Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest — Winning Author Profiles, Group 4

January 28th, 2019

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Sylvia Plath

 

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…..On March 11, 2019, .Jerry Jazz Musician .will publish the 50th .winning story in our thrice-yearly Short Fiction Contest. To celebrate this landmark event, we have asked all the previous winners (dating to 2002) to reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

…..Beginning on January 7 – and on every Monday through March 4 – we will publish five or six profiles of participating authors, along with their winning story.

…..For this feature, authors were provided with a list of the following questions as a guideline for creating their profile:

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What do you remember about your winning story?

Did winning this contest impact your writing career? 

What did the publication of your story mean to you?

Are you still writing?

What are five books you have recently read that you would recommend to others?

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…..Many writers responded in a short essay, and others did so via a “question and answer” format.

…..These profiles are an entertaining, enlightening, and at times emotional look at the stimulating, rewarding process of creative writing, and the people whose work has made important contributions to this publication over the years.  Many thanks to everyone who took the time to so thoughtfully participate.

…..I would also like to thank everyone who has thought enough of this publication to submit their work for consideration.  In 49 contests spread out over 16 years, we have chosen 46 winners from over 7,000 stories submitted — a stark reminder of the challenges of this art form.

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This week’s edition covers authors of winning stories #’s 17- 23

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To read the edition for winning stories #’s 1 – 6, click here

To read the edition for winning stories #’s 7-11, click here

To read the edition for winning stories #’s 12 – 16, click here

To read the edition for winning stories #24 – 28, click here

To read the edition for winning stories #’s 29 – 34, click here

To read the edition for winning stories #’s 35 – 38, click here

 To read the edition for winning stories #’s 39 – 44, click here

To read the edition for winning stories #’s 45 – 49, click here

 

 

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Mark Kerstetter

Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician .Short Fiction Contest #17

Mountain

Published March, 2008

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I had been to an intimate concert by an aging blues rocker and began to wonder about the life of a middle-aged musician, one who earns a modest living and has been absolutely devoted to his art for decades. I thought of traveling from venue to venue, loneliness and a lifetime of sacrifices. Although not a musician, as a visual artist and writer I understand the life of an artist so I pictured myself in that situation and the story became a first person account.

When I began sending my work out “Mountain” became one of my first acceptances. Without mentioning the story, I sent a fan letter to the musician who inspired it, to thank them for their work and inspiration. This was and remains the only fan letter I have ever written. I never received a response and don’t know if the letter ever reached its target, but writing it was like completing a circle. The musician inspired me and publishing the story gave me the opportunity to, in theory, inspire someone else in turn. If there is any truth to the loneliness of an artist’s life then a simple “thank you” was the least I could do. Publishing “Mountain” made me feel less alone. More than that, it was tremendously encouraging to think that the wild spark of imagination and the raw material of my feelings could be channeled into a form that had value to others. Being true to oneself while making art that others can respond to is a very fine line to walk.

Like music is for the character in my story, I am driven to write as if by an undeniable life force. Since writing “Mountain” I have written more stories and published essays and dozens of poems as well as my first collection of poems, “One Step: prayers and curses”. I hope it won’t be the last.

 

5 books to recommend:

Balancing Acts, poems by Yahia Lababidi. These poems have not only beauty but that rarest of qualities: wisdom.

Lurianics, a novel by Michael Brodsky. Brodsky is my favorite living writer in English.

Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements by Bob Mehr. This is a great American story, brilliantly told.

Land of Desire by William Leach, a fascinating history of modern American advertising and commercialism.

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee, one of the most urgent stories of our time.

