Flash Competition: Quantum Flash Fiction!


If you are a writer fascinated by science or a science geek who loves to write, be sure to check out Quantum Shorts 2015, a flash fiction competition for “stories no longer than 1000 words – inspired by the quantum world.”

There is no entry fee, anyone age 13 and up can enter (ages 13-18 can choose between open or youth category), and the deadline is December 1, 2015. All entrants agree to make their submission available via Creative Commons licensing, so the collection becomes a kind of crowd-sourced quantum flash anthology.

Learn more about the contest. Read the rules. Get inspired by quantum theory. And read some of the entries submitted so far (including mine!).

Take advantage of Halloween weekend and challenge yourself to create a scary quantum tale. Happy writing!

A Story of a Boy and a Girl and a Universe


Where did you see the first Star Wars movie?

In the summer of 1977, I was between my 7th and 8th grade years, one of three children in my class at a two-room school called Happy Valley in rural South Dakota. I’m not sure if I saw a trailer for the new movie called Star Wars, but I do remember walking down Main Street in the closest town with a movie theater—30 miles away—and seeing this poster in the window.


My mother took me and my younger brother. We sat near the front; I don’t think the theater was crowded. The lights dimmed, and then ….

Looking back, I wonder how we learned anything before the internet, but somewhere I read that George Lucas was thinking of making a total of nine films in the series, each three years apart. I was thirteen, and would have to wait until I was nearly forty to see them all.

I didn’t know if I could bear to wait so long.

Little did I know that I would be able to re-visit those first three films with my son or that technology would allow me to see them whenever I wanted (!) or that at age fifty-one I’d have the thrill of anticipating yet another Star Wars episode.

To celebrate the release of the new trailer for the 7th film in the series, revisit 1977 with this documentary of the making of the phenomenon that started it all, in the words of James Earl Jones, “more than just a movie.”

Hip-Hop Friday: Frank Waln’s AbOriginal Soul

Frank Waln photo credit at end of post

To begin: Watch and listen to “AbOriginal”:

This week when I saw Frank Waln’s name in a South Dakota Magazine article about his being featured in MTV’s Rebel Music | Native America: 7th Generation Rises (video at the end of this post), my newfound hip-hop obsession interest and childhood home briefly converged.

“I’m just a kid from the Rosebud. I almost quit so many times — I thought there was no hope for me to do music. I thought there was no hope for me. I never thought my music would make it out of the rez, let alone South Dakota. It was a big validation for me, and a big milestone in my career.”

Frank Waln (photo credit at end of post)
Frank Waln (photo credit at end of post)

Also a kid from the Rosebud, I had to learn more.

A Hip-Hop Kid From the Rosebud

After graduating from White River High School (one county up from the high school I attended, Todd County High School), Frank Waln, a Gates Millennium Scholar, entered Creighton University as a pre-med student. He told Jessica Kossi in an interview for In These Times that a summer spent working in health care, however, showed him that a career in medicine “wasn’t for me”:

“I took a year off, went home to my rez, poured my heart into music and found a new school where I could study that. I came to Chicago four years ago, and I graduated from Columbia College Chicago in May 2014 with a B.A. degree in audio arts and acoustics.”

I explored Frank Waln’s website and read every online article I could find. His story is fascinating and offers another point of convergence with my interest in the experience of gifted youth.

Then I heard his music.

Music and Landscape

Usually it takes several listenings of a song or album before I know if it will be a favorite, but from the first beats of Waln’s “AbOriginal,” I loved what I heard and can’t wait for more.

Watch and listen to “My Stone,” which he wrote as a birthday gift for his mother:

Images of south-central South Dakota are not what we are used to seeing in music videos but are as familiar to me as the palms of my hand. The Badlands. The reservation culture. The Great Plains landscapes with unimpeded horizons. The slowing down of time to human speed. The lack of pretension. In my great aunt Hattie’s words from her diaries, the “nice bright days.” Although I left to go to college in 1982, this is and always will be home.

So how did a Rosebud rez kid end up as a hip-hop artist?


