Tag Archives: This Is Sarah

Hey World. I’d like you to meet Sarah

10 Mar

I clam up when I’m upset. It’s a frustrating problem to have because when you have someone sitting across from you willing to listen and you have so much you need to say and you just…..can’t.

I imagine I look an awful lot like  guppy, my mouth just opening and closing.

What I can do though, is write about it. The vast majority of my poetry is as real as I get with strangers. The last one, Better Luck Next Year, probably the most naked I’ve ever gotten.

But sometimes I can do it with fiction.

In 2014 I wrote a book called This Is Sarah.

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It was a simple story about grief, but I packed all my heartbreak, all my denial, all my sadness into a suitcase and I put in the hands of Colin, my main character, and I watched him walk away with it.

The story centers on two characters, Colin and Clare both of whom are trying to navigate the barren landscape that is life without Sarah – Colin’s girlfriend and Clare’s big sister.

When Colin Leventhal leaned out his bedroom window on the night of May 12th and said goodbye to his girlfriend, he never expected it would be forever. But when Sarah Evans goes missing that night, Colin’s world unravels as he transforms from the boyfriend next door to the main police suspect. Then one year later, at her memorial service, Colin makes a phone call that could change everything. Is it possible that Sarah is still alive? And if so, how far will he go to bring her back?

And as Colin struggles with this possibility, across the street, Sarah’s little sister Claire learns how to navigate the strange new landscape that is life without her sister. Even as her parent’s fall apart, Claire is determined to keep on going. Even if it kills her.

THIS IS SARAH is a meditation on loss, love, and what it means to say goodbye.

Sarah was for many reasons one of the easiest things I have ever written – and by easy I meant, Colin was right there in my head every time I turned toward him. I don’t know if I believe that some books write themselves but….this one wanted out.

This month, my publisher, Bookfish Books, is offering This Is Sarah for 99 cents on Amazon. I can promise you, you’re going to get a heck of a lot of emotion for less than a dollar if you take them up on it.

Here’s some things readers have said:

I haven’t read a book that has kept me up for a long time, but this book made sure i was not sleeping until the final page. Brilliantly written, the reader is listening to their friends talk to them.

and…

Sitting down to write this review, it dawned on me that in some ways Ally’s book reminds me Jodi Picoult’s work. Take that as high praise because she is one of my absolute favorite authors. Both women are capable of bringing incredibly tough and emotional material to life in the pages of their books. I am a complete sucker for a well-written book that tries to tear my heart to pieces.

and…

The prose in this book—it’s beautiful, bordering on poetic. Not a single word is extraneous. As somber as the tone of the book is, it never feels overwrought or cloying. Every line of dialogue sounds like it would be spoken by an actual person.

So if you’re curious what to expect, this is Colin:

I get up early to run, because it’s easier in the morning. There’s no one up yet at five am, and the streets belong to me. I don’t even bring music anymore. I only want to hear the steady thwack of my sneakers on the pavement, the rustle of leaves in the breeze and the huff of air coming out of my lungs. It sets up a rhythm that allows my brain to shut off for a while so my mind stays empty.

Not thinking feels good. It’s one of the few things that still feels good.

I crest the hill at the top of Cedarhurst and pick up speed going down. My lungs feel clean and clear, and I think about sprinting the last five or six blocks back to my driveway. My energy seems a little low, but I figured I can probably push it.

The sound of my feet hitting the pavement intensifies and I pump my arms hard, small tears forming in my eyes from the wind. I clear my mind. I am no longer Colin. I’m just muscle, tissue and bone; a complex and delicate machine pushing its way against gravity and inertia, covering distance on this rock floating in the darkness of an ever-expanding space.

When Claire pulls her bike alongside me I nearly jump out of my skin. Where the hell did she come from? She pedals hard, riding off the seat, her blonde hair whipping back. She passes me and looks back and smiles. As the distance between us grows, I’m overcome with loss, and a sort of panic, like I need to catch up to her. I’m not sure what it is, but I watch her move away from me, her blonde hair streaming, her legs working the pedals and every muscle in my body screams to catch her.

Suddenly Claire is everything in the world, everything beautiful, alive, peaceful, and good, and it’s all getting away from me.