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Mark Kerstetter makes his home in St. Petersburg, Florida where he is restoring an old house out of wood salvaged from demolition sites. A two-time award winner for drawing and painting at the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, his current focus is on creative writing. A winner of the .Jerry Jazz Musician.Short Fiction Award and a Pushcart nominee for poetry, Mark is the former poetry editor of the online arts magazine. Escape Into Life. and the author of .The Mockingbird Sings .blog. His chapbook of poems, .One Step: prayers and curses. was published in 2017 by Atomic Theory Micro Press.

markerstetter@gmail.com

The Mockingbird Sings

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“Men Are Fickle,” by Mark Kerstetter

 

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Mountain

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Mark Kerstetter

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician .Short Fiction Contest #17.  Published March, 2008)

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…..I can’t fight. I’m not made for it. When I’m backed into a corner I can run, and that’s what I’m good at. I can’t gather myself to put up an opposition. I begin to quake and crumble and the parts of myself split into ever-smaller parts that want to get away as fast as possible. I’m an explosion, a spectacle to momentarily confuse the enemy. Also a physical wreck. The only movement that suits me is flight. My parts will converge into a fluid line of energy, but only in movement. It’s the way I’m made. If I held my hand out, lengthened my fingers for you and attempted to keep as still as possible, you would marvel at the trembling. But then give me a guitar and this same hand will produce a line no less marvelous in fluid grace.

…..I can stay in one place if I’m left pretty much alone. But begin to disturb me and I will begin to fall apart. I am therefore not a social creature, unless I’m playing my instrument with other players. No situation in this life is more ideal. I am with other people, we are sharing something we love, are communicating on a deep level, and I am moving my body in such a manner that inner needs and outer requirements converge in a rhythm that perfectly keeps me together, that actually justifies my being here. But when the music stops again, I’m lost.

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Click here to continue reading the story

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Brian Greene

Winner...Jerry Jazz Musician .Short Fiction Contest #18

The Notes

Published July, 2008

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“The Notes” is a story I originally wrote a few years before it won the short fiction contest in Jerry Jazz Musician. .It’s a piece that I originally wrote over one weekend, and one that always seemed to draw strong favorable reactions from people with whom I shared it. I made some slight revisions to it before entering it in the contest. I was excited to hear that it won. I remember getting the announcement email on a hectic Saturday afternoon, just after my wife and (first) daughter and I came home from a round of errand running. I was thrilled.

2008 was a turning point year in my writing career. With respect to both my fiction writing and my journalistic efforts, this was a year during which many of my stories and articles got published in respected outlets. I went from being a guy who wrote things in hopes of getting them published, to someone who often got asked by editors to make contributions to their publications.  It started momentum for me, and that really hasn’t stopped since. Winning the Jerry Jazz Musician contest was a part of that turning point.

My writing career remains very active. Between 2008 and the present, roughly 200 of my short stories, personal essays, and articles have been published, both in print and online. In all, my work has now appeared in approximately 30 different outlets. I have written journalistic pieces about music, books, and movies, for a variety of quality publications. An assortment of my short stories have been published over this past decade, as well. And a handful of my personal essays have been included in print anthologies through this time.

 

Some books I’ve recently read and recommend:

Jason Starr..Savage Lane (2015 novel)

Pascal Garnier..The A26 (1999 novel)

Charles Taylor..Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-In Near You: The Shadow Cinema of the American ‘70s (nonfiction, 2017)

John Trinian..Scandal on the Sand (1964 novel)

Vern E. Smith..The Jones Men (1970 novel)

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Brian Greene writers short stories, personal essays, and feature articles and reviews on/of books, music and films. Brian lives in Durham, North Carolina with his wife and their two daughters. He’s on Twitter @greenes_circles and his writing blog can be found here:

https://briangreenewriter.blogspot.com/

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The Notes

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Brian Greene

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #18.  Published July, 2008)

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…..The first of my notes read I’M IN A STATE OF DISBELIEF. I left this one on top of a counter at a place where many of the thousands of people who worked in the same building as I did went to get their coffees and pastries in the morning.


…..The second note went AN ANGEL GOT IN BED WITH ME LAST NIGHT — OR MAYBE IT WASN’T AN ANGEL. I taped this one to the inside of the door of one of the stalls in the public bathroom of the same building.


