Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

There is a field

May 26, 2014


(c)Famiglietti 2014

Out beyond ideas

of wrongdoing and rightdoing

there is a field.

I’ll meet you there.

–Rumi, 13th Century 

I’m the question mark with a bag over my face. The ashes I’d rubbed all over my body were too dramatic compared to other question marks in this field. The woman from India sits on a sunny rock, wrinkled face exposed, gnarled hands relaxing at last. She killed her infant daughter “to spare her the miserable life I live.” Here, she finds acceptance if not understanding. The price of admission to this field is not understanding.

My friend Deanna sits beside the Indian woman and hugs her gently. Deanna’s wrongdoing was stealing $10 from a humane society donation jar. She stole the money to buy a tube of Preparation H. Her hemorrhoids were excruciatingly painful, and she was flat broke with no health insurance. Yet, those stray dogs would be euthanized if the jar did not fill quickly.

A man I once worked with has his pockets turned inside out to show he is still broke. He confessed his homosexuality to a small group of senior managers at the Christian charity where we worked. His brothers in Christ fired him within the hour. I don’t see them here. I don’t see abortion clinic bombers or FOX News. In fact, I don’t see anyone who makes my skin crawl.

The prostitute from Uganda approaches Deanna and the Indian woman, a tiny smile twitching at the corners of her mouth. She prays to God every day of her life and blesses the food she feeds to her children. The only way she can earn that food is to sell her body. Her children survive; her spirit shrivels. The Indian woman looks her in the eye and invites her to sit on the sunny rock.

I linger in the shadows, hugging excuses. Is this the place where I can leave them?

I won’t tell you my question marks. I won’t ask yours. Just know there is a field where some walk into the light naked in their truths. Many are here in the shadows with me, gathering courage.

This post is dedicated to my life-long best friend Deanna who died several years ago leaving a large hole in my heart.

Thanks to Nicolo Famiglietti, Ph.D. for providing the beautiful photo. You can see more of his work on his web sites:



Beat the press

August 23, 2013

Carol  award cropped (757x800)I was pleased to accept the 2012 Jacqueline Jackson Award for Creative Non Fiction on July 14, 2013, in Springfield, Illinois. This annual award is presented by the University of Illinois/Springfield Alumni Writers Collective. I was unable to clearly hear what the award was really for, but today I received the hard copy:

“[This award] is a recognition of courage in the face of the blank page; the victory in filling it with words; the wisdom of crossing most of them out; the tenacity of refilling the page; the humor and madness that is writing; the luck that conjures and cajoles the story, the essay, the memoir, the poem, or something else; and the love that is sharing it with others.”

I also received a newspaper clipping about the award that stated I spent “twenty heartbreaking years in Haiti and a few in Italy.” Now, if a news story can get away with such fiction, why did I have to promise a gathering of my peers and my sister and grandson to “never let the facts get in the way of a good story”?

The facts are I spent twenty plus years writing about poverty; and as heartbreaking as trips to developing countries are, I wrote most of the stuff in a first world office while living right here in Chicagoland with “we deliver” restaurants on speed dial.

Facts aside, here’s a factoid: even a week in Haiti will break your heart for the next twenty years. The journalist who got it wrong, also got it right.


May 10, 2011

“Self publishing?” not for me.” I’m a professional.”  (As opposed to people who think they can write and pay thousands to self-publish books they cannot sell.)    When it cost thousands, writing teachers were wise to warn students against such expensive orgies of ego.

I was not inclined to be labeled an amateur, and I never had thousands to waste on printing books that would sit in my garage. Thanks to that supercilious attitude and my fiscal responsibility,  two books I believe in went unread for a decade. I tried the traditional publishing route. While no agent or editor said I could not write, their responses were: does not fit a particular genre,…book is too short…but where would a bookstore shelve it…too many unicorn books (it is NOT a unicorn)…and so on.

Publishing on Kindle is free , and I no longer care what people call me.

And so, these two books are available at kindle store:

SHELLS TURNING TO SAND – contemporary fiction that is “too short”

HER STORY TOLD TO ITS END: young adult fantasy that is NOT about a unicorn.

My next book CURRY, CIAO, AND CORNDOGS will be posted soon.

I do not expect to get rich. The benefit to me is that the time and passion I put into these books no longer feels wasted. Those who like my style will find me. Those who think they do then hate the book can get a refund.

We all win!

