My Goofy Gift

 2017 has not been my favorite year—although I’m ever grateful for the readers and contributors to FGP. You’ve all been bright lights for me.

This year has also made me glom on to the moments that have brought me joy. One of those moments happened with my youngest nephews, who are—like me—big fans of Mad Libs. Over Thanksgiving, we didn’t have any handy, so I wrote some.

I figured that, hey, if any of you are goofballs like we are, you might enjoy one, too.

So grab some scratch paper. The story is in the first comment. Please add your results—that’s the best part, isn’t it?

Fellow goofball or not, here’s to a fabulous 2018!

xo,

Jennifer

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Full Grown People’s 2017 Pushcart Nominations

By Jennifer Niesslein

It’s that time again, when editors across the land reread what they’ve published in the last year, then drive themselves bonkers trying to compare all the apples and oranges and figs and molten lava cakes and palak paneers and potato salads and bánh baos they published in the last year. Editors of small presses get six nominations for each year’s Pushcart Prize, and I take it seriously.

I’m excited to present FGP’s Pushcart nominees for this year.

Laura Giovanelli’s “The Size of a Memory, the Size of a Heart”

I am going to be a mother, and all I can think about is my father.

Jody Mace’s “Schrödinger’s Horn”

It seems like there’s only one right answer. I have to keep him safe. But it’s so much more complicated. It’s difficult to know at any given moment if he should no longer be doing something he used to be able to handle.

JJ Mulligan’s “Transference”

My wife left the appointment satisfied with the pediatrician’s explanation—seizures left her mind—and ready to ignore our daughter’s future fist clenching scenes and moments of rage when they should start to appear. I, on the other hand, was distraught; I knew that the pediatrician didn’t have the full story and neither did my wife.

Catherine Newman’s “Just. Don’t.”

Something is wrong with me, only I don’t know what it is. Or how to fix it. In the middle of the day or night, rage fizzes up inside my ribcage. It burns and unspools, as berserk and sulfuric as those black-snake fireworks from childhood: one tiny pellet, with seemingly infinite potential to create dark matter—dark matter that’s kind of like a magic serpent and kind of like a giant ash turd. This is how it is for me right now.

Hema Padhu’s “Coming Home”

I felt her papery lips kiss me on both cheeks and sensed in her touch both excitement and trepidation as if she couldn’t believe she had crossed the ocean to visit her daughter in America. The country I had chosen over my birthplace. The country I now called home and to which she had lost me almost fifteen years ago.

María Joaquina Villaseñor’s “Rent”

Today, almost thirty years later, I long to remember the faces or names or stories of others who were in that safe house with us, experiencing something similar.

Each of these is accompanied by the brilliant photography of Gina Easley, who keeps FGP looking good.

If you haven’t read these, you have a damn good Thursday ahead of you!

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JENNIFER NIESSLEIN is the founder and editor of Full Grown People.

A Tribute to William Bradley

By Jennifer Niesslein

The literary community lost a brilliant essayist in William Bradley. For those of us who knew (or “knew” him, via his writing) him, we’ve also lost a great man. After I learned of his death, I wrote to his good friend Christian Exxo that they had the kind of friendship I wish for my son. By that, I meant that they were two guys who are and were ardent feminists, who shared a thriving life of the mind, who (I imagine) weren’t afraid to express love for each other. He was, to my mind, a model of modern masculinity.

Dinty W. Moore has written a fabulous account over at Brevity of William’s accomplishments, and there were many. William’s book Fractals blew me away.

William was my favorite kind of writer, someone who could make me crack up and mist over in the same essay. I published every piece he sent me. He wrote about his mortality often; his health was an ongoing concern after surviving cancer as a younger man. He loved both high culture and pop culture, including soaps, horror flicks, and comic books. Maybe because of this, I pegged him as a super-hero, invincible despite his ongoing health issues.

When I think of William’s life, though, I think of it as a love story. He loved deeply, and most especially his wife Emily Isaacson. Every one of his FGP essays was, I think, a love letter to her. He was cerebral and silly; hilarious without being cynical. It’s hard for me to separate William the writer from William the person because he was so forthright, both when I’d email him questions I had no business asking and when he’d post on Facebook with his characteristic humor and truth.