The farther she gets from me, the closer she gets to the monsters and all I want in the world is for Claire to always be safe.

Jesus Christ, I just want to be able to save one of them.

She looks back at me once and smiles before pumping the pedals again. In that moment, that small bright moment, her hair and her smile reflecting the early morning sun, she looks just like Sarah. Just like Claire looked that day in the hallway.

Suddenly I feel so hollow and empty, carved out like the husk of some dead cicada. I watch her get away from me and feel more lost than ever before. She rounds the bend and disappears from my line of sight, something inside of me snaps and I stumble forward. My feet now clumsy, my balance thrown off, until I stop, bent, heaving, coughing, spitting foam, my heart wild inside me. In my head, an image forms of Sarah when I made her laugh so hard she nearly choked on her sandwich at the diner.

That was Sarah.

Sarah and me, in a moment we won’t have again. A moment that was once real but now feels like it belonged to another life. Neither of us foresaw it ending this way.

The year before or the week before or the day before. We never saw it coming.

If I knew when she stood on that driveway, staring up at me, with me hanging out of the window looking down at her, if I knew, I would have told her everything.

And this, is Clare:

They found her red Chuck Taylor sneakers five miles from where her car was, deep in the woods.

One was unlaced, as if she had undone it and slipped her foot out of it right there under that canopy of trees.

The other was still tied.

Snow filled them like little red candies covered in sugar.

In the police station, in that evidence bag, they seemed so small, as the snow slowly melted off them, staining the fabric and dripping into the bottom of the bag. I couldn’t imagine them fitting Sarah’s feet. I couldn’t imagine them fitting my own.

Sarah’s empty shoes.

I thought about how they’d never be worn again. How she would never slide her foot inside, how her fingers would never tug those laces and loop them closed.

Her room back home was filled with things that would go unused. They’d just sit there, waiting for Sarah to come home, collecting dust.

All the things Sarah left behind.

When I saw the shoes, sitting in the police station, a noise escaped me. Not quite a sob, but a cry—a shock of disbelief—and my hope retreated as I realized I was now one of those things. Like her clothes, her jewelry, her records or her shoes.

I was just another thing Sarah left behind.

So there it is.

This is Sarah.

99 cents.

This month.

And if you do get, and read it, I would love to know what you think.

 

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

 

 

Everyday Sexism, with a Twist (more spoilers) and some Thank Yous in the New Year

5 Jan

Happy New Year kids!

Before we talk some more about Star Wars, I need to do a little recap and say thank you to some people who were end-of-the-year awesome.

First off, thanks to Mark Lindberg who wrote this really wonderful review of This Is Sarah (which you can buy here for 99 pennies!) including the following:

Colin’s hope and single-mindedness is infectious, it’s hard not to believe him, extremely hard not to root for him, but at the same time, we hear the people around him constantly telling him he has become dangerously obsessed and possibly delusional, which it’s also hard not to believe. A fantastically complex place to put me in as reader!

You can read the whole thing here.

And if 99 pennies is more than you want to spend you can throw your hat in the ring for the 2 copies that we’re giving away on Goodreads here. I’ll sign them for you! Entries are open for the next 13 days.

Secondly I want to thank Susan Tepper for her really wonderful review of my new poetry book How To Be An American:

Every poem in this collection is rock-solid and jarring. If you care about the world at large, you might want to read this intelligent, captivating book by Ally Malinenko who is not afraid to speak out. Most highly recommended.

*Blushes*

You can read her whole review here. And if you want, you can also enter the Goodreads giveaway (also 2 copies) which also ends in 13 days!

Yay books!

Thirdly, many thanks to Peter at Portside for giving this poem about East Germany a home. I have done an absolutely terrible job of sending out poems (or writing them for that matter) so the fact that I have anything to share at all is basically a miracle.

And finally, I started a new novel while the other resides in submission hell causing me to refresh my email like a psychopath and habitually curse out any spam that appears. The new thing is still a gooey mess but a) I don’t hate the first 3K plus words (which is a miracle) and b) I’m excited to work on the next few chapters (also a miracle).  Oh and I’m trying really hard to not say “What Would Rey Do?” every single time my MC opens her mouth….. just every other time.