Carol Stigger (my real name and my pen name)


May 6, 2010


After going to bed at the responsible hour of 11, I could not turn off the movie in my mind. I could not pause it or rewind it. I thought maybe it would make a book if I could just straighten out the plot or find a theme other then Misery. It started at the roller skating rink when I was nine and thinking life was amazing until I got home and learned my grandmother was dead. Then scenes shifted to various funerals. I inserted a morning in Positano for a sunny respite on a Mediterranean terrace.  Then I was off making mistakes. I contemplated them like a nun with a rosary. The first decade, I did that terrible thing at Girl Scout camp. The next decade I hurt someone who loved me. The third decade I made a major stupid life choice.


 Time for comic relief – but I could not think of anything funny. So it was on to soul deadening betrayal and grief. How does thirty years ago feel like yesterday at midnight?

I got up, turned on computer, and cancelled tomorrow’s teaching assignment. I took a sleeping pill and let the dogs out so they won’t wake me later. I look forward to sleeping in tomorrow. To doing what I please tomorrow. I anticipate morning sunshine and coffee on my porch and watching the birds if the dogs don’t scare them off. Tomorrow I will be the writer that I am and not the teacher I am not.

My little victory is this:  I ripped my mind from the fangs of the memory beast. It will cost me a day’s pay. A good investment, I think.


No more “I think.” A day’s pay is a fair price for a good night. It is sad that it has taken six decades to find a way and have the means to tame the midnight memory beast. Is that a subplot? The rising action peaked when I got up and popped a pill. In lit classes we called that a climax, but I am not going off on that predictable tangent. It’s falling action now. Sleep and a good day tomorrow. Stiggerink and her dogs peacefully progress through one bright May day. I’ll leave the “Ever after” in fairy tales.

The theme is this: I am blessed.


March 31, 2010

The Daily WORD is N WORD

My finest teaching moment – or the end of my teaching career?

7th Grade language arts, the bad class. I was a substitute (read target.) Every student had a copy of the novel they were reading, and the lesson plan said the kids could silent read (that class? No way) Or I could read the chapter to them.

Reading to a bad class is an exercise in multitasking. Not only was I reading unfamiliar material, but I also was watching for UFOs, gum smacking, sexual activity, note passing, and other typical 7th grade behavior while repeating pointing to the note on the board “No passes, no exceptions.”

The novel was set in turn of the century south, and the protagonists were poor with abysmal grammar. I cringed at every “ain’t” and “he done it.” If I hadn’t been otherwise distracted I may have caught the N Bomb, but I read, “Jeb said, ‘Hey you big black nig..”

Without a pause I continued the word. To shriek in dismay or otherwise react seemed an inappropriate response to literature. To my surprise, the students were actually listening. The room exploded. A Caucasian girl fled the room, and the only shouts were SHE SAID THE N WORD.

Cooly, I responded, “Let’s look at the concept of ‘context.’” A few listened. I went further into forbidden territory by suggesting that they, as future policy makers, needed to form an opinion: do we face the hard truths of our history or do we rewrite our literature?

A few more future policy makers listened, and it seemed to me they were thinking.

The bell rang, and I wrote the teacher a long note. I explained the situation to the principal who agreed that she would probably get some phone calls from parents. She said I had turned the episode into a “teaching moment” and had not behaved inappropriately.

So far, my house has not been egged; the police have not arrived; and the school board has not sent a delegation.  If my teaching moment was successful maybe we can hope that our literature will stand as an accurate depiction of our past, an illustration of how far we, as a society, have come.


March 6, 2010

The Daily WORD is JOBLER

Another word with a lifetime of under a year. Its gravestone reads 1662-1662. It failed to thrive because of its definition: one who does small jobs. Yesteryear, as today, no one admits to performing a “small” job. When I clean the kitchen floor, I am not a jobler; I am a martyr. When I weed the herb garden, I am not a jobler; I am a grumbler. When I vacuum, I am not a jobler; I am a bitch.

The jobler concept comes into play when dealing with people who abuse writers (PWAWs). PWAWs describe their joblets as laughably small, requiring the skill level of a baboon, thus commanding the salary of zero, but YOU WILL SEE YOUR NAME IN PRINT.

(excuse me while I inhale glue to recover from all the excitement)

As a writer, I am happy to be a jobler, as long as my name in print is on a check that does not bounce. I enjoy small writing jobs. Yes, I am a jolly jobler, but if any more PWAWs ask me to give away my writing so I can SEE MY NAME IN PRINT, be warned. You will SEE YOUR NAME IN PRINT along with insults in five languages all the way from my little blog to the farthest reaches of the World Wide Web.

Pro bono work does not apply to my rant. I am happy to do small writing jobs for no charge for causes I care about. In these cases, I do not want to see my name in print. It is not a modesty issue; it is pride. By the time my pro bono work is edited by earnest charity folks who got an A in English Composition, it sometimes reads like it was written by a baboon.  And, that is okay. If they are happy, I am happy – as long as I don’t see my name in print.

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