William was well-loved. For all of us who want to hang out with him a little longer: William Bradley’s FGP essays.

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JENNIFER NIESSLEIN is the founder and editor of Full Grown People.

Vacation

Hi lovelies,

I’m taking off some time to spend it with my son, who’s heading off to college later this month. (Hey! Another awkward age for me!) I’ll be reading and responding to submissions—I know I’m behind.

We’ll be back after Labor Day. If I survive dorm shopping.

xo,

Jennifer

A Pause

My Gram’s not doing well and I need to be with my people. We’ll be back.

UPDATE 2/28/17: My lovely Gram died last night and it’ll be a few weeks before FGP is up and running again. I’m lucky enough to be part of a close-knit family, and… well, if I knew how to knit, there’d be a good metaphor here. I’m looking forward to jumping back into the arms of the FGP community when I can give you all my full attention.

Thanks for understanding. xo

Virtual FGP Holiday Party

By Jennifer Niesslein

I don’t know about you, but I’m in a much different place than I was last year when we did the first virtual FGP holiday party. But I’m still down for a come-as-you-are party at home because life without silliness is a life only partially lived.

Big hugs to all of you. And without further ado, get your laugh on:

Sue Granzella: I was taught by nuns from Ireland, and they were EXTREMELY competitive about winning the “School Spirit” competition at the town’s yearly basketball tournament. Our poor cheerleaders had to do strange routines to music. (E.g., instead of dancing to music, they spun umbrellas in unison [umbrellas decorated with blue and gold shamrocks for our team name]). I provided the musical accompaniment, playing pop songs on my accordion, with lyrics rewritten by the nuns to fit with the basketball team theme. (I played “Raindrops Are Falling on My Head” while the student body screamed the lyrics “Shamrocks are always out ahead!”)

Kristin Wagner: I applied for our town’s pageant (you got a sponsor so your prom dress was paid for—hell yeah, I’m in) and my application was returned to me for revisions because it was “too militant.” I may have said something about our town being clueless about helping poor people because we were richer than other suburbs. Ended up 2nd runner-up, still got to wave from a float in our town parade. I believe I sang a song from Chicago for my talent and dressed as a pool sharp for my sportswear.

Sunanda Vaidheesh: My best friend and I have attended the world’s largest Harry Potter convention. Twice.

Amy Robillard: I lived in Alaska for a year and worked as a legal secretary full time while I wrote for the weekly alternative newspaper part time. I was the play reviewer despite knowing next-to-nothing about reviewing plays.

Naomi Shulman: I have never liked popcorn. Something about the texture, I think. When I was a kid this always got lots of questions and incredulous responses, and many people would try to get me to try some of their popcorn to see if I liked it the way they made it, so I eventually started telling people I was allergic. For many years my friends accepted I was allergic to popcorn, but not to any other corn products.

Sarah Buttenwieser: I may seem pretty nice. If you want to see my less kind side, wait until I’m tired. I get much cattier then and some of my friends prefer this tired version better. [I’ve met Sarah in person—I’d be delighted to see this side of her. —ed.]

Reyna Eisenstark: The summer when I was 19 I worked as a costumer/dresser on a production of La Cage Aux Folles at the Bucks County Playhouse, which involved ironing 22 men’s shirts every morning and zipping and unzipping gorgeous men out of evening dresses every night.

Carol Paik: I was once a hand model. The technology depicted here will give a clue to how long ago.

handmodel

Janet Skeslien Charles: My first job out of college was teaching English at a high school in Odessa, Ukraine. I loved it even though I worked full-time and only earned $25 per month.

Ona Gritz: When I was 16, I met Evil Knievel at a casino during a family trip to Las Vegas. He was very chatty and insisted on getting my mailing address. After I got home, he sent me a signed poster.

Katie Rose Guest Pryal: I used to knit, design knitting patterns, dye wool, and spin my own yarn. I was a veritable cottage industry in my little NC cottage. You can still see my knit patterns online. But once I had kids, I somehow didn’t have the time any more.

McKel Jensen: I met Jude Law once while standing in line at an aquarium. He was with his kid who had beautiful curly hair. After I told myself to “play cool” and talk to him, the only word that came out of my mouth was “curls.”

