Spring and summer brought many firsts to Philadelphia Stories: our first contest, the Rosemont Writer’ s Retreat, and the launch of PS Books, our new regional books division.
Helen Mallon won the First Person Essay Contest with her essay, My Charlie Manson, published in this issue. Judge and contest sponsor , author Kelly Simmons (Standing Still), had this to say about the winning essay, “[My CharlieManson] was a subtle, affecting essay that took a lot of courage to reveal.”We’d also like to congratulate Victoria Barnes on her runner-up essay, Anthony—A Love Story, which can be found on our website. Thanks to all who participated!
When did you decide to become a children’s book author?
I grew up in suburban New Jersey drawing and painting. I realized pretty early on that I liked to tell stories with pictures. I found the narrative aspect of it very appealing. As a kid, I read countless comic books and watched old movies, and it came into focus when I went to art school. I began to feel books were the form in which I wanted to do my art. I knew I didn’t want to do comic books — that world at the time seemed to stop at 14-year-old boys – and picture books felt like the right place.
Marigold, chrysanthemum sprawl
across the garden, smelling like some acrid
medicine when you tear the stems, but the stink
of ivy’s worse, like air inside a rotting
log. A plant so tough should cure your worst
disease. You’ve burned your hand? Try ivy
as a poultice, leaves across your blisters
tied with the stringy roots until, despairing,
the burns agree to heal.
My lover has two glass eyes.
She plucks them out
and we shoot them like marbles
in my driveway. At parties, she floats
them in the punch bowl,
and waits for the screams
after they are scooped into a cup.
The spring I turn fourteen I notice Steve. He is tall with slanted eyes and long black hair. I love him instantly.
Summer dawns, humid and sweet. Steve invites me to get a little drunk under the trees. The two of us drink wine from red plastic tumblers. When we kiss he tastes like cinnamon gum.why does he taste like gum when he’s been drinking wine? I spend years chasing that moment.
Your mom told me write this down, just in case. She worries. Never tells me straight out I should quit, but she thinks it all the time. I know. I see it in those looks. Those big bright eyes make you feel like you better come up with something quick and you find yourself thinking, what?
February. Plowed hills of gray snow bordered Philadelphia, block after block. Clattering trains and muddy sidewalks echoed unkept promises and, each day on the busy streets near his office, Walt heard the unnerving chatter of businessmen and false camaraderie. After work, Walt bent in against cold air, crossing icy walkways under the hulking metal of the Ben Franklin Bridge. He wanted nothing more than warmth. Uncomplicated company. At the Waterfront Bar, American flags snapped and collapsed in the shifting winds, and Walt spent the better part of each night there trying not to be so angry.
There’s graffiti on the mushroom shed
painted large, defiant,
in nothing like earth tones.
No brown, no beige, no muted gray,
(colors more appropriate
for the growing fungus within)
but loud raucous
Into the second season
of not eating
there was still Time in me, enough
stored hours to keep trekking
When I insisted that fixing my glasses with a welding torch was a bad idea, my grandfather asked if I’d ever read Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. The book, he said, was about an optometrist who’d made a fortune selling frames.