…..The third note was longer. It had three separate parts to it: A RETIRED TWENTY- YEAR OLD LEAVES A GROCERY STORE PRESSING HIS HANDS TO HIS EARS AND STARING HARD AT THE GROUND AS HE WALKS ANGRILY IN NO PARTICULAR DIRECTION.

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Kate Robinson

Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #19

Offkey

Published November, 2008

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Ms. Robinson was also winner of Short Fiction Contest #3

Dancing Universe

Published July, 2003

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I’m honored to be the first writer to have won a New Short Fiction Award twice at Jerry Jazz Musician (2003, 2008). I recall the thrill of receiving an email that my first winning story, Dancing Universe, would be published in June 2003. The story of an artist facing single motherhood after ending a difficult relationship with a musician is both a universal tale as well as a personal one.

On the eve of election night 2008, amidst the excitement of Barack Obama’s election as our nation’s first African American president, I received the email that my second winning story, “Offkey,” had just been posted at the Jerry Jazz Musician website. A bit of synchronicity, as the story features two budding young jazz musicians, one white and one black, who fall in love and marry after their friendship had been thwarted during elementary school.

Winning or placing in contests like the JJM New Short Fiction Award is a psychological boost that propels me forward on my quest to improve my writing craft. I certainly haven’t reached a pinnacle of writing success by any stretch of the imagination, but neither have I abandoned the writing life. I cherish my small successes along the way and am grateful to kind and visionary people like Joe Maita who make these milestones possible. I still write fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, though my professional life is dominated lately by my freelance editorial and publication services business.

What five books would I recommend to others?  That’s hard to narrow down because I’m a reader with eclectic tastes and some years don’t read nearly as much as I should. Because I’m most enamored of the appearance of the extraordinary in ordinary daily life and love dreamlike tales, I would recommend many of Haruki Murakami’s works. I haven’t yet read them all but The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, and IQ84 are three of my all-time favorite novels. And Murakami is a big fan of American jazz to boot! The Known and Unknown Sea by Alan Bilton and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman are also compelling reads that explore the vast depths of consciousness and perception, and appeal to both adults and young adults.

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AKA @katerwriter, Kate Robinson promises to dance always with paradox and absurdity. She began her literary career writing bad poetry at age ten. After working as a grocery clerk, nursing assistant and home health aide, city bus driver, museum aide, a variety of clerical positions, and K-12 substitute teacher, all while studying (BA 1999, MA 2010) and raising a family, scribbling looked like a suitable diversion. She’s the author of Heart of Desire: 11.11.11 Redux, a metaphysical sci-fi thriller (2014), and she collaborated with author Joe DiBuduo to pen and produce The Contest and Other Stories (2017), a connected collection of quirky tales inspired by the paintings of international artists (including “Night Café,” one of DiBuduo’s New Short Fiction Award winners at Jerry Jazz Musician).

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Off-Key

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Kate Robinson

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #19.  Published November, 2008)

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…..If Mom and Dad had heard about my friend Benny and all that jazz from me, they’d have handled it. But when my fifth grade teacher ratted on us, it became a big, fat deal. Mom had to meet me in the front office after school and we silently trudged back to my classroom, both taking refuge in our own mental world.

     Mrs. Drake motioned us to identical chairs in front of her desk. “I don’t want to alarm you. This isn’t an emergency, Mrs. McKenzie.” She forced her goosy face into a sympathetic mask. “Cathy’s not a problem child by any means.”

     Mom’s shoulders relaxed under her starched cotton housedress, but her hands clutched the white gloves and tooled leather pocketbook positioned mid-lap.

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Click to continue reading the story

 

 

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Dancing Universe

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Kate Robinson

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #3.  Published July, 2003)

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…..Though she sat alone, Mira wasn’t lonely. Woman, chair, patio, trees and sky merged in her nightly meditation. Mira finished her prayer, touching the crown of her head, forehead and heart center with folded hands, crossed herself, and opened her eyes to the East, observing in one smooth movement her indigenous heritage, Catholic upbringing, and conversion to Buddhism.

