Call for submissions: InTheFray Magazine

Prelude, Verse, Chorus, Coda

Over a four month period, September 2009 through December 2009, InTheFray Magazine will be publishing thematically linked material that encompasses the following motifs: Prelude (September), Verse (October), Chorus (November), Coda (December).

I’m excited about the interweaving of the separate month’s themes and can’t wait to see the way that contributors will incorporate this idea into their work.

Here is the official call for submissions (my emphasis):

We all must start somewhere. Every journey starts with a single step,every story starts with a single word, every song starts with a single sound, and every living being starts with a single zygote. As we build and grow and spread, it is easy to forget that once, humanity wandered out of Africa, a single step at a time, each generation both building on their ancestors and starting anew, alighting into new frontiers,chasing new dreams beyond the horizon and into the future.

So tell us. Where did you begin? Where did your forebears begin? Where did anything begin? From whence did we come and to where are we rushing? In the September issue of InTheFray Magazine, we would like to tell the stories of the beginnings of things, be they art, science,history, language, or whatever else you can think of.

Something further to think about: Our September issue aims to explore the beginnings of things, and in October, November and December we’d like to work through the middles of stories and finish with the ends of things as 2009 comes to a close. If you have a longer selection or story idea that might be suited for a three- or four-part treatment, please consider this as you submit.

Contributors interested in pitching relevant news features, poetry/fiction, cultural criticism, commentary pieces, personal essays,visual essays, travel stories, or book reviews should e-mail us at prelude-at-inthefray-dot-org. Send us a well-developed, one-paragraph pitch for your proposed piece NO LATER THAN AUGUST 10, 2009.  First-time contributors are urged to review our submissions guidelines at and review recent pieces published in InTheFray Magazine at

Tree houses

One of my favorite books when I was little was Miss Suzy by Miriam Young. I loved everything about this story and in looking at it again recently I was delighted by the cuteness, the adventurous nature of Miss Suzy, her kindness and industriousness, her bravery and capability — and her awesome tree house.

Image from Miss Suzy by Miriam Young

After my dad died, when I was four, my mom moved from Connecticut to Florida to be near her mother. We arrived via train to a fanfare of palm trees and a parade of heat. Like most single mothers, my mom was in for some hard times.

When my mom remarried five years later, and we moved over to a nicer side of town in Bradenton, Florida (we moved from East Bradenton to West Bradenton/Palma Sola — right near Anna Maria Island), my siblings and I suddenly had a well treed back yard and a beach right down the road.

One of the best things my older brother, Thom, did was to make a tree house for us in the largest pine tree in our back yard. This tree had branches that curved right down to the ground and as the tree height advanced so too did the level at which the branches jutted out. You could use the bottom-most branch as the first step to a stairway of branches that wound around the tree to the top where our tree house perched.

At the top there was a branch near the platform that stuck out past all of the other branches. Onto that branch Thom had secured a green garden hose which dangled down to about six feet above the ground. We would grab the hose, launch ourselves and fly-bounce down out of the tree. A bungee jumping kind of egress.

I loved to lay on the platform and feel the breeze stir and move the branches of the tree (which would sway the platform), smell the pine resin; watch the dappled shadows play.

Image from Miss Suzy by Miriam Young

Links of interest

In celebration of tree houses and summer, here is a link to:
Now That’s Nifty: Amazing and Awesome Tree Houses.
World tree house list and tree house designs from Tree House Guide
Origins of bungee jumping from

Miss Suzy Squirrel by Miriam Young available at

Product description from

Miss Suzy is a little gray squirrel who lives happily in her oak-tree home until she is chased away by some mean red squirrels. Poor Miss Suzy is very sad. But soon she finds a beautiful doll house and meets a band of brave toy soldiers.

How Miss Suzy and the soldiers help each other makes a gentle, old-fashioned tale that has captured the imaginations of girls and boys alike for forty years. Arnold Lobel’s enchanting pictures are sure to make the kind squirrel and the gallant soldiers the everlasting friends of all who turn these pages.

Girls are not chicks coloring book

Image from Girls Are Not Chicks coloring book

In Girls Are Not Chicks, Jacinta Bunnell and Julie Novak have come up with a coloring book that portrays girls in empowering and witty ways. Don’t you just hate to be pinned down to a stereotype/someone’s preconception of you?

They say:

We have had enough of books that make girls think that they are not any good.
We have had enough of books that make girls think that they are too young,
too old, too fat, too ugly, too bold, too loud, too independent.
We like books that ask girls to take pride in ourselves.
Those of us who have been raised as or identify as girls
have have often been given the idea that there is something wrong,
weak and limited about being a girl or woman.
This is not and never has been true.
Girls are not chicks. Girls are thinkers, creators, fighters, healers and superheroes.