Okay so STAR WARS…..POSSIBLE SPOILERS YOU’VE BEEN WARNED

I posted some spoilers last week after I saw it and it included my excitement that my niece Neve will have a character like Rey to look up to and because I knew that my sister was having trouble finding a Rey toy, I offered to brave the Disney Store in TIMES SQUARE (that’s how much I love Neve) to see if they had anything. They didn’t. Neither did the comic book shops. Or book stores. Or anywhere toys are sold.

Because apparently Hasbro screwed up big time prompting a #WheresRey hashtag.

So they got this:

Rey

Annie Rose, ladies and gentlemen, taking us to church!

Hasbro responded with this:Rey

Right, sure. Insert massive eye roll here. Because, lest we forget both Mattel and Hasbro neglected to include Black Widow in the sets for Age of Ultron and worse THEY GAVE HER MOTORCYCLE TO CAPTAIN AMERICA AND FREAKING IRON MAN.

So while we were in Forbidden Planet we saw this, hanging on the wallorphan black

That’s hands down the most bad ass Orphan Black t-shirt, a show I adore, in which Tatiana Maslany plays 4 amazing clones. My husband is also a fan of this show and when he saw the shirt he audibly squealed and then said, “What do they mean, ‘women only’?” because next to it was a little sign saying exactly that.

That shirt is available in women’s sizes only (i.e. cut tight). No sizes for him.

There were other “women only” t-shirts on display at Forbidden Planet. They included Ms. Marvel, Lumberjanes (which won the Eisner btw) Ghost World and Orphan Black.

All shows/comics with women in the main role.

And it’s not really Forbidden Planet’s fault. The makers of the shirts didn’t bother to make a male version. Because what red blooded American Male would want to walk around with a WOMAN on their shirt??? How embarrassing. And what boy would want to play with a  GIRL flying the Millennium Falcon?? GASP!

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Hmmm…Chewie, BB8 and Finn. Last time I checked, neither BB8 nor Finn flew that fucking ship. Ever.

Makers of things: Men can’t be allies against sexism if we don’t give them a chance to be proud of strong female characters. That’s pretty obvious, right?

Everyday sexism, kids, with a twist.

It’s 2016. We shouldn’t be having these conversations anymore.

 

Flying Monkeys, Books and the Cold Unfeeling Universe

4 Dec

Where the flying monkeys did this year go?

I mean honestly. I distinctly remember whole days in January 2015 and there is no way way they were 12 months ago.

Anyway I wanted to do a whole book blog about what I read this year but that’s going to wait till next time because we got some other things to talk about. Good? Good.

 

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First and foremost How to Be An American is out in the wild and for sale!

Here’s proof:

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That handsome devil up in the left hand corner is none other than Oscar Varona, the amazing artist who created the cover collage. And that sly fox on the right is Aida.

Aida is a phenomenal artist. Here’s a bit of her work:

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Those are from a series she did on women who influence her. Incredible.

As for my book, someone needs to give a copy for Christmas to their super Team USA relative so they can write a scathing review on amazon calling me communist and telling me to love it or leave it. Seriously. Can we make this happen?

Until then, here’s what Jessica Fenlon had to say:

drawcloseGot @AllyMalinenko‘s “How to Be an American” today – so happy to read these ‘rejected’ poems! The tough kind to write – and to read – thin clear slices of moments, the good part of Bukowski, walking a line leaning to one side and then another but never falling down, never tangling really. So clear when we hit the drop-lines in the poems they sink into you. Sometimes there isn’t a drop, sometimes it’s a slow eddy, a dance with an idea I myself have considered. I like the steps Ms. Malinenko takes . . . 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 (5 of 5 stars)

So the book is on amazon – but I’ve got a few copies in my hot little hands that I will sell to you for less than the drones at Amazon so by all means hit me up in the comments or via email (ally dot malinenko at gmail dot com) if you’re interested. And if you’ve got something creative you cooked up I’d be happy to do a swap!

In addition, Bookfish Book who published This Is Sarah has lowered the price of the ebook to 99 pennies. I may be biased but I think it might be worth that.

