Personal Essays


or “my life up in smoke,” or “ashes to ashes,” or “no butts about it” … my latest published essay is about cigarettes I have smoked, from first to last and beyond.

“Smoke and Mirrors” appears in the Summer issue of The Chaosread it here.

If you don’t remember that song–what can I say–you’re young. Good for you. And the rest of us can sing along with Doris Day.

The incident in my essay “Whatever Will Be” was buried until a random writing prompt unearthed it: “Call up an unfamiliar memory … examine it as if for the first time … see what’s hidden….” And there it was, as if waiting to be summoned from the deep. I intentionally didn’t ask my brother to fact-check it, as I often do when writing about our childhood, because I wanted it to be my own recollections and reflections. Now, however, David replies with amazement, says he too had forgotten.

“Whatever Will Be” appears now in the summer issue of The Citron Review, a lovely, lemony journal that I’ve long admired. Click here to read.

This one’s for you, Bro….

You may think me a noodle (see “H”) when you discover that noodles–in life, in history, and of course in sauce–are the topic of my latest A to Z (abecedarian). Behind every noodle is a memory–or behind every memory is a noodle?–with bits of trivia thrown in for good measure. I love this form and come back to it now and again for the fun of it and as a way to challenge, stretch, and use my noodle (see “U”).

“Noodling A to Z” was published in a special food issue of Room, a Canadian print journal that features “literature, art, and feminism since 1975.” Read “Noodling” here.

Some of you will remember the old ads: women in the costumes of professions that were in the realm of impossible or highly unusual for women then–firefighter, astronaut, brain surgeon, symphony conductor, football player, &c–clad in some recognizable trappings of their ‘wannabe’ aspiration (helmet, stethoscope, baton) and provocatively posed to reveal their lacy, pointy undergarment (as if that was the kind of support we needed to achieve equality).

When I first started to write about not going to U.C. Berkeley in the ’60s when I woulda/coulda/shoulda and about my later political awakening, I tied my ruminations to this bizarre recollection, symbolic of the many preposterous things that were in the air back then. Many drafts and a couple of years later the underwear was gone and the essay became ‘Berkeley Revisited,’ in homage to one of my favorite books, Brideshead Revisited.

I’m happy to say the essay is now in print and online at Adelaide Literary Magazine, and you can read it here.

Go Bears!

 

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

zz Alice Lowe.jpgBy Alice Lowe

You hate writing from prompts, because you’re no good at it, because despite the human brain’s instantaneous capacity to absorb new input and coordinate an appropriate response, you cannot put pencil to paper with any degree of intelligence or coherence. Within seconds of hearing a prompt—prompts like “write about saying goodbye” or “riding the all-night train” or “a pool of blue water”—all potentially interesting and challenging topics—you’re at a loss, stammering internally, increasingly anxious as a fleeting memory or opening line evades you, as any possible direction remains out of reach.

You look around the table—prompt-writing usually takes place in a small group around a table—you look around as the prompt is being read, and at the dropped voice, the sound of the concluding period (or ellipsis) ending the prompt, it’s as if a starting shot has been fired, heads down, pens and pencils moving in notebooks with seeming constancy…

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How did I come to write about 19th-century Arctic exploration? It started with a song, as I explain in my essay “The Idea of North.” One thing led to another, and I was off on a tangent of research & reading, trying to make sense of such a diverse body of findings.

Surely, some might think, she’s not going to be able to fit Virginia Woolf into this one! But my work has a strong literary component, and Woolf belongs by virtue of my quest starting while I was staying in her home village and by a not-surprising-when-you-think-about-it connection in A Room of One’s Own.

The result was this piece, just published in The Baltimore Review, but my fascination with the subject continues, and I continue to read about polar ice and cold and the people who pursue it from the safety of sunny San Diego. Read “The Idea of North” here.

I doubt that many people, while taking in a panorama of brilliant coral flamingos, would focus on two homely gray squawking creatures sharing their enclosure, but that’s how I discovered the Crested Screamers.

When The Drowning Gull, a charming new addition to the world of lit journals, announced that its second issue would feature “encounters with nature,” I had a feeling I’d found a home for the story of my encounter, “The Cycle of Life.”  Click here and scroll down to my piece. 

And in case you wonder what the little darlings look like:

Image result for crested screamer image

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