Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Call for Submissions -- Writers Abroad Anthology Kaleidoscope

Expat or formerly expat authors, here is an excellent opportunity to get published! Writers Abroad will begin accepting submissions to their anthology entitled Kaleidoscope on May 1. Whether you are a writer of short prose, flash fiction or poetry, the good and talented folks at Writers Abroad would love to read your work on the theme of LIGHT.

Click HERE for Guidelines.

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Indiana Review, Night Train, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly: the Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, [PANK] blog, Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel, Chicken Soup for the Soul and lots of other good places. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.    

Monday, March 23, 2015

Announcing the Third Annual I Must Be Off! Travel Essay Contest!

It's that time of year again: time to type up those travel articles, travel anecdotes and travel reflections. If it's about travel, we want to read it. We want to read about that place that changed you.We want to read about the experiences you can't wait to share with other travelers. Whether your work is humorous, informative, quirky or profound--we want to read it.

Previous Winners and Placers:

"Oh, Calcutta" by Paola Fornari
"The Scarlet Mile" by Gillian Brown
"Bodrum, Turkey's San Tropez" by Jack Scott
"The Children of Chitwan, Nepal" by Hannah Thompson-Yates
"God's Own Country" by Saahil Acharya

Travel Writer Catherine Sweeney
The 2015 Judge -- Catherine Sweeney of Traveling with Sweeney

Catherine’s passion for travel goes back to her childhood in the Chicago area when her family crisscrossed North America on extensive road trips. Today, as a boomer woman traveler she approaches new destinations as well as familiar favorites with eager anticipation and youthful enthusiasm. On the Traveling with Sweeney website, Catherine and her husband/frequent travel companion (affectionately known on their blog as Mr. TWS) aim to inform, entertain, and inspire seasoned travelers as well as those considering their first travel steps. Through their compelling photos and stories, they highlight the best of destinations, food, wine, history, culture, and the arts with a particular focus on North America and Europe. Catherine is also founder and editor of Boomer Women Travelers, a collaborative site for women of the baby boomer generation to share their travel experiences.

Submission Guidelines:
  • Maximum 1200 words
  • Edited to the best of your ability for spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • Up to three photos may be submitted with your entry. Photos not necessary to win.
  • Previously unpublished work only! Blog posts are considered published.
  • No entry fee. Yes, that's right. You have nothing to lose.
  • Open to anyone worldwide, but you need a PayPal account
  • Entries must be in English
  • One entry per person
  • Deadline for submissions: July 15, 2015
  • Send entries with a 50-word third-person bio to christopher.imustbeoff@gmail.com with the heading TRAVEL ESSAY CONTEST. All entries will be read blind by this year's judge, travel writer Catherine Sweeney It is not necessary to delete identifying information from your entry. If your name appears anywhere, it will be removed before it's forwarded to the judge.
  • Word doc, docx and rtf files only please. 
  • Finalists and Winners announced in August 2015

The Prizes: 
  • The Top essays will be published at I Must Be Off! (Authors retain copyright.)
  • Second place prize: $50
  • First place prize: $200
  • Readers' Choice Award ($50) based on unique hits and comments tallied on September 30.

Good luck and happy writing!

I must be off,
Christopher

_________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Indiana Review, Night Train, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly: the Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, [PANK] blog, Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel, Chicken Soup for the Soul and lots of other good places. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.    

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

RECENT AND FORTHCOMING WORK!!!!

  • "Box of Nazi" at Contrary fall 2014 / winter 2015

  • "Out and Away" in Quiddity spring 2015 (print and audio)

  • "Sisters" at The Miscreant

  • A Kind of Dream by Kelly Cherry--Reviewed by Christopher Allen at Blue Five Notebook Series (Blue Fifth Review)
  • "Dothead" at Spelk Fiction (March 1, 2015) 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

James Taylor Tonight in Munich

I'm going to see James Taylor tonight in Munich. James is one of those singer/songwriters who have accompanied me through life. I've actually had a conversation with him:

"More water, sir?"

"Yes, please."

It was a wonderful conversation, full of pathos, mutual understanding and the clear expression of needs--which is so important in a relationship. I was there for him when he needed me. You might even say he had a friend.