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Also the other morning while I was staring at the wall wondering what the hell I was going to do with my writing mornings now that my sci fi book is done, I spotted a few copies of Sarah just sitting there looking all sad and lonely and wishing that they were in the hands of readers so I decided that because I don’t visit the post office nearly enough, I would do a goodreads giveaway. So that’s in the works in case you want to try and win a copy.

Next up, in the book department is this little number:

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I’ve certainly crowed about how much I love Jersey Devil Press here before but seriously, they’re such a great home for all us little weirdos. I’m over the moon honored to have not one, but TWO (I know, right!) stories in their anthology. The first is Paper Heart and the second is Vital: A Love Story (which was written for Eirik and Monica when they were going through some serious shit)

I’m super excited about this because honestly, I love these two stories so very much. And I’m honored to be included in such a great collection.

So a huge thank you to Laura and Sam and Eirik and Mike.

And while I’m dishing out the thanks, thanks to Richard Vargas and his amazing Mas Tequila Review for including some of my poems in the new issue, which I have been pleasure delaying the end of because I don’t want it to stop.

And thanks to Drunk Monkeys for publishing Telling All My Secrets about that super crappy day I had to spill the beans to my amazing parents about having cancer.

Another of my favorites, Clockwise Cat, also included two of my poems in their new Clockwise Cat Strikes Back Issue. Thanks you timely feline.

And because it’s the end of the year, it’s award time so a million trillion starburst-y thanks to Drunk in Midnight Choir for nominating me for a Pushcart. It’s an incredible honor that out of all the amazing pieces that DMC published this year, they highlighted mine.

And finally, here’s an interview I did with Your One Phone Call

What is your writing process?

I write a sentence. I re-read the sentence. I change the sentence. I polish the sentence. I re-read the sentence. I delete the sentence.

This goes on for years.

And because it bares saying in the wake of the Paris attacks, the multiple mass shootings in the US, the Syrian refugees desperately trying to find safety, the UK deciding to bomb Syria, the GOP turning into the party of hate and whatever retaliation Putin is planning for Turkey………..Please for the love of the Cold Unfeeling Universe, hug your babies tight.

And remember…”We are all passengers pitching downward into the night…so get up and help someone.”

 

Peace, love and Starbursts,

Ally

 

 

 

This Is Sarah Turns One

13 Jul

Hi kids

So here we are….in the middle of July already.

Crazy.

Back on July 4th, THIS IS SARAH turned 1.

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Suddenly Claire is everything in the world, everything beautiful, alive, peaceful, and good, and it’s all getting away from me.

The farther she gets from me, the closer she gets to the monsters, and all I want in the world is for Claire to always be safe.

Jesus fucking Christ, I just want to be able to save one of them.

It’s weird to me that this book has been around for a year because it feels so much shorter and then oddly enough so much longer. I was reading through my old journal the other day – seeing what I was up to this time last year…as if I forgot.

One month into diagnosis, my cancer still a secret from my parents, my father crazy sick in the hospital and my first (of three) surgeries looming on the horizon – the only thing that was holding me upright (aside from my husband and sisters) was working on Sarah.

I know that writing is never “effortless” but there are those times where a story wants to be told so badly that it really helps you out in the unfolding. That was Sarah. And thank god for it. Because it was the only time during the day, at 5 am squirreled into my little writing closet, that CANCER wasn’t everything. It’s like my brain shut the fuck up for awhile and just let me work. I’m eternally thankful for that.

Art saves.

If you haven’t read it and you’re interested, here’s what people think and here’s where you can get it. Or email me and I can get it to you. Contact is under the About tab.

In other news, I’ve got some poems published here, here and here. So thanks to Eye on Life and Yellow Chair Review for giving them a home.

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Writing on the new book is going surprisingly well. I’m acknowledging that so that when I get to the stage where I’m all “EVERYTHING IS SO AWFUL WHY DO I WRITE I HATE LIFE” I can look back and remember it didn’t always feel that way. I think part of it is that it’s based on semi-true events (During high school I fell off a waterfall, cracked my skull open and simultaneously got my heart broken) and the characters are semi-based on real people. Also I feel like emotionally, a large chunk of me still lives in that time – when I was sixteen and fucked up and everything I couldn’t say but wanted to could be put into a mixtape. Music spoke for me.