Waln discussed his musical and other influences with Jessica Kossi:

My first encounter with hip hop was a CD I found on the side of the road: Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP. It was so emotional, getting pain and frustration out. When it comes to the delivery in my music, Eminem was an influence. Kanye West was always a big influence as a producer and rapper. Nas, Dead Prez and Talib Kweli influenced my style of rapping. Robbie Robertson, a musician-songwriter, is another big influence as a Native artist. Lyrically, John Trudell, a Native activist and poet, is a big influence. His album Tribal Voice is probably my favorite. My mother, family and community inspire me—the people who are the reason I have a story to tell.

He described finding the Eminem CD to Dawn Turner Trice of the Chicago Tribune: “I knew hip-hop resonated with the youth on my rez, but I never had a personal experience with it until that moment….It changed my life.”

Frank Waln certainly has many more stories to tell and success ahead of him. He was recently named a 3Arts award recipient as one of “Ten Chicago Artists to Watch This Year.” Check out more of his music on iTunes and SoundCloud, and sit back to watch his rise.

Below you can watch MTV’s documentary Rebel Music | Native America: 7th Generation Rises, featuring Waln and other Native American artists and activists.

Hip-Hop-Friday, SmallPhoto of Frank Waln courtesy of Peoples’ Social Forum via Flickr (CC BY 2.0). Photo cropped for social media sharing.

UK National Poetry Day

Photo credit at end of post

Today is National Poetry Day in the UK. Head over to Twitter for poems, links, and news; watch Guardian readers deliver their favorite poems; and be sure to check out and bookmark this list of 12 British Poets sharing their favorite poems and their thoughts on this year’s theme: light.

To celebrate, a found poem from Hattie’s diaries (scroll down to see original diary entry).

Photo credit at end of post
Photo credit at end of post

August 16, 1934: Sharp Lightning and Lovely Rain

Got up before sunrise, cool night
southwest breeze, sharp lightning
and lovely rain. Men to hay field
applied for feed-loan, no beef issued.
Tom took former-issue cow
in the rain. Maggie got meals
made cookies, finished ironing
mopped the floors. I wrote
in diary, made butter
three and one-half hours to churn
sewed buttons that came off in wash
and wiped dishes in evening.

August 16, 1934, part 1
August 16, 1934, part 1
August 16, 1934, part 2
August 16, 1934, part 2

Photo credit: M GleasonLightning storm 2nd shot August 30, 2013(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Nice Girl to Kind Woman

Photo credit at end of post

Recently I’ve been feeling on the verge of … something. An internal change. There is that change, of course (I am 51). And maybe this is connected. Regardless, it feels potentially big.

I just can’t quite put my finger on what it is.

My inbox offered an important clue this morning in the form of a new blog post from Kristen Lamb: “Good Girls Don’t Become Best-Sellers—Channeling Your Inner ‘Bad Girl’ to Reach Your Dreams.” She writes, “We must learn to stuff a sock in the inner Good Girl’s mouth and channel that inner Bad Girl because she is dying to get out more. Being a Bad Girl doesn’t mean we aren’t still kind and gracious, but it does mean things are going to change.”

From Kristen’s conclusion:

Do you see any “Good Girl” behaviors that have been undermining you? Do you have a hard time calling yourself a…writer? Do you have a hard time with the notion of social media because the thought of admitting you have a dream scares you spit-less? Have you bothered to get a domain name, a website? Blog? Are you afraid to ask for what you want? Do you put everyone and everything ahead of your writing? Are you waiting for permission? Do you feel like you are a poseur or a fake? Do you struggle with perfectionism? Read more…

Women aren’t alone in these kinds of self-doubts, of course, but Kristen’s piece is a must-read especially for women, and especially for women like me whose high school years were filled with “You’re a nice girl! Stay just the way you are.”

Nice is different from kind. Nice implies compliance, never making waves, saying “yes” to every request, shying from anything that could bring judgment, subsuming our own priorities every single time (or not even knowing what those priorities are).

Kindness is deeper, more meaningful. It implies conscious decisions, emotional strength, taking responsibility for our choices, knowing that those choices will sometimes make others unhappy or uncomfortable, embracing empathy but not at the expense of our own well-being or personal growth, knowing that we can be good people even when others are disappointed.

Do you have a story or thoughts about the journey from nice, compliant girl to kind, strong woman?

Photo credit: Ballet 3 by Rolands Lakis (CC BY 2.0)