James is also inextricably bound to a road trip I took with two very close friends in 1983 or '84. We'd planned to drive from Nashville to Clearwater, Florida and stay a week. It was probably spring break. We were in my Toyota Starlet, all three sitting sort of in the front because no one wanted to sit in the back. It was our commonly held opinion that the Road Trip was all about community and non-stop singing. The backseat didn't really have a place in this paradigm. That's how the stick shift became front seat number three.

Our one-week trip to Clearwater was not meant to happen though. A couple of days before we left, I got a singing job that required me to show up for rehearsals three days later. We decided to drive to Clearwater anyway, lie on the beach for one day and travel back to Nashville the next. Eighteen hours there, eighteen back.

And we played James Taylor's Greatest Hits for all 36 hours. Or at least I imagine that we did so. I'm sure there were interludes from other artists, but James was the headliner. "Fire and Rain," "Shower the People," "Carolina in My Mind"--we sang them all, over and over and over in three-part harmony. It is well known among my singing friends that I have to sing the highest part. 

And then one of my friends fell down on a grease spot. At a gas station. He wanted to brush his teeth, so he'd loaded his brush and was on his way to the gas station restroom. As he passed in front of the car, he slipped and fell. And this is how the following refrain became history:

When you fall down on a grease spot
And you've got toothpaste in your hair
And nothing, oh nothing is going right

Close your eyes and think of us
And soon we will be there
To laugh, laugh-haugh-haugh
In your face

You get the idea. It was funny then, and we still chuckle about it now though our friend never quite found it as funny as we did. Nevertheless, it is a song in my life's soundtrack. One of the Dixie Chicks once said that James Taylor was basically the soundtrack to her life. Well put.

I love James Taylor . . . and I also love The Dixie Chicks. The Chicks have so much to say about the importance of James Taylor. I couldn't agree more, and there's no way I could say it better.



I must be off (to see if James remembers me from the restaurant 23 years ago)--
But just one more thing. Shower the people you love with love,
Christopher

_____________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Indiana Review, Night Train, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly: the Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, [PANK] blog, Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel, Chicken Soup for the Soul and lots of other good places. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.    
 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

All Things Irish -- The Stories Continue

So I went to the Leprechaun museum in Dublin--to it, not into it. I was expecting the usual sort of museum where you pay your money, get an audio guide and muddle muddily through moldy old halls of incredibly interesting--but at the same time impossibly boring--stuff. The Leprechaun museum in Dublin is actually a tour of Irish lore through storytelling, with a real person telling you the stories. This may sound like grand fun to you, but I was having daymares of being the only person on the tour and having to listen intently to a storyteller for an hour. It was the middle of the day mid-week a few days after Christmas. There was no one else in the queue. It would have been embarrassing for both the tour guide and myself--especially if he was one of those storytellers who's overanimated. I might have had a laugh attack, and there would have been no tourists to hide behind. I decided to save the Leprechaun museum-slash-storytelling adventure for another time when I'm in a group of wide, hide-behindable people. I went to the pub instead to read a book and have a pint of cider.

While we're waiting for my wonderful Leprechaun storytelling adventure, I thought I'd let you know how I'm doing on my Irish literature list given to me by Irish writer friends. If you need a refresher, go HERE, but come right back!

I started with Edna O'Brien's The Country Girls Trilogy, and what an amazing start it was. How do you dog-ear an entire 550-page book? It's hard, especially when you want to dog-ear back and front two or three times. Sadly, my response to O'Brien's prose, her characters, and her narrative choices in general are stuff for something more ambitious and serious than this blog; but I'll let you know when that is published elsewhere. For now just know that Edna O'Brien rules. That sounds pat, but there you are. She's a master.

OK, here's something that will also be big fun: I can let you in on some Irish vocabulary I've learned from The Country Girls Trilogy. So much of Ireland's character, or that of any other country for that matter, relies on language. And it just so happens that I love language. Here are a few new--or sort of new--expressions I've learned:

a press -- a cupboard for linens

to feck something -- to steal or take without asking. This word has other meanings, and is also a morpheme in the standard-usage word feckless (irresponsible, lazy), and it is also used as a mild oath.

eejit -- A stupid person as in "You're a right looking eejit." This word has burst the borders of Ireland I think. It's become so used that you've surely heard it. I know I have. People call me this all the time.

minerals -- sodas or, as we call them where I'm from, co-colas (regardless of the flavor)

to link someone -- Now this might sound like you want to hurt the person, but in Irish English it means to walk arm-in-arm with him/her. Or at least I hope this is what it means. Irish friends to the rescue, please!