Wound up having an interesting conversation when I posted about the art of making a mixtape and how playlists just aren’t the same. As a friend pointed out, you can make a list on spotify but once someone hits shuffle it messes up your continuity. With a mixtape you were THERE, you were IN, from start to finish. There was an art to it. It was a thing that was crafted with love for a specific person. They were the audience. It mattered what song followed which song.

AND it mattered what sort of tape you used. TDK? Maxell? Memorex? A great mix on a good quality tape? That was love. Real love.

First love.

Like, I said, it’s just not the same with a playlist. Something has been lost in the translation.

At the same time I’ve been working on my query letter for Palimpsest with the always incredible Brad Abraham, screenwriter, creator of the comic Mixtape and the soon to be released Magicians Impossible (St. Martin’s Press). You want to know what I’ve learned so far?

It’s much easier to write a 113K word novel combining physics, Nietzsche, chess, time travel and memory over the course of 5 (ahem) years than it is to write a 300 word query explaining it. I should have started this bloody thing when I started the novel. Basically the problem is that a query is full of all the stuff that your writing instinct says “don’t do.” Like asking a question and then answering it. Things like this:

“So WILL Ally ever learn how to write a decent punchy query that agents will actually want to read? Probably when she’s done banging her head against the wall.”

Brad has been unendingly patient as we go through draft after draft after draft after draft after……

And finally, because it’s time, this is going to be my summer.

Toronto-Book-Fair-Ulysses

As the kids say,

StiflerPeace, love and starbursts,

Ally

Moar Pie for Everyone, or Why Simon Pegg was right

20 May

Hi.

So I made it (barely) through my first week of post-trip hangover. It wasn’t easy. More than one cookie were consumed. I had no choice, I tell you!

But some cool things did come up, like my getting to talk to Vanessa Barger about This Is Sarah and writing and Antarctica. Thanks Vanessa! And speaking of Sarah, Apryl at Apryl Showers was kind enough to share her thoughts on This Is Sarah.

Set in a small town, where no one would believe such horrors would occur, the abduction of Sarah  Evans ricochets through everyone from school friends to neighbours. There is an incredibly realistic feel to the novel. The pace is even, with a slow tempo allowing you to really engage with the emotions of each character. In fact the reader could almost be one of the neighbours or a school pupil – someone who knows of the missing girl but has no real personal connection.

Many thanks to Apryl for her kind words. And in the thanks department, thanks to Mad Swirl for publishing Premonitions of a Sash, and to Cultured Vultures for Radiation Day 22 and to Blue Hour who published Radiation Day 24, Radiation Day 26 and Radiation Day 30.

During treatment I got a lot of mileage about my own fear and experience and out of my husband’s but it wasn’t until I was in radiation every single day, sitting next to the same people that I really started to understand what my friend Don was talking about when he said:

Funny thing, one thing nobody ever said to me – in this time when you will be so inward looking, so concerned with self, make sure you look about you as you go for regular treatments.

The staff, the fellow patients – there is so much there to take in, so much about who we are as humans, how we handle things. How we share, especially casually, in greeting, even silently, in the nod of a head or a smile. 

I didn’t say much during radiation. I came in, changed, kept my headphones in, forced myself to return their smiles, muttered a good morning and hoped my wait wouldn’t be too long. The waiting room was in fact the hardest part of radiation treatment. Just me, at 37, with a bunch of much older people. I tried to block it out. But you can’t block something all the time for 38 days in a row. You just can’t. So little by little, Anna, and Maria, Betty, the guy I called The Angel cause he was dressed in white from head to toe and the Russian guy who didn’t talk to anyone and the old black woman who was getting full brain radiation – all of them just sort of crept into my life. I found out from The Angel that she lost her sense of taste. I remember him sitting there, shaking his head asking, “Can you imagine anything worse? Not being able to taste anything at all?”
It was comments like that which helped shake me out myself. That made me look around the room, and as Don said, really see this moment in my life.
I hope I did all of them a bit of justice on the page. They were good people who like me, were stuck somewhere terrible. They made the best of it. I hope they’re doing okay now.

