The Weird Week in Writing: Mark Twain's memoir, the new James Bond, and BEA (Plus, a special holiday prompt)

Freaky Friday—the latest from the weird and wonderful world of
writing this week (followed, as always, by a prompt):

Victorians couldn’t handle it: Mark Twain left behind 5,000 unedited pages of memoirs and a note—don’t publish for at least a century. Finally, the century is up, and we’ll be getting some new Twain.

If you missed Gone With the Wind scribe Margaret Mitchell’s first romance (written when she was 15): In the wake of the strange saga of the lost Booker Prize, The Huffington Post has ranked 12 Great Overlooked Books.

Publishing’s biggest event, Book Expo America, has come to a close: But not before Barbra Streisand discussed her passion for design, Bob Marley’s son played guitar to support his new memoir, and a slew of upcoming releases were promoted, from titles by Keith Richards to Sara Gruen. (And there’s also Jon Stewart’s BEA introduction for speaker Condoleezza Rice: “As for our next author, I’m not familiar with her work, but I’ve heard good things.”)

A Yankee/James Bond’s Court: American author Jeffery Deaver is the new Ian Fleming.

He Listen Pretty:
David Sedaris brings you National Audiobook Month.

(Image: Via)

* * *

The Memorial

free to take the following prompt home or post your
response (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our
occasional around-the-office swag drawings (next one: next week).
If you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail it to me at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

You haven’t been back to the cemetery for years. But now you take a tiny flag, an apple, and another item out of your bag, and place them by the headstone. Then, you do what you always do when you’re here: you remember.

Top 101 Websites for Writers. An entire feature package on genres, from
romance to YA to blended forms. An interview with Bird by Bird scribe
Anne Lamott. How to write from anywhere. Click

here to check the May/June 2010 issue of WD out!

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5 thoughts on “The Weird Week in Writing: Mark Twain's memoir, the new James Bond, and BEA (Plus, a special holiday prompt)

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  2. nizhuce

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  3. Laydon Cooper

    The Veterans Cemetery always seemed bleak. The plain white headstones lined in stark rows looked cheap, in their uniformity. But now, on this visit, I understood a little better: it’s not the cemetery that holds the meaning but those who were buried here and what their lives meant.

    I never really knew my father. He was someone I was taught to fear whom I was told would try and take me away from my mom, grandma and grandpa because he had threatened to when my mom had divorced him when I was six months old.

    Now, for some reason, at the age of forty six I felt a need on this Memorial Day to go down to the cemetery and just talk to him.

    Pulling into the gates of the cemetery, I suddenly became aware of how much noise the bike’s exhausts were making. I throttled back to barely above an idle to quite the noise out of respect for those who had given so much.

    After so many years I still knew right where he lay. In the almost forty years since my father had been buried, so many more head stones had been added, the giant oak tree only a few feet from his grave was now gone. I don’t know how many times I had been by there, but it couldn’t have been more than five or six at most.

    I sat there without saying anything for a long time, just sitting not really even thinking. Then I remembered the small plastic bag in my hand. Opening it, I took out the apple and took a bite, recalling what my grandma had told me once when she gave me an apple; how much my daddy loved red apples. I don’t if it was true or if she just wanted to get me to eat it. I pulled out the baseball, and laid it on the grass next to the headstone. “I know you always wanted me to play”, I said, “I did a little but I never really got into it.” I wondered in my mind what I would be like had he been there in my life, what would I be now? I never hated you, I said, I was afraid of you and then you were gone. I didn’t know you at all. But I miss you, now. I miss what might have been when I got older, if you hadn’t been killed in the wreck. I reached in and pulled out the little American flag I had brought. Placing it in the ground next to the baseball I said aloud, maybe all you saw on Omaha Beach made you want to drink like you did. I still have your Purple Heart. Or maybe demons you took to your grave with you made you drink. But you were a soldier and you’re my father and you deserve to be honored for both. I miss not knowing what to miss….I love you.

  4. Mark James

    Zac, good prompt.

    Too furious to die. That’s how I’d always thought of mom. It was as if, in her lifetime, the one she spent above the ground, not the one she still lives in my memories, a desperate, consuming fury drove everything she did. It was hard for me to imagine such a burning drive giving way to something as prosaic, as gutless, as death.

    I let my bag slip from my shoulder, laid out a small American flag, a deeply red apple, and a gnarled piece of ginger root, then I settled down, laid my head against her gravestone, and remembered.

    Sometimes memories come with a violence that seems to blast away the present, like a rogue nuclear bomb dropping through the depths of your mind, lifting a mushroom cloud of regrets, joys, dreams. But then there were days like this, when the memories walked and talked across the brightly lit stage of my mind.

    There was my mother telling me about her little sister who got shot in cold blood. Funny how, in our stories of our own lives, we’re always the good, the pure, the righteous.

    Now my uncle was walking across that same stage, talking, because he always entered talking, always had a story on his lips, ready to spring loose. I heard him telling how my mother seduced her sister’s boyfriend, and how he didn’t want her and how mom, she lied and told him her sister’s six month old baby wasn’t his. He went over to Ruby’s house and shot her through the head, because if he couldn’t have her, nobody could. Her baby played in her blood until someone got there, and started making things right so a nineteen girl could be put in the earth.

    I don’t know where Ruby’s grave is, or I’d go see her too, maybe bring a picture of her boy, if he’s still alive.

    Mom could heal just about anything with ginger, boiled up with roots and leaves I’ve never heard of. All I know is, it always started with ginger, and the smell of her peeling it would fill the whole house, and you’d know someone was sick because mom was in the kitchen with the ginger, brewing up something, the way her mother used to, and her mother before her.

    It worked. If you sipped her ginger tea, you got better. It was like a law of nature. You just did.

    I’m sitting here with a flag, because mom came to this country more than forty years ago, and every year she got an American flag for every holiday that should have one. I don’t think she knew what the stars and stripes meant, she just knew that in this country, it’s what you did on ‘those’ holidays.

    The apple is to remember how in the end, when the cancer was everywhere, I got so desperate, I made her tea, with apple peelings and ginger and mint leaves, and she drank it, holding my hand, but with every sip, she was fading away, fading into Death’s Country where we’d be separated by grave dirt and tombstones.

    No big confession here about how really, I hated my mom. Nothing so grand; just the living trying to make sense of death.

    Every year I bring her ginger, and hope that wherever she was, she remembers all the times she healed me, with just a touch, a word.

    I do.

  5. CJill Friend

    The Rock Billow

    May 26, 2010 : The day I ran into a Cathedral and buried Copernicus for the second time, as if to say, “My one true love, I had the strangest dream about being in the area of 47 Court Street and Havana, IL at the same time. My mom was helping to move out of a Havana house that was near the corner of 47 Court street, the green house on the corner. I was walking around the house, when I began to see things that Jeff had placed around the house. One was a plastic brown and black pentagram, and the other was mimicking something I had made previously. It was a strip of wood with Jimmy written vertical down it. It was also magnetic. I was thinking of taking them to him because I thought he was staying in the green house, but I saw that it was 3:46; and I was leaving at four. And my mom was hanging clothes on the neighbor’s clothesline. I saw her from the kitchen window, which was full of clean dishes. There was also a basement type room that had a window with a night view of the backyard, but it was spotlighted. So, I woke up, instead.”

    The Priest said, “This wedding is over.”


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