…..Gathering and tossing her long raven-wing hair over one shoulder, Mira shifted her weight from one hip to the other, rubbing her ample belly. She turned over mental stones from the last few months, examining the process of shock, resignation, and acceptance that marked this pregnancy. The youngest of five daughters, she ruefully watched her older sisters succumb one by one to the entanglements of family life. She vowed while still a teenager to never clip her wings.

     Don’t ever say never, abuelita, her grandmother, told her, life has its own way of happening.

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Jocelyn Crawley

(2009 photo)

Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #20

Maybe Marrying Margaret

Published March, 2009

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Attempts to reach Ms. Crawley for this feature were unsuccessful.  In “Maybe Marrying Margaret,” a couple contemplates marriage in a philosophical, far-reaching conversation about life, and a purple painting

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Wedding, by Marc Chagall (1910)

 

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Maybe Marrying Margaret

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Jocelyn Crawley

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician .Short Fiction Contest #20.  Published March, 2009)

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…..There’s this painting she keeps staring at.

…..She imbibes it, absorbs everything it has to offer. A lilting shade of lavender, it features fourteen flawless flowers arranged with a meandering dissonance that flies in the face of the frame’s four square corners. They make its math seem maddening, symmetry superfluous.

…..“I like it,” she says quietly, tucking long brown strands of slightly curly hair behind her ears. She turns towards me slowly then, notes the slight adversarial something in my eyes. Intimately familiar with my proclivity for irreverent mocking, she now offers a slight smirk that seems just one shade shy of sly. Aware of my antagonism, watching it envelope the stale air, she breathes it in and lets it go with one accepting exhalation. She knows me, understands my tendency to be difficult.

…..Except with her and except when it came to this painting. I love Margaret, really love her in the unique way which precludes description through metaphor or simile. I revere her, gaze upon every crevice about which I’m aware with continually renewed fascination, awe. And yet between us there is no strange and awkward distance, no feeling of superiority or idol worship. We’re equals, or as close as two people with a slew of sociocultural and political idiosyncrasies can come to being equal.

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Leland Thoburn

(2009 photo)

Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #21

Parker’s Mood

Published July, 2009

 

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Attempts to reach Mr. Thoburn for this feature were unsuccessful.  “Parker’s Mood” is a sexy comic romance featuring a college couple (he’s a flute player, she’s a virgin), the spirit of Charlie Parker, and the myth of Wilt Chamberlain

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Faun Playing Flute, by Franz Von Stuck

 

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Parker’s Mood

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Leland Thoburn

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(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician .Short Fiction Contest #21.  Published July, 2009)

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…..In the fall of 1991 I believed I would be the next Charlie Parker. Few of the bands on campus had even heard of Bird, and the few that had did not want a flute player. This did not deter me. I was out on the commons at UCLA riffing on “Confirmation” when Nadine found me.

…..“That makes my nipples hard.” She smiled.

…..I lowered my flute and stared. She was wearing a man’s dress shirt, as if she’d spent the night away. The shirt did little to hide the truth of her statement. But that wasn’t what got my attention. It was her face. She had the knack of smiling with her whole face – eyes, cheeks, lips, nose. Everything got into the act.

…..“What were you playing?”

…..“’Confirmation.’ Bird.”

…..“Bird?”

…..“Charlie Parker. Greatest musician that ever lived.”

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Karen Karlitz

Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #22

No Thanks

Published November, 2009

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“No Thanks,” my Jerry Jazz Musician New Fiction Contest winner, is a self-contained excerpt from my novella “Baggage.” At the time the story won the competition, “Baggage” was unpublished. It is now available on Amazon Kindle :http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OMEN84A

“No Thanks” is the story of a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by mother Rose and Sidney, the husband she abhors. Also in attendance is their youngest daughter, Francine, and her much favored sister, Wendy, who has a penchant for alcohol, married men, gambling and cigarettes. Rose hates almost everyone, especially her husband’s brother, but she loses the battle she has with Sidney and Uncle Irving takes the subway from Manhattan into Queens to partake in the yearly feast. Against this backdrop of dysfunctional souls, drinks and a turkey dinner and more drinks are served.

