Shakespeare Is Everywhere: “Shakespeare’s Christmas”

Yes, this is a real story, and no it’s not a joke (at least it doesn’t read that way). This title piece in a short-story collection by writer and literary critic Arthur Quiller-Couch (who wrote under the pseudonym–get ready for it–“Q”) is in fact a bizarre yet clever mashup of Shakespearean narrative and mythology. On the surface, Quiller-Couch is fictionalizing the night that Richard Burbage and the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, unbeknownst to their landlord, took apart The Theatre and transported the lumber to a storage facility near the Thames, where those same building materials would eventually be used to construct the Globe. Sort of a bizarre moment in Shakespearean history in and of itself, but it did happen on December 28, 1599 (not on Christmas eve, which is when Quiller-Couch’s tale is set). On another level, however, the story is a retelling of Henry IV, Part Two, with Shakespeare as Prince Hal and John Shakespeare, William’s father, as Falstaff.

To be honest, I have yet to wrap my brain around this piece, so I have to offer it up to you Fickle Readers in its pure and unanalyzed state. The story is ripe for criticism, though. I invite you to have at it, and if you have any cool observations, please share.

Merry happy, everyone!

Belated Congrats to a Wonderful Armchair Scholar!

A shoutout and a shot of tequila (or maybe hot cocoa is more appropriate these days) to Sari Nichols, auteur of the blog The View from Sari’s World and newly minted holder of a Master’s degree in the Humanities! Congratulations, Sari! Mighty Tiny Bill says he’d offer to pen you a sonnet, but the only writing implements within reach right now are made of plastic.

“Procure me a butt of sack and a gathering of vellum! I’ll ink my genius with mine own blood!”

Stick around for the rest of Sari’s article, where she discusses one of my all-time favorite zany topics, the Shakespeare authorship controversy! Enjoy!

Good Art Break for a God-Awful Day

Wow, what a horrendous 24 hours. We had a hostage siege in Sydney that left the gunman plus two women dead. Then, at virtually the same time, there was news from Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, of an ex-marine who killed his ex-wife and five other members of her extended family (including a 14-year-old girl) and fled the area. (The shooter, Bradley Stone, was found dead in the woods today of an apparent suicide.) Then this morning, there’s news about the Taliban raid on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, in which nine staff members and 132 children were killed. (A further 3 staff members and 121 students were injured, in case you wanted a larger helping of awful with your sandwich of unbelievable horror.) Note that I’m not even talking about the case of Jessica Chambers, the 19-year-old Mississippi woman who died on December 6th because someone poured flammable liquid into her nose and down her throat and set her on fire. (Her death is making news this week because the group Anonymous as well as other bloggers and Internet trolls are leaking information about her case and spreading claims that Chambers was the victim of “gang activity” [read: African Americans], a black boyfriend [although so far there’s no evidence she had a boyfriend at all], and/or Ali Alsanai, the brown-skinned guy who runs the gas station where Chambers spent some of her final moments.) Note I’m also not talking about the report, published yesterday in The Smoking Gun, that details how the star grand jury witness who said she saw Michael Brown act aggressively before being shot down, in fact, lied on the stand and has a history of mental illness and making false statements to police.

For a year that’s boasted some astonishingly heinous, ghastly, and terrifying news, the headlines from today and yesterday are almost too far over the top at being bad. At this point, I’m so exhausted and disheartened and stunned by everything happening in the world that I’m even starting to deplete my thesaurus of synonyms for the word “bad.”

So here’s a little balm to take our collective minds off of the dark, ugly, unutterable badness out there. First, some art:

Yes, we all need rest. Especially me. (My meds have been shot to hell because of some surprise dental surgery I had last week. As in, “Surprise! Your tooth is coming apart!” And let me tell ya, you really know you’re aging when you find yourself discussing your dental surgery on the Internet.) If that rest can occur on a bed of butterflies, please make it happen.

Next, a couple of lovely pieces of writing that I just discovered in Twitterland: “Warriors,” a spare, mythic poem by Thato Angela Chuma; and “Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon,” a short-story by Ken Liu that combines an ancient legend of lost love with a modern tale of two teenage lovers soon to be parted–AND manages to be surprising, real, surreal, and gorgeous in the execution of both elements. (And I’m VERY hard to surprise.)