Are these expressions new to you? The official word for Irish English is Hiberno English (from Hibernia or the Latin name for the island of Ireland). You can read more about it HERE.

This week I'll be reading The Gathering by Anne Enright. Can't wait to tuck into that.

If you're in need of a bit of reading this week, you could check out my story "Other Household Toxins" at the very cool journal Night Train. Clicking on THIS LINK will make you 84% prettier. 

I must be off,
Christopher

________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Indiana Review, Night Train, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly: the Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, [PANK] blog, Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel, Chicken Soup for the Soul and lots of other good places. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.    













Saturday, January 31, 2015

Plain Etiquette -- Lessons from a Wise Sky

Plane etiquette should actually be called plain etiquette. The way we treat people on planes is the way we treat people. Period. Plain and simple.

Recently I've seen several posts and videos about passengers behaving badly on planes: people clipping their toenails, people sleeping with their bare feet stuck into the air above the person in front of them, people poking their feet through the gap in the seats. Come to think of it, most of the posts and videos focus on feet.


Not Everyone Loves Your Feet

Do you take your shoes off in the plane? On long-haul flights I do. It's the first thing I do actually after I sit down. I'm also a teensie-weensie bit fanatical about keeping my shoes smelling fresh. Some people consider taking your shoes off on a plane bad manners, but you take your shoes off when you visit someone's home in Europe or Asia--or at least you ask if you should or shouldn't. And just like when you visit someone's home, you might want to bring along some sturdy "plane socks" for the ride especially if your feet are ugly. Taking your shoes off on a plane is only gross if you're gross. Some honest reflection is required here.


From the website "Rage Against the Minivan"
Lean Back and Relax

The drama of when and how to lean back in your seat is a matter of much discussion--not enough, though, since most people don't quite get it. I've had countless encounters. Here's the plain plane etiquette:

The seat is designed to lean back, therefore you have the right to lean back (I'm sure Descarte would have agreed). If the person behind you is angry about this, she or he needs to write a letter to some agency or something. But just because you have this right, it doesn't mean you can use it whenever you want. There are a few unwritten rules:

1. Lean back only once the plane has reached cruising altitude.
2. Lean back slowly. The person behind you might have his/her head against the seat. This person is probably suffering from depression, so for God's sake have mercy.
3. Return your seat to the upright position during meals. Flight attendants used to insist on this, but they've given up on reminding people. They have enough to do.
4. Check to make sure the person behind you doesn't have his smelly feet in the gap between your seat and the one next to you. You might injure him as you lean back. Just because someone else is a pig, doesn't mean you have to be one too.


From Jab iPad Sleeves
Caress, Don't Pummel

On many planes, the video/music screens are touch activated, like an iPad. If you're not used to using an iPad, you might think you need to punch the Hell out of that screen to get it to work. You don't. Or you shouldn't. The screens don't work very well to tell the truth. Sometimes you have to touch the screen in just the right way to get it to work (think rocky relationship); most require a simple yet subtly firm touch--not a jab. Thing is, every time you jab that screen, you're jabbing the guy in front of you. I've seen these altercations dozens of times. "Do you mind????!!!!" says the guy you've been poking for 30 minutes as you browse-jab through the R&B selections. You can't find Beyoncé to save your life. The guy you've pissed off is usually 20 feet taller than you and stinky. "I can't find Beyoncé," you whimper. "That's not my problem!" A piece of chicken, beef or tortellini flies out of his mouth and sticks to your face. "I'll just read," you say. "Reading's for sissies," he says. And you wonder why he doesn't put his seat in the upright position during meals.



There's a Time to Talk and a Time to Shut Your Cakehole

Have you been in this situation? The one where the human next to you introduces himself when he sits down and then never--never once, not even for two seconds--stops talking to you?

Time on airplanes is cherished writing time for me. Transatlantic flights are 8 hours when I'm strapped to a seat with pen and paper in my hand--something I'd introduce at home if I had (more) straps.

