded as signs of being unschooled. My desire to be esteemed by my kind bolstered my distorted sentiments. My posture toward blacks was condescending and smug at best, unreasonable and hateful at worst. A product of surroundings and disposition, I was not unique.

Tom Wade is a retired state government employee.  He has been a volunteer ombudsman (advocate) for residents of long-term-care facilities for seven years. His essays have been published in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Communion, Jenny, and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, and Wilderness House Literary Review, and Squawk Back.

 

Family: Three Chapters

After she was married for four years and no children seemed to be coming, my mother did what any good Catholic girl in the 1960s would do: she prayed to the Blessed Mother. She promised if she had a little girl, she’d name her Elizabeth Ann, for Mary’s cousin and mother. She promised she’d name a boy Michael, after the archangel. Then she and my father went to the Angel Guardian Home and applied to adopt.

A few months later, a nun from the adoption agency called and said they had a little girl for my parents, and her name was Elizabeth Ann. A few years after that, the adoption agency called again and said they had a little boy for us named Michael. And in 1998, the story of our names was published in a book called Mary Miraculous: Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary People Touched by Our Lady.

Elizabeth Cone teaches writing at Suffolk County Community College on Long Island. She writes essays and memoir, and has a particular interest in the power of narrative and memory, and what happens when these are disrupted. Her work is forthcoming in RiverSedge.

Fear Fact(or), Fear Fiction

If, one day while watching TV on the couch, your wife offhandedly mentions she went to college with the tall, dark-haired guy in the Bud Light commercial, under nocircumstances should you…

A) Suspect that “went to college with” is code for “once had amazing sex with” (Good luck with that…);

B) Notice that when she tells you his name, she does it in a way that seems like she’s only pretending to have to think about it…

Casey Pycior is the author of the short story collection, The Spoils (Switchgrass Books/NIU Press, 2017), and he was awarded the 2015 Charles Johnson Fiction Award at Crab Orchard Review. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Beloit Fiction Journal, Midwestern Gothic, Harpur Palate, BULL, Wigleaf, Yalobusha Reivew, The MacGuffin, Wisconsin Review, and Crab Orchard Review among other places. He is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Southern Indiana and serves as Fiction Editor of Southern Indiana Review.

Needles’ Eyes, Wealth, Learning and Virtue

How do those who claim to be Christians today reconcile the modern world’s quest for material gain with Jesus’s severe injunctions against riches? Most notably in verses 10:25-26 of The Gospel According to Mark: “But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (King James version).

I suspect a representative answer came from a pink-cheeked young business major when I asked that question in a core literature class years ago. Without a second’s hesitation, he told me, “Things were different then.”

 

Walter Cummins has published seven short story collections—Witness, Where We Live, Local Music, The End of the Circle, The Lost Ones, Habitat: stories of bent realism, Telling Stories: Old and New. He also has a collection of essays and reviews called Knowing Writers. More than one hundred of his stories, as well as memoirs, essays, and reviews, have appeared in magazines such as New Letters, Kansas Quarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, Under the Sun, Arts & Letters, Confrontation, Bellevue Literary Review, Connecticut Review, in book collections, and on the Web. With Thomas E. Kennedy, he was founding co-publisher of Serving House Books, an outlet for novels, memoirs, and story, poetry, and essay collections. For more than twenty years, he was editor of The Literary Review.

Driving Home

My kids had dressed themselves, indifferent as always to color clashes, and somehow, both had put on bright red t-shirts and plaid shorts. They sat in the backseat between piles of backpacks, blankets, books; and the still wet bathing suits were drying in the back window of the car. The floor was littered with sand and sea shells, flip flops, a rain boot, an unopened caguama, and the fresh green coconuts that we had bought from the roadside vendors as we left the humid heat of the coast. Heading for the mountains and plateaus of our home in central Mexico, we smelled salty and damp. Our fingers were sticky with sweet cocadas and pistachios, and we wound our way up towards Tepic. In the mountains, before Rio de Ixtlán, I spotted the first semi. The truck was piled high with people and backpacks, which I immediately recognized as part of the infamous second migrant caravan of 2018 heading towards the States from Central America.

Lisa López Smith lives and writes from her home in central Mexico. When not wrangling kids or rescue dogs or goats, she can probably be found riding her bike. Her recent and forthcoming publications include: Sky Island Journal, Masque & Spectacle, SAND Journal, Tilde, Esthetic Apostle, Mothers Always Write, Lacuna Magazine, and Coal Hill Review

Donald Trump, Thank You?

At 22, I turned down my boyfriend’s offer of a gun. The cop, who responded to the 911 call when my stalker broke into the house and stole my leotard, panties, hairbrush, and ballet slippers, insisted a gun could make things worse. That I’d probably hesitate at an intruder’s sob story and he’d wrest the gun away from me.

I was no stranger to men wanting to get in without permission: in my home, my car, my head, my mouth, my pants. I’ve lived a life punctuated by more than my share of abuse, assault, and an endless lineup of groping, threatening men in social settings and the workplace. Even in high school, a boy set a contact explosive on my locker when I refused to date him.

Teresa writes fiction and nonfiction and is the founder of Lakeshore Writers Workshop in Oakland, California. Her story collection, Hold Off the Night, was a finalist for the Hudson Prize 2018 and semi-finalist for the Iowa Fiction Award 2016. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, most recently in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Madison Review, Dogwood, and in several anthologies including Best New Writing and 2014: A Year in Stories and the Best of Pen & Brush Inc. (forthcoming). Her work has been recognized in contests at Glimmer Train Press, Narrative Journal, Phoebe Journal, New Millennium Writings and others. Her interviews and book reviews have appeared in Zyzzyva, Bookslut, Shambhala Sun, Literary Mama and more.

 

Essay and Other Nonfiction Workshops at Eckleburg

Personal Essay

Lyric Essay

Body Narrative

Modern Memoir

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Submit Your Nonfiction

We accept polished creative nonfiction/essays up to 8,000 words year round, unless announced otherwise. Preferences veer toward shorter works under 1500 words with an arts and culture focus. If you wish to include a bio, keep it short, under 200 words. Submit your nonfiction.

Essay Collections and Memoir Manuscripts

We publish short works at The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. At this time, we do not publish novel, long memoir, essay collections, story collections or poetry collections at The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. We do offer manuscript workshops at The Eckleburg Workshops. If you are looking to place a manuscript, we can suggest several excellent small and large presses whose excellent books are promoted through our Eckleburg Book Club — i.e., Random House, Graywolf Press, Coffeehouse, Tinhouse, St. Martins Press and more.