Deesha PhilyawI was a Congressional page (U.S. House of Representatives) during the first half of my junior year in high school. I lived in the page dorm 2 blocks away from the Capitol and went to school from 6 am to 9 am every morning in the attic of one of the Library of Congress buildings. In the course of my tenure on Capitol Hill, I met Johnny Depp (then a 21 Jump Street hearththrob shooting a PSA at the Department of Health and Human Services) and attended Reagan’s last State of the Union address. He really did wear rouge.

Gina Easley [our amazing staff photographer]: I have a rare phobia: leguminophobia—fear of beans. Like most people with leguminophobia, the sight of beans makes feel like I’m going to be sick and I try to avoid seeing or being near them as much as I’m able. Most people think this is weird and hilarious, and it is! But also very real.

Jennifer Munro: I once split my pants open while bowling. Brown corduroys. In college. This tells you a lot about me.

Jennifer Niesslein: I haven’t had business cards in many years. I once offered my contact information to the acclaimed cartoonist Roz Chast on the back of an old grocery list in my purse that almost certainly read something like, “Bananas, Beer, Tampons.”

And we’re out for 2016! Please leave your own in the comments—we could all use some levity.

Our Esteemed Nominees

By Jennifer Niesslein

Around this time every year, I do two things:

  1. Make sure the elastic waistband leggings are clean for Thursday.
  2. Pick six essays to nominate for the Pushcart Prize.

The second task is insanely hard. The Pushcart folks ask small-press editors (and past winners) to nominate six pieces, and the editors of the annual Pushcart  anthology choose from those works of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. Six pieces, people. My long list is really long.

This year’s nominees!

Desiree Cooper’s “One She’ll Never Forget”

Patrice Gopo’s “What Remains”

Lori Jakiela’s “Stinger”

Zsofi McMullins’s “The Uterus Must Go”

Jody Mace’s “Privilege”

Sobrina Tung Pies’s “The Little Man”

Give them a read!

P.S. I’m grateful for all of you—readers, writers, and my dear Gina Easley.

New Books by FGP Writers!

By Jennifer Niesslein

I’m taking the week off to spend some quality time with my allergies.

But you know how, sometimes, you comment that you’d like to read a whole book by an essayist? Well, here you go!

Terry Barr: Don’t Date Baptists and Other Warning Labels from My Alabama Mother reflects on the life of a boy growing up in 1960’s small town Alabama. Negotiating racial, religious, and social conflict, author Terry Barr also faces witches, swimming pool dead men, and red crosses in his neighborhood.

William Bradley: Fractals is an essay collection focused on pop culture, illness, love, and the things that connect us.

Sarah Einstein: Mot: A Memoir is the story of an unlikely friendship between a middle-aged, middle-class woman and a homeless, mentally ill elderly veteran.

Allison Green: The Ghosts Who Travel with Me is an unconventional memoir about literal and literary ancestry.

Penny Guisinger: Postcards from Here is a capturing of community, a harsh and beautiful place, a family, and the internal experience of its author in the form of micro-essays. It tells stories that are both intensely personal and entirely communal, and create a portrait of one person’s attempt to do a good job at this business of being human.

Jane Eaton Hamilton: Weekend, a queer crip reimagining of “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”

Catherine Newman: Catastrophic Happiness is a book about being crazy in love, and also just kind of crazy, while your kids are that weird, long age between toddlers and teenagers. The mundane heartbreak of it.

Seema Reza: When the World Breaks Open is a non-linear narrative memoir that traces Seema Reza’s journey from being a suburban mom to using her own lessons to build a unique writing and art program in military hospitals. Reza exposes her triumphs and fears and regret through the dissolution of a dysfunctional marriage, and investigates her own experiences and societal attitudes towards loss, love, motherhood and community, undermining the idea that strength requires silence.

Tracy Sutton Schorn: Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life—The Chump Lady’s Survival Guide (Running Press). Snark, gallows humor, cartoons, and real advice about how to keep your sanity after infidelity.

And, in case you missed it, Full Grown People has two collections out: Greatest Hits, Volume 1 and Soul Mate 101 and Other Essays on Love and Sex, both edited by yours truly. If you like FGP, you’ll love the anthologies.

Happy reading!

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JENNIFER NIESSLEIN is the editor of Full Grown People. You might have known that already.