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In other news, (and getting to the point of this post) I just finished reading On Interpretations and Other Essays, the classic Susan Sontag book. I’ve only read her interviews prior to this so I really enjoyed it, though there were some high and low points as with all books. My favorite essays were On Interpretations with its stellar conversation about form and content, and On Culture and the New Sensibility – which though written in 1965 is very relevant today with the constant high vs low art debates. Because SURPRISE, SURPRISE, the internet is MAD again.

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The new sensibility is definitely pluralistic; it is dedicated both to an excruciating seriousness and to fun and wit and nostalgia. It is also extremely history-conscious; and the voracity of its enthusiasms (and of the supercession of these enthusiasms) is very high-speed and hectic. From the vantage point of this new sensibility, the beauty of a machine or of the solution to a mathematical problem, of a painting by Jasper Johns, of a film by Jean-Luc Goddard, and of the personalities and music of the Beatles is equally accessible.

So this time Simon Pegg is in the hot seat for his comments about comic book movies. He has, as required in this age of super-sensitive interneting, issued an apology. But before we all pat him on the back I think we need to take a look at what he’s ACTUALLY saying:

“Now we’re essentially all-consuming very childish things – comic books, superheroes. Adults are watching this stuff, and taking it seriously.”

This morning on my way to work I listened to Claude Debussy’s Prelude A l’Apres Midi D’un Faune (Afternoon of the Faun). I don’t listen to Claude much on my walk (or really much classical because of the trucks on 5th avenue). It opens with a harp. Upon the first note, I immediately thought of this:

That’s a scene from one of my favorite episodes of The Monkees where Peter sells his soul to the devil to learn how to play the harp.

Do you see where I’m going here?

Debussy = sounds lovely = Happy Ally

The Monkees =  goofy laughs = Happy Ally.

That’s the point of art. And variety makes for good “art-ing.” I think the #IReadYA thing is great but if you ONLY read YA, well…..you’re missing out. I’m sorry but you just are. It’s just as bad if you only read the New York Times Bestseller List or if you only read “literary” fiction written by white guys in Manhattan. White guys in Manhattan don’t know everything there is about this world. You’re limiting your own experiences if that’s all you’re reading.

If you’re only getting one small slice of the art pie, you’re not getting enough pie. MOAR PIE!

Now what I think Pegg here is talking about is that there are A LOT of comic book movies. Since 2010 there have been about 30 superhero movies made. THIRTY! And the reason there are so many is cause they make money. For me, his criticism is about the fact that we are paying the industry to keep feeding us the SAME THING OVER AND OVER AGAIN.  Honestly when I think about the money spent on these movies, I feel dizzy. But as long as we keep forking over our paychecks the industry will keep churning it out. That’s how business works. What are we getting out of watching the Hulk smash things? Do we really need another Spiderman reboot?

There has always been and will always be good science fiction and fantasy out there. Moon and Europa Report were two really well done movies that I walked away THINKING about. Come on, an alien that helps humans BE more human by trying to understand them? That’s why it’s classic. That has staying power.

Look, I love sci-fi. I love fantasy. I also love Godard. These things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. One of the best comments I ever got in my life was when someone looked at my goodreads list and said “wow….you’re all over the place.”

Yes, I am. Proudly.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure that Sontag’s comment, made in 1965 can be the last one necessary to end this whole high vs low art thing. Time to put the tired conversation to rest. Let’s all stop hating on Simon Pegg, now okay?

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Speaking of “the solution to a mathematical problem….” I got back to work on Palimpsest this morning along with the help of some really great beta reader notes (I love you, guys). I also happened across this great video explaining the Fibonacci Sequence, a mathematical premise that is featured in my book.

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The Golden Mean

The sequence, for those of you who don’t know, is the following:

0,1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8,13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144

and on and on and so forth.