– Jacinta & Julie

Check out the website here. View selected pages here.

The Green Door
By Annette Marie Hyder
Previously published in The Green Tricycle

I am restless,

having a hatred of
another’s perception of one
which solidifies into walls
that make a prison,

a yearning for freedom,
the desire to escape
to the lonely secret places,
the moon my companion,
through the dark silent forest.

My eyes, twin Dianas,
bathe themselves
in the close huddled trees
in the cold night air
and the wide open sky.

Fix me not with your
Actaeon stare,
pinning me to one shape.
I am no specimen
for your study
upon a mounting board.

My spirit hand
turns the handle
of the green door.

Alleging harassment, Saudi family sues genie

Photo spoof courtesy of Jasmine Rain H.

Original photo from film still of Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, 1952

A Saudi Arabia family has taken a genie to court, accusing the genie of theft and harassment

CNN reports:

The lawsuit filed in Shariah court accuses the genie of leaving them threatening voice mails, stealing their cell phones and hurling rocks at them when they leave their house at night, said Al-Watan newspaper.

An investigation was under way, local court officials said.

The family, which has lived in the same house near the holy city of Medina for 15 years, said it became aware of the spirit in the past two years.

In Islamic cultures, a belief in genies, or jinns, is common. Genies not only appear in pre-Islamic fiction such as “Arabian Nights,” but are also mentioned in the Quran. Many Saudis believe invisible genies live among them and are capable of demonic possession and revenge.

Click here for the full report.

Author kicks Jinn out of house

This court case highlights the strong belief in Jinns that many Saudi’s have and reminds me of Tahir Shah’s experience, in his book, The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca, with the fixed and firm belief in Jinns that saturated the lives of those he interacted with in Casablanca and which subsequently became real–in its consequences–to him. The beliefs of the culture around him pervaded all of his efforts to fix up, to refurbish, a decrepit old palace for himself and his family to live in.

You could say that Tahir Shah became haunted by the beliefs of the people around him just as much if not more than the Jinn that was supposedly haunting his house. Shah eventually engaged in the motions of belief to function successfully amidst Casablancan society. He went so far as to have an exorcism performed on the house to rid it of its ‘resident Jinn’.

He also began to share the beliefs of those around him. Whether this was because going through the actions of belief triggered the feeling of belief (in the same way that the feeling of happiness can be triggered by smiling even when you are not happy), or because he finally succumbed to the consensus around him, or because his own experiences convinced him, is not made clear in the book.

What is clearly shown is a widespread belief system in Saudi Arabia that includes an unshakable certainty of an other world. A belief–as the CNN report shows–solid enough to rest a court case on.

If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend The Caliph’s House. It serves as a flying carpet, a magical conveyance that allows you entry to a fascinating world. It holds vast vistas of experience and thought between its covers. And it is hysterically funny.

Poem with a genie in it

Batuk and his flying carpet
Annette Marie Hyder
Previously published in C.A.U.S.E.

There is a boy and there is a carpet.
Batuk rubs his forehead, an empty lamp
from which the glow has fled.
No genie of mischief
such as a nine year old should have
resides within.

The carpet that he rides each day
his back curled over it like a tent top,
like a pavilion, or oddly
like a lover spooning
is not magic
cannot whisk him away
to tower top princess
or simian friend.

He rides that carpet in being attached to it
not allowed to leave its side
even at night.
He must sleep beside it.
And open sesame
is not a secret password,
the answer to a puzzle,
a game or a conundrum;
games mean nothing to him.

Open is the posture of exhausted palms
and an empty mouth.
Sesame is the color of scars
left from cuts
that had match heads shaved into them,
their sulfur set on fire
so that blood from pricks and nicks
could not drop
like scarlet rain atop the carpet plain.

There is a boy and there is a carpet
blooming like a live thing and coming to life
over and over again
beneath his clever hands,
quick hands that swing like heroes
through the jungle of the plush carpet
burgeoning on the rack
the threads like vines
and Batuk’s eyes are scouts
in the milling strands
that snake the countless threaded paths
that he must cross each day.

There is a boy and there is a carpet
that steals his breath–a little more each day.
The wool particles from the carpet
nurse at his lungs
a myriad hungry kittens that lap
his oxygen until finally, the carpet flies
as if by magic off the rack
his work accomplished
only to start again
always looming for Batuk
carpet weaver child laborer
living in India.