Winning the Jerry Jazz Musician contest was exciting. This success validated my writing and gave me the incentive to continue. A decade later, I am still at it. My stories have appeared in Toasted Cheese Literary Journal, Broad River Review, Loch Raven Review, Ranfurly Review (Scotland), Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Pink Panther Magazine, AGLET Magazine, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Short Fiction Break, American Diversity Report, Prime Number Magazine, Scribblers on the Roof, Long Story Short, Clever Magazine and Twisted Endings magazine, among others. “Pursuing Happiness,” another story from “Baggage,” was adapted for a theater performance in Syracuse, NY, after being discovered online.

About two years ago I wrote a short story about a dead man named Henry Davis. I liked Henry so much I couldn’t let him go after only one story. I wrote a second story. After writing five connected stories, I decided to try for a novel. Henry is dead and well in Santa Monica. Having come of age in ’60s and ’70s New York, he soon discovers he can get high by inhaling the second-hand smoke of the living potheads at the apartment building he inhabits with his toxic, very much alive ex-wife. “Stoned Ghosts of Santa Monica” is an optimistic spin on the afterworld, a place where creativity, fun, love and friendship flourish. It is the story of people who are dead, but party on. I am currently submitting the book for publication.

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At the urging of my granddaughter I began reading J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series; I finished  the first five books. Other books I’ve recently read and recommend include “Bright Lights, Big City” and “Brightness Falls” by Jay McInerney, “Paint It Black” by Janet Fitch, “Lucky Man” by Michael J. Fox and “Brave” by Rose McGowan.

 

 

 

 

 

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No Thanks

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Karen Karlitz

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician .Short Fiction Contest #22.  Published November, 2009)

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…..Thanksgiving, 1968. I can’t remember what I ate for dinner last night, but I see that day as clearly as if I’m watching it on an old Magnavox. My mother Rose buzzes around our cramped two-bedroom apartment in Queens, New York, her hair in rollers, no makeup. She’s beautiful though, anyone would agree. It’s early in the day. She retrieves the tablecloth my grandmother embroidered when a teenager herself from the back of the hall closet, and sets the dining table in the foyer with her best dishes (black and white Noritake), silver plate from Fortunoff’s, and real cloth napkins in a tasty shade of pumpkin. She’s been up since five cooking; pies were baked the night before. But although her culinary plans are running smoothly, my mother’s mood is lethal. Look closely and you can see thin plumes of smoke escaping from her mouth, and the tips of two horns peeping between the rollers on top of her head. This is not uncommon for her. She’s quick to anger, and this Thanksgiving she even has reason. You see, my Uncle Irving is coming to dinner. My mother hates just about everyone, Irving in particular. But my father won this skirmish the week before.

…..“Come on, Rose, he’s all alone. What’s the big deal? It’s only one meal.”

…..“I don’t give a good crap about him,” she replies.

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Trudy Carpenter

(2010 photo)

Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #23

Bumps Out Then Bumps Back

Published March, 2010

 

 

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Attempts to reach Ms. Carpenter for this feature were unsuccessful.  “Bumps Out Then Bumps Back” is an intimate reflection of a woman’s traumatic experience in its immediate aftermath

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“Girl in a Bathtub,” by Everett Shinn, 1903

 

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Bumps Out Then Bumps Back

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Trudy Carpenter

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(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician .Short Fiction Contest #21.  Published March, 2010)

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…..One black leather pump hides under the sofa; the other skidded behind the front door, keeled over in shock. Stockings lie limp on the carpet, slim legs broken, and shrunken feet awry at the heels, pale rungs shred up the thigh, as jagged and useless as fear. A gold chain lies coiled like a snake, broken beyond repair, not sparkling, just stunned.

