JOIN US ON NOVEMBER 17, 2023
THE MECHANICS INSTITUTE LIBRARY OF SAN FRANCISCO
AT 12:00 PM
FOR A TASTY SAMPLING
FOOD WRITING AND FOOD STORIES
JOIN US ON NOVEMBER 17, 2023
THE MECHANICS INSTITUTE LIBRARY OF SAN FRANCISCO
AT 12:00 PM
FOR A TASTY SAMPLING
FOOD WRITING AND FOOD STORIES
IT WAS AN HONOR AND A PRIVILEGE
TO GIVE AN AUTHOR TALK
BETRAYAL ON THE BAYOU
AT THE MILLS COLLEGE
LYNDA CAMPFIELD BOOK CLUB
ON OCTOBER 29, 2023
HERE I AM YAPPING AWAY:
MANY THANKS TO MY MILLS COLLEGE SISTERS FOR THIS TREASURED INVITATION
BETRAYAL ON THE BAYOU
"This is one of those works of historical literature from which I learned more about the time and place depicted than a textbook ever attempted to teach me. From a prose standpoint, some of me longs for a decadent romp through lavishly described settings, and another part of me craves a straightforward narrative that emphasizes character development and motive. That second part was catered to in this novel to a satisfying result of feeling well acquainted with the characters and more knowledgeable for having shared their experiences."
Order your copy here:
PLEASE JOIN US FOR THE
AT THE MECHANICS INSTITUTE LIBRARY
OCTOBER 20, 2023
FOR A DISCUSSION ON
HOW TO CRAFT THE "COMING OF AGE" STORY
WITH MARVELOUS WRITERS
AND MODERATED BY YOURS TRULY
SEE MORE AND REGISTER HERE:
THE LATEST FLASH CONTEST ANNOUNCEMENT
“You never know who is reading your work and other paths that may open.” ~~ Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte
WHY ENTER WRITING CONTESTS
WRITTEN FOR: WRITER ADVICE
JUNE 21, 2023
SHERYL J. BIZE-BOUTTE
Here is the question: Are writing contests worth entering?
Well, let me begin my answer by saying that all writing contests are not created equal. There are many reasons for this. Some contests are only open to one genre or even a genre within a genre. Some are regional and some only want to hear from a siloed segment of voices.
Even so, if you happen to be among the select few who reach the finals or the even smaller percentage who go on to win, there is nothing like being able to write “finalist” or “award winning writer” in your bio.
But win, place or no, entering writing contests where your voice and material are what is being requested can be a rewarding experience that pays dividends in several ways.
You never know who is reading your work and other paths that may open. It may not be obvious, but you give greater opportunity to your words through contests. The more eyes on your work, the better.
Every writing contest you enter feeds your integrity and range as a writer. The activity of determining what, when, where and how to enter a contest enables you to understand where your work resonates and where it doesn’t. Just taking the time to read the criteria for a given writing contest may spark your muse to create something new.
You learn to place rejection where it should be, as a part of this competitive writing world we live in and as a normal and everyday occurrence for the writer. This can help you to sharpen your voice and skillset or as I mentioned above, it can even help you to find a new writing path.
You have arrived at belief and confidence in your craft and in yourself as a writer. The very fact that you are entering a writing contest already means that you have reached the most important goal in being in this place. You have become fearless and that is the writer’s greatest attribute.
You are already a winner.
LATEST WRITER ADVICE FLASH CONTEST:
ICYMI on August 18
Here is the video of the Mechanics Institute Writers Lunch:
Balancing Writing and Publishing
with Gini Grossenbacher and O'Cyrus
the next Writers Lunch at Mechanics Institute is on September 15!
THE ART OF THE ANTHOLOGY
IN DOUGLAS COLE'S BLUE CITADEL FEATURE
COLUMBIA'S READ CARPET MAGAZINE
SEE FULL ARTICLE AT LINK BELOW
PLEASE JOIN US AT THE MECHANICS INSTITUTE LIBRARY
ON AUGUST 18, 2023
YES, THIS FRIDAY
12:00 PM-1:00 PM
FOR A DICSUSSION ON
BALANCING AUTHORSHIP AND PUBLISHING
WITH TWO FABULOUS WRITERS AND INDIE PUBLISHERS
GINI GROSSENBACHER AND O'CYRUS
OH, DID I TELL YOU,
REGISTER HERE FOR ZOOM AND MORE INFO:
SHE GOT EMAIL!
Here it is for you again or for the first time:
Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte
© 2020 by Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte
Miss Pennwender was late.
The five of us in her first period American Government class were not particularly worried at first. After all, she was a total flower girl hippie, the young white woman icon of that day in 1968, and we knew she liked to smoke a bit. Sometimes we could smell it on her clothes or in her hair. We all loved her in our own ways. We all knew she loved us and wanted the best for us. She came prepared each day to make sure we had everything we needed to excel in her class and to ace our college entrance exams. She didn’t just teach us the basic elements of American Government, she taught us the background and history and atmosphere of it all. She was unlike any teacher we had ever had and our bonds with her and hers with us, although never verbally expressed, were strong.