Related links:

Tahir Shah
Jinn in Islamic theology
Child labor activism:

Dancing wedding party entrance

Joyous cavorting and happy gamboling

This St. Paul, Minnesota couple, Jill Peterson and Kevin Hines, look to be off to a joyful start. Adorable!

(Just ignore that it’s a Chris Brown song.)

YouTube Video: JK Wedding Entrance Dance

Here’s an update via Jezebel on 07/31/09:

“Wedding Dance” newlyweds speak out against domestic violence

After their wedding video rocketed to fame and sold thousands of downloads of Chris Brown’s song “Forever,” Jill and Kevin have launched a site of their own, soliciting donations to combat domestic violence. They seem pretty serious about it, too.

On their new site,, the couple states: “Due to the circumstances surrounding the song in our wedding video, we have chosen the Sheila Wellstone Institute. Sheila Wellstone was an advocate, organizer, and national champion in the effort to end domestic violence in our communities.” The site prominently displays links where readers can donate.

A statement from the Sheila Wellstone Institute points out that Jill’s current Ph.D. work “focuses on breaking cycles of violence in society” and that Kevin is on his way to law school “due to his passion for social justice.”

Swimming pools made out of old dumpsters

Photo courtesy of Inhabitat

Dumpster diving

There is something so appealing about the images of this guerrilla design project of swimming pools made out of old dumpsters. The dumpsters have been completely cleaned and repurposed. Look at the image gallery and read the article here.

Photo courtesy of Inhabitat

tanka with kigo
Annette Marie Hyder

when summer heat makes
water filled receptacles
wink invitingly

dumpster bin diving looks cool
the ultimate urban pool

Macabre memorial or beautiful remembrance?

This story, via BoingBoing, describes funerary art made from the ashes of people who have died:

Artist Val Thompson creates commissioned paintings incorporating the ashes of people who have died, as memorials for their surviving loved ones. Above is a beach scene that Thompson painted for Anne Kearney, using some of her husband John’s ashes mixed into the paint. It depicts the couple’s last vacation together. From Sky:

(Kearney) was so pleased with the results that Ms Thompson did three more paintings for her before starting up her new business ‘Ash 2 Art’.

“My brother and I did a bit of research on the internet and discovered nobody else is providing this sort of service,” she said.

Val Thompson’s Ash2Art
Brush With Death: Painter Uses Ashes For Art(Sky)
Widow uses dead husband’s ashes for painting(Telegraph)

The BoingBoing article reminds me of one of my favorite pieces in InTheFray Magazine, Journal of the Ladybug, By Birgitta Jonsdottir. The article chronicles Birgitta’s adventures in dealing with her mother’s ashes: poignant, comical; heart-touching:

Photo courtesy Birgitta Jonsdottir


The boyfriend didn’t want to have a wake for my mother nor did he want to take part in her funeral in Iceland. He decided to save some money on the shipment of my mother’s ashes. Instead of sending her earthly remains  the way they are usually are sent, via plane in a sturdy, solid box, he sent my mother’s remains the inexpensive way, via regular mail. He placed the box with the urn in a bigger box and wrapped some newspapers around it. When the ashes arrived the contents of the box rattled a bit.

My mother had specifically asked for being scattered into the river my father walked into. My brother and I thought that was too depressing. We wanted to have a grave at last to visit; visiting her at our father’s suicide point just didn’t feel right, despite the beautiful landscape. My grandmother wanted to honor my mother’s last wishes and so there was a rift in the family about this. Being a chronic diplomat at times like this I got a brilliant yet illegal idea: split the ashes. Put some in the old graveyard next to her brother and her father, and some shall be scattered in the cold river to be united with the spirit of our  father. In Iceland the laws say that ashes must either be scattered in one place or buried. So after all it was good she came in regular mail, so we could do whatever we felt was right.

Read the article here, you might find it disturbing, you might find it beautiful.

Also check out the:
Photo essay
Song lyrics, a translation into English of the Icelandic poem Frændi þegar fiðlan þegir.
YouTube video
Birgitta Jonsdottir Website

Sir Terry Pratchett to be at North American Discworld Convention

Oh my gosh! I love Terry Pratchett and he is going to be at the North American Discworld Convention (the first ever NADC)! I’m passing along the info below (which includes news about the next Discworld book).

The turtle moves!

See Terry Pratchett at the North American Discworld Convention!

Don’t miss the first North American Discworld Convention, with Guest of Honor Sir Terry Pratchett and other great guests!