…..In the bathroom, water gushes wild and wide from the metal spigot, creeps up the sides of steep white porcelain an inch at a time, swirls with thick steam and current from the source, a dank basement room, a mystery pumping system, a light hum in the pipes and a bill at the end of the month. She squeezes her lashes then twists the tap shut. Leg poised, she dips a foot until it reddens, inhales a moan and jerks back, exhales and steadies herself as best she can on a floor she waxed. Tiny drops like beads of mercury slip off her foot and pool together, seep toward low molding at the wallpapered wall. She waits and remembers to breathe, pulls it in, blows it out. If she forgets, it will stop.

…..The second foot creates an eddy in the tub, rings wider and wider, rebounding at the sides, careening back. She drops the other leg from above and tips her head down at the neck, watches the surface slice her calves clean, under the knee and wavering, paler and wider below than above. She lowers her bulk to a slippery seat, grasping the rim with both hands and sloshing the liquid close to the edge. She stretches her legs and stares at the toes, so far away and huddled, maybe not even hers. Her body seems foreign. She knows it from somewhere, but where? A tinge of pink rises at her lap, swirls up and around, as impossible as smoke, as careless as crime.

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In This Issue

Michael Cuscuna, Mosaic Records co-founder, is interviewed about his successful career as a jazz producer, discographer, and entrepreneur...Also in this issue, in celebration of Blue Note’s 80th year, we asked prominent writers and musicians the following question: “What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums; a new collection of jazz poetry; “On the Turntable,” is a new playlist of 18 recently released jazz recordings from six artists – Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano, Matt Brewer, Tom Harrell, Zela Margossian and Aaron Burnett; two new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Jazz History Quiz”; a new feature called “Pressed for All Time,”; a new photo-narrative by Charles Ingham; and…lots more.

On the Turntable

This month, a playlist of 18 recently released jazz recordings by six artists -- Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano. Matt Brewer, Tom Harrell, Zela Margossian, and Aaron Burnett

Poetry

In this month’s collection, with great jazz artists at the core of their work, 16 poets remember, revere, ponder, laugh, dream, and listen

The Joys of Jazz

In this new volume of his podcasts, Bob presents two stories, one on Clifford Brown (featuring the trumpeter Charlie Porter) and the other is part two of his program on stride piano, including a conversation with Mike Lipskin

Short Fiction

We had many excellent entrants in our recently concluded 50th Short Fiction Contest. In addition to publishing the winning story on March 11, with the consent of the authors, we have published several of the short-listed stories...

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

Pressed for All Time

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Art

"Thinking About Charlie Parker" -- a photo narrative by Charles Ingham

Jazz History Quiz #128

Although he was famous for modernizing the sound of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra -- “On the Sunny Side of the Street” was his biggest hit while working for Dorsey (pictured) -- this arranger will forever be best-known for his work with the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. Who is he?

Great Encounters

In this edition, Bob Dylan recalls what Thelonious Monk told him about music at New York’s Blue Note club in c. 1961.

Art

Jerry Jazz Musician regularly publishes a series of posts featuring excerpts of the photography and stories/captions found in Jazz in Available Light by Veryl Oakland. In this edition, Mr. Oakland's photographs and stories feature Stan Getz, Sun Ra, and Carla Bley.

Interviews

Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, discusses her late husband’s complex, fascinating life.

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about jazz album covers that offer glimpses into intriguing corners of the culture of the 1950’s

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"The Photography Issue" will feature an interview with jazz photographer Carol Friedman (her photo of Wynton Marsalis is pictured), as well as with Michael Cuscuna on unreleased photos by Blue Note's Francis Wolff.

In the previous issue

Jeffrey Stewart, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, is interviewed about Locke (pictured), the father of the Harlem Renaissance. Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 19 recommended recordings by five jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

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