How to know whether the person sitting next to you is an introverted writer who needs his writing time:

1. He doesn't smile or introduce himself when you do it. He might even wince or try to shield himself from your onslaught of blah blah blah.
2. He keeps touching his journal in a tender, longing way.
3. His contribution to your conversation ambush in the last two hours has been a couple of  "Um"s and one "I'll be right back. Nature's calling." He leaves with pen and paper and doesn't come back for an hour (only because a flight attendant made him leave the lavatory).
4. When you ask what his star sign is, he says he doesn't have one. Freaky, yes, but true he says.
5. You have asked him 4587 questions to his 0.
6. He does not react with sympathy when you tell him the story of when you lost your first, second and third dogs--though you are weeping uncontrollably and he is--at heart--at dog person. 

There are several types of chatterboxes. There's the guy who needs to brag (about where he's off to and what he does and all the places he's ever been to), the woman who needs to figure you out and help you (because you're just a stupid man with a wilted capacity for understanding human emotion), the person who's into you and thinks rattling on for six hours non-stop is attractive, and the person who is insane and needs to tell you all about it. None of these people is the friendly guy who just enjoys a friendly conversation. Friendly people don't monopolize your time for hours and hours. To avoid this situation, all you have to do is one or a combination of the following:

Beyoncé
1. Put in your earbuds and pretend to listen to music even if you can't find Beyoncé. Really, she should be easier to find on planes.
2. Pretend to be asleep until chatterbox falls asleep. Sleeping people snore a little. Practice this.
3. Fart.
4. Be rude. Come clean. Tell the person you need to write . . . a letter. Whatever you do, don't tell the person you're a writer. This will start an entirely new conversation, not about your writing--oh no, he doesn't give a flying rat's behind about you--but about the chatterbox's ideas for his own book about his own life. He's always wanted to be a writer. His life is so fascinating and tragic--the dogs dying and all--and inspiring and so emotional.
5. If you haven't spoken yet or indicated that you can hear, pretend to be deaf. Can you sign? Learn a few elementary words. If you have no time for this, pretend to be Albanian. No one speaks Albanian. Hell, I'm not even sure it's a language.


Bags, Bags and More Bags

How many carry-on bags do you try to smuggle onto a plane where only one is allowed? Are you the person who basically looks like a pack mule coming down the aisle? Purses, pillows, teddy bears, six bottles of gin from duty-free, a tricyle. Where do you think you're going to put all this shit? And why do you look so surprised and helpless when you can't find a place to put it all? Especially if you're the last person to board the plane?

It might come as a surprise to you, but the engineer who designed the airplane actually had in mind what kind of luggage would fit up there in that bin. There was actually a method to all this overhead bin madness.

Are you the person who brings the largest case allowed onto the plane and then puts it in the overhead bin sideways? It will fit--it's designed to fit--with the bottom of the case in the back and the handle in front of the bin. Three large cases will fit this way. If you put yours in sideways, only one will fit in there until the flight attendant comes and rearranges everything for the other passengers while you're texting on your iPhone, totally oblivious to the work you've caused.

If you're seated in the emergency exit row, put your bags in the overhead bin for take-off and landing. You have to, so why not do it before the flight attendant has to ask you three times? The emergency exit rows have to be completely clear--nothing at all under the seat in front of you--for take-off and landing. I can't tell you how many times I've watched this happen. I rarely say anything. It's not my job. But I watch it happen: the woman stuffing her purse, her coat, her tricycle under the seat in front of her, getting everything all nice and snug. Then the flight attendant comes and explains the rules to her. The passenger then pretends to start moving stuff to the overhead bin (where there is no room actually because she's waited so long to do this), but then rubber-necks to see if the flight attendant has stopped watching her and starts stuffing the stuff back under the seat. The flight attendant comes back and says something like "I mean business, honey. You have to put that stuff in the overhead bin." "OK, OK," the passenger says and laughs like all of this is so unnecessary and the flight attendant is making her do something compeletly stupid. The same procedure: passenger pretends to put stuff up top but then doesn't; flight attendant comes back and does the crap transfer for the passenger. Passenger does not stop talking about how stupid and unreasonable the flight attendant is until plane reaches cruising altitude. I've seen it a dozen times.  

Oh how I love writing these Lessons from a Wise Sky posts. I feel as if I've done two hours of yoga. You certainly have some peeves of your own to add to my list.

Namaste and I must be off,
Christopher

___________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Indiana Review, Night Train, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly: the Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, [PANK], Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel, Chicken Soup for the Soul and lots of other good places. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.