The convention will be held from September 4 – 7, 2009, in Tempe, Arizona, and will feature a Guest of Honor talk, a Maskerade, a Gala Banquet, a Seamstress Guild Party, a Charity Auction, booksignings, panels, and more!

With over 750 members registered, there are less than 150 spaces left, so get more information and register now at!

Can’t wait for the next Discworld book? Watch a video of Terry talking about Unseen Academicals here!


Total solar eclipse envelops Asia in daytime darkness

Photo courtesy of AP images

coffee to go

tanka with kigo
Annette Marie Hyder

after one huge bite
the moon licks its sun smeared lips
looks for the waitress
at this heavenly diner
and says “put it on my tab”

Century’s longest total solar eclipse

The English word eclipse comes from the Greek word for “abandonment” or “a forsaking” (ekleipsis). Ancient peoples thought, among other things (see Missing Sun Motif in Solar Mythology), that the sun literally abandoned the earth during an eclipse. By that way of thinking, today, July 22, 2009, the sky shall be bereaved of the sun.

From the Associated Press:

TOKYO, Japan — Millions of Asians turned their eyes skyward Wednesday as dawn suddenly turned to darkness across the continent in the longest total solar eclipse this century will see. Millions of others, fearing a bad omen, shuttered themselves indoors.

Chinese launched fireworks and danced in Shanghai. On a remote Japanese island, bewildered cattle went to their feeding troughs thinking night had fallen. And in India, a woman was crushed as thousands of viewers crowded the banks of the Ganges for a glimpse.

Starting off in India just after dawn, the eclipse was visible across a wide swath of Asia before moving over southern Japan and then off into the Pacific Ocean. In some parts of Asia, it lasted as long as 6 minutes and 39 seconds.

The eclipse is the longest since July 11, 1991, when a total eclipse lasting 6 minutes, 53 seconds was visible from Hawaii to South America. There will not be a longer eclipse than Wednesday’s until 2132.

The celestial event was met by a mixture of awe, excitement and fear.

Read the entire article here.

Related links:
NASA Eclipse Web Site
Solar Eclipses of Historical Interest
Missing Sun Motif in Solar Mythology

Not related at all really:
Total Eclipse of the Heart Literal Video Version

University research team has big plans for house of straw

Public domain image

Remember the tale of The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf?

From Wikipedia:

The first little pig builds a house of straw, but a wolf blows it down and eats the pig. The second pig builds a house of sticks, but with the same ultimate result. Each exchange between wolf and pig has repetitive phrases:

“Little pig, little pig, let me come in!”
“Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!”
“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in!”

The third pig builds a house of hard bricks. The wolf cannot huff and puff hard enough to blow the house down. He attempts to trick the third little pig out of the house, but the pig outsmarts him at every turn. Finally, the wolf resolves to come down the chimney, whereupon the pig boils a pot of water into which the wolf plunges, at which point the pig quickly covers the pot and cooks the wolf for supper.


Researchers at the University of Bath will be testing to see if houses of straw are the buildings of the future. They will be constructing a “BaleHaus” made of prefabricated straw bale and hemp cladding panels on campus.

Science Daily reports:

Straw is the ultimate environmentally-friendly building material since it is renewable and is a by-product of farming.

The crop used for the straw can be grown locally, and because it absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows, buildings made from it can be seen as having zero, or even a negative carbon footprint.

Also, due to its high insulating properties, houses made of straw bales need almost no conventional heating, keeping running costs low and minimising environmental impact.

Professor Pete Walker, Director of the BRE Centre in InnovativeConstruction Materials at the University of Bath, said: “Up to thispoint straw bales have not really been seen as a credible buildingmaterial by much of the industry, even though straw has always beenused in building for centuries, and straw bales have been used forabout 100 years.

From 20 July people will be able to log on here to watch the progressof the build via “Strawcam”.

Read the full article here.

The straw house constructed by the researchers at Bath University will hopefully be impervious to huffing and puffing.

Public domain image

Poem that features straw

The Witch
Annette Marie Hyder
Previously published in Thunder Sandwich

I chopped the wood.
I carried the water.
I baked your yellow hued bricks.

To see someone else
lay the cornerstone,
stand at the fire,
season the soup,
is more than I can take.

My trusty axe
will not dull in making
another home for me.
My bucket will carry
on without you.
There is always more mud
and straw.

May your arm not know how to lift.
May you always know drip and leak.
May your endeavors fall apart
to match your nature
friable, uncooked man.

Links of interest:

CNN: The quake-proof house made of straw

50 Straw Bale House Plans

House of Straw