It is derived by adding the first number to the next number. So:

0+1 = 1

1+ 1 = 2

1+2 = 3

2+3= 5

3+5= 8

5+8 = 13

8+13 = 21

13+21 = 34

21+ 34 = 55

34 +55 = 89

55 + 89 = 144

and so on and so forth. But the real cool thing is that the Fibonacci sequence is EVERYWHERE. In the spiral of a seashell, in the arms of the galaxy. Even in your own bones!

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flower

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Aspects show up in art and architecture and in our DNA.

And this is why math and science are amazing.

Check out the video. It’s not long and it’s got cool music.

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

Mid-Month Round Up

13 Mar

How is it already the middle of March? What just happened? Where am I?

Okay so mid-month round-up, here we go:

1. Many thanks to Camel Saloon for publishing Humiliation Heap as a part of the International Women’s Day issue. There are tons and tons of good writers in here so please, take a minute to have your mind blown. Unlike some other poems this one is VERBATIM from a conversation I had during radiation. #FuckCancer

2. And many many many thanks to Clockwise Cat for putting together this MASSIVE incredible FemmeWise. Femmewise is the feminist rag to end all feminist rags. The fine kittens at Clockwise not only took a few How To Be An American poems, but they also accepted a little ranty thing I wrote about why Beat Women are largely cut out of modern day interpretations. I thought we were past the lobotomizing, kids (I’m looking at you, Hollywood).

I never get non-fiction published so I’m especially psyched about that.

3. Finally many, many, many, many thanks to Red Fez for accepting Purple Socks and Sonogram. You guys rock.

In other news, my sad little book, This Is Sarah got a shout-out from The Honest Book Club:

That hipster coffee shop: Give a book by an indie author a shoutout

Coffee - hipster coffee shop

Natalie: Not sure if this is indie, but more people should read it, and that’s ‘Lies We Tell Ourselves‘ by Robin Talley. I recommend that you try this book, it’s wonderfully written and has such a gripping story and heartbreaking moments that really happened in history.

Lexie: So, this isn’t strictly speaking an indie author, because the book was published through a traditional (albeit quite indie) publisher – BookFish Books – but it is nevertheless one that hasn’t gotten enough attention and deserves a shout-out. It is This Is Sarah by Ally Malinenko.

Thanks so much guys! Working with BookFish has been incredible, but man, with so many great books out there it’s hard to get a reader’s attention sometimes. Especially with Sarah being a quiet sad book and not a part of a trilogy or a massive sci-fi space opera/dystopic fantasy series. You know, the stuff they make all the movies out of.

Whenever I talk about it I try to be all casual like oh I’ve got this book and….

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But it FEELS like I’m all:

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So when people give shout-outs like that, well it just melts me wee little writer heart.

That’s about it.

Other than the novel revision that hasn’t finished yet.

I wonder how many times I’ve written that sentence.

Never mind, I don’t want to know.

Peace, Love, and Starbursts,

Ally

Stories Are A Lie And A Truth All Rolled Up Into One

22 Nov

When I was in college, a friend told me that she thought I had Borderline Personality Disorder.

I didn’t know what that meant so I looked it up.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness marked by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships.

Here’s some of the signs:

  • Extreme reactions—including panic, depression, rage, or frantic actions—to abandonment, whether real or perceived
  • A pattern of intense and stormy relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, often veering from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)
  • Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self, which can result in sudden changes in feelings, opinions, values, or plans and goals for the future (such as school or career choices)
  • Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few day
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness and/or boredom

 

Needless to say, she was wrong. She didn’t mean borderline like that. She meant borderline like something on the edge. Open to interpretation.

She was trying to say that I have a malleable personality.

Flexible? Yes.

Ranging in extremes? Yes.

Subject to flights of fancy? Hell yes.

I saw my oldest sister the other day and during our conversation she told me a story about one of our Ya-Ya weekends together. Our Ya-Ya weekends were when my two sisters and I would get together for one weekend a year and hang out. We all live far away, my family had been through some hard shit at the time, so my sisters and I decided that we would make a point of seeing each other, just the three of us, once a year.  I have fond memories of these weekends.

But the story she told me  was one I didn’t remember, which isn’t a shock – I have a terrible memory. It’s the reason I have kept journals since I was a teenager.