So, on this day, it was just not right that she was not standing in her usual place at the door when we arrived. Things felt tilted and out of balance as we took our usual seats in the portable classroom. Maybe she was just held up in traffic or had overslept, we reasoned with each other. In the beginnings of her lateness, we didn’t entertain any other options.
We sat there just waiting, not speaking as five minutes passed and too quickly became ten. And even at that mark of time, in our know- everything- overconfident youthfulness we remained certain in our assumptions about her not being on time. After all, we were the “smart” kids, the “gifted” students who had been specifically chosen to be in Miss P’s accelerated college prep twelfth grade class at our Oakland, California high school. This was no small accomplishment in our white flight neighborhood where being deemed as smart or gifted was a designation bestowed on students at our school less and less.
While old yearbooks would reveal that almost half of the student body had been inducted into the National Honor Society, and two-thirds were enrolled in special college preparatory classes, this year, only the five of us out of twelve hundred students at our now mixed-race school, had “tested” smart enough to be placed in Miss P’s and other such courses. We had been hastily assembled in the principal’s office at the beginning of our senior year and without looking directly at us, he mumbled to us that we had “fallen” into the “genius” category on our intelligence testing from the year before and would be taking “special” courses designed for “high achievers” like us. It all seemed fairly messy and felt as if we had been notified at the last minute, and unwillingly.
We were an interesting group, to say the least. There were the Japanese twins, tall and angular Steve and Mark Tanuki; red-haired and introverted white girl Adelaide Morrison; blond and overly muscular football star Jimmy Fargo; and me, the talkative sandy-haired Black girl. Sometimes there were four of us who wondered why and how Jimmy got into the class, but we didn’t dwell on it.
Soon enough, the ten minutes became fifteen, the universal cutoff for waiting for a teacher. For some reason, we didn’t budge. We didn’t even look at each other. We knew something unsaid. The tilt became more pronounced as we struggled to remain patient. We knew things did not feel exactly right this day, the discomfort prompting nervous chatter.
“She will be here soon,” Steve said.
“Yes, any minute,” I said.
Adelaide began pacing the floor in the back of the classroom.
“Will you please stop that walking, Adelaide?” Jimmy said a little too loudly, making us all look over at him. “Your footsteps are driving me…”
Before he could finish his sentence, Miss P burst through the door, all shawls and straight middle-parted long brown hair, red-faced, sweaty and looking a bit crazed. In her right hand was set of Volkswagen bus keys.
In her left hand was an 18-inch-long metal pipe.
“Guys and girls, get your things!” She said breathlessly, a small bit of spittle spray escaping her thin, dry lips. “We are going on a field trip!”
Without a second thought, we gathered our bags and books and followed her down the hall and out to her VW bus, haphazardly parked right in front of our classroom building. Somehow, she had driven past the gated and fenced teacher’s parking lot and through the school grounds to pick us up. We were so excited to be doing something out of the ordinary with our freewheeling teacher and going on what we thought was a field trip, it would only seem out of character when we looked back.
We happily piled into the VW.
“Don’t worry,” Miss P said. “I will have you all back by the 3:05 bell.”
Off we went. Miss P’s VW bus allowed us a comfortable and scenic ride. The 580 freeway took us through town and then on to other cities along the way. We talked, laughed and pointed out familiar landmarks as they passed. I even showed everyone the exit my family took to get to my grandmother’s house in Richmond. By the time we passed that landmark, everything else was new territory to all of us except Miss P and Jimmy, both of whom seemed to know much more about places further north from Oakland.
Soon we reached the San Rafael bridge. It would be the first time I; the twins or Adelaide had crossed it and we paid attention to every bump and window view. After a little more than an hour of driving, we finally reached our destination, Point Reyes National Seashore.
We all disembarked from the VW bus, looking at each other quizzically. Was this some kind of nature lesson? And if so, what did it have to do with American Government? Her keys secured into her macrame shoulder bag, lead pipe in her right hand, Miss P turned to look back at us briefly and began swiftly walking toward an incline. We could clearly see the plateau near the top. Like sheep, we followed her. We climbed along with her and didn’t say a word until we reached the grassy top.
The view of the ocean was magnificent. It took what little breath we had left away and then its stunning beauty gave it back to us full force. The waves were calm and dancing against the shore like ballerinas in a choreographed line. It was a special place. We knew we were here for a significant reason.
“Come and sit with me,” Miss P. said. Her brown hair was glinting in the sun, pushed back the slight breeze with rhythmic timing. Her face was drained of color. Her eyes seemed vacant.
“He hit him with the pipe,” she said as she held it up to the sunlight.
“That pipe?” I asked.
We all really looked at the pipe then. There was a red stain on one end we had not noticed before.
“Where, when?” Steve and Mark asked in unison.
Below, even though we could no longer see them from where we sat, we knew the waves were silently breaking against the rocks. Surely, they would soften and cleanse everything we were about to hear.
“At the club last night.” Miss P had her head in her hands and began to moan as she rocked back and forth. We instinctively drew closer and surrounded her. We didn’t know yet