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January 30, 2013 / Melissa Yuan-Innes

The Curious Genesis of “Bread, Ashtrays, and the Psychic”

Once upon a time, science teacher and poet Andy Rorabeck invited me to speak to his writer’s group at Char-Lan High School. It was so long ago, I’d never left Max with a babysitter, and he looked like this:

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I love this picture because it looks like his a mini-commuter hailing a taxi. I was pretty sure Max would be all right because he’d be with Andy’s wife, Karen Rorabeck, who is a teacher and a mom of two boys a few years older than Max.

I brought word tickets to Char-Lan, inspired by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge’s fantastic book, poemcrazy. I talked, the students read their work, and I left with two new story ideas. One student, Cayleigh, said that she always worries about loaves of bread in the grocery store. She thinks they get lonely if they’re on a shelf alone, so she’ll move the loaves together. I’d never anthropomorphized bread before, and I thought that was cool.

Another student, Lindsay Below, said that she used to wear skirts every day because another girl told her, “You can’t do that!” So Lindsay decided to wear a skirt every day for the next two years or something similarly impressive. She made a mermaid skirt. She cut up jeans to make them into skirts. But nonstop skirts, all the time. I liked that kind of over the top attitude. Now Lindsay is a writer in her own right, writing everything from young adult to romance, and you can find her work here. I wrote a story about a “skirt girl” vs. an alien invasion, called S.O.S.

But I’m here to talk about the first story, the one about bread. What if bread really did talk, and you could hear it? What if you could hear the story of all inanimate objects? What would you do with that power? Would you try to save the world, or would you just try to save yourself?

That story won the Cornwall writing contest for Best Literature. Now called “Bread, Ashtrays and the Psychic,” it just made its print debut in the Chrysalis Reader (http://www.swedenborg.com/book_detail.asp?pkproductid=328), a thick, perfect-bound periodical that looks and feels more like a book than a magazine. I’m sharing a table of contents with poet Robert Bly and many other luminaries. So if you want a copy, I’ve got connections. Ping me or contact Rob Lawson directly (chrysalis@hovac.com)/

Chrysalis

1745 Gravel Hill Road

Dillwyn, VA 23936

P.S. Max survived and now looks more like this:

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He’s the big one sticking out his tongue, as well as the one reading Robert Munsch—and they’re at the Cornwall Public Library. Kind of nice to think of what stories the 2.0 generation might dream up. Right now, Max likes robots and space more than talking bread, but you never know.

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