So at one of these weekends I apparently burst into tears when my sister was faux-complaining about the “press 1 for English” thing on the phones. Again, I don’t remember this. I can only assume it happened because it SOUNDS like me.

I think it’s empathy to a fault.

Faulty empathy. Squishy-mushy personalities. I can quite easily put myself in someone else’s shoes. The problem is, I never seem to give them their shoes back. I just sort of keep them, carry them around with me emotionally.

I’m like an emotional junk lady.

labyrinth

Remember her?

I just keep collecting other people’s stories and twisting them together with my own.

When I was younger I had a problem with lying. I like to think it was an unhealthy expression of my innate desire to tell stories but the fact is I hurt people so I don’t deserve to get off the hook that easily.

But it’s like I would pick up pain or happiness or fear or anger and stick it on my back and it would become a part of me. Even if I didn’t own the cause of those feelings to begin with.

I was thinking about this because the number one question I have gotten from people who have read my book This Is Sarah is that they want to know if this is based on a true story.

And I tell them again and again, it’s not. I am not Sarah, or Colin, or Claire.

No one I knew had been kidnapped.

So, they wanted to know, how did I know so much about what it’s like to go through something like that?

Because everyone I knew had lost someone.

Had grieved. Including me. And grief, regardless of how it arrives, is universal.

I thought that was a pretty good answer. And yet more often than not they were disappointed.

As if my “making it up” was somehow untruthful.

A lie.

I had deceived them.

They wanted the story itself to be real. It didn’t matter that the emotions were. It didn’t matter that the pain and the anger and the fear were. It didn’t matter that some people, like Colin, shut down in the face of death. That other people, like Claire, refused to. None of that mattered as much as wanting it to be true.

Strange how people are, isn’t it?

John Green wrote a book called The Fault In Our Stars. You’ve probably heard of it. It’s pretty famous. He dedicated the book to Esther Earl. Esther was a young girl that died of cancer, and the author of “This Star Won’t Go Out.

Mr. Green met Ms. Earl at a Harry Potter convention. He was moved by her story and he credits her with being part of the inspiration for his character Hazel. The book was published in 2012, after her death.

In a goodreads interview John said the following:

I could never have written this if I hadn’t known Esther. She introduced me to a lot of the ideas in the book, especially hope in a world that is indifferent to individuals, and empathy. She redefined the process of dying young for me.

Walking out of the hospital in 2000, I knew I wanted to write a story about sick kids, but I was so angry, so furious with the world that these terrible things could happen, and they weren’t even rare or uncommon, and I think in the end for the first ten years or so I never could write it because I was just too angry, and I wasn’t able to capture the complexity of the world. I wanted the book to be funny. I wanted the book to be unsentimental. After meeting Esther, I felt very differently about whether a short life could be a rich life.

But a lot of people have interpreted that to mean that John’s main character IS Esther.

As if a story about death – the most universal thing of all – the only thing that equalizes every living creature – wasn’t as powerful if there wasn’t one specific life behind it.

Again, people are strange.

Gayle Forman, also pretty famous, wrote a book called If I Stay. It is the story of Mia, a girl who narrates her story from a hospital bed after losing her entire family in a car crash. Except Mia is in a coma.

Gayle wrote a piece for the New York Times about how that car full of people were her friends. Except for Gayle, no one lived.

Mia, the cellist, was fiction, but the accident, and Mia’s family — her punk-rocker turned 1950s throwback of a father, her strong-willed mother and her adorable little brother — were resurrected from the ashes of my loss. A loss that no longer had the power to sucker punch but instead had become part of me, like a scar, or maybe a smile line.

I fell off a waterfall one year in high school. I also fell in love with a boy who fell in love with another boy. That’s a story I’m working on telling but in the end, it will just be that: A story.

The power in stories lie in the fact that they are universal. That the people that populate them are us.

You. Me. Them. Us.

That they are talking about something that we all know.

Love. Sadness. Hearbreak. Fear. Joy. Misery. Loneliness.

Stories are woven. They’re partially the writer, partially the people they know, part strangers, part imagination, part reader.

They’re a lie and a truth all rolled up into one.

And if they’re good, then they make us remember what it means to be us.

 

 

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