How about some science and philosophy with that art? Here, courtesy of and created by Kurzgesagt, a German design studio, is a video discussing how life and death may all be the same thing:

And, in case you’d just like some good old-fashioned goofy comedy antics, here’s a skit (also posted on that was cut out of SNL this past weekend. The topic? Santa traps!

Stay safe and happy and peaceful tonight, everyone! Hopefully, tomorrow will look just a teensy bit brighter.


The Goddamned Writing Life: Rejections

Ah, rejections! The bane of the writer’s existence. Like submitting your resumé to hundreds upon hundreds of tiny jobs all the while knowing you’re going to get turned down for each one. No question about it: rejections suck.

Some rejections suck less than others, though. The personalized rejection is always nice: the one where you get a human being giving you some chin-up-style feedback on the other end of the note. Back in the old days, this came in the form of handwriting on the tiny slip of paper you had to dig around for in your SASE. Karen Craigo, then poetry editor for Mid-American Review, was an expert at giving personalized rejections. I got a happy little note, complete with smiley face (that’s a handwritten emoji, for all you young’uns out there), every time I submitted. I think by the time her tenure as poetry editor was over, Karen must have had carpal tunnel syndrome from all the niceness she sent out over the years.

Then there’s the thoroughly amusing rejection, a turn-down so witty or unintentionally hilarious you just can’t stay depressed about it. Wanna hear my latest in this category? Well, here it is, anyway:

Dear Writer,

Thank you for entering the [BLAH BLAH BLAH EXTREMELY PRESTIGIOUS] Prize this year. We received more than [HUGE NUMBER] entries, and were delighted with the high-quality of the work we received. Our contest, and consequently our magazine, is only as good as the writing we receive, and we’re grateful that you gave us the opportunity to read your writing. On behalf of [MEGA-IMPORTANT JOURNAL’s] editorial staff and our contest editor [WRITER OF EMINENCE], I’m pleased to announce our winners and finalists in each category: [A LONG LIST OF WRITERS WHO ARE NOT YOU]

Wait a second, you might be thinking to yourself. This is just standard boilerplate for non-winners of writing contests. How is this thoroughly amusing?

Well, in my case, it’s because I didn’t enter this contest. I’ve searched all over my Submittable account and my email, and I can’t find any evidence that I sent anything to this journal recently. I’m know I’ve entered their contests in past years, but I’ve been passing on award submissions nowadays because a) they’re expensive, b) I never win, and c) I hate not winning.

Not to worry! says Mega-Important Journal. You have such a terrible history with contests that we thought we’d emphasize your miniscule-to-virtually-impossible chances of winning by preemptively rejecting you! That way, you won’t be so surprised when we do reject you next time around!

See why I hate writing contests?

Anyway, my overall point here has been said many times but bears repeating: rejection is part of the writing game. Don’t let it get you down. It’s okay to lick your wounds for a day, especially when you get a thanks-but-no-thanks from a journal you really like. Remember to move on afterward, though. Believe me, the more submissions you’re able to send out into the world, the thicker your skin will grow to the doors closed to you. Keep going until you find that one open door. Then keep pushing until you find a few more that might unlock one day.

Tooting My Own Horn: I Got a Piece Published on the BREVITY Blog!

Did I ever tell you about a guy named Dinty W. Moore, who edits an amazing journal called Brevity? Did I ever tell you what a class act he is, along with being an amazing writer and editor? Did I ever link to his Amazon author page and tell you that his memoir Between Panic and Desire is one of the most inspiring pieces of creative nonfiction I’ve ever read, especially for the sheer amount of possibilities his work opens up in the ways we can tell true stories?

Well, now I’m humbled to report that Dinty chose a mini-essay of mine to feature on Brevity’s wonderful blog. Thanks so very, very much, Dinty, for giving me the opportunity to be part of your publication.

(Of course, if I divulge which of the posts on the Brevity blog is mine, then all you Fickle Readers out there will learn my Super-Secret Identity. Oh, what the hell? The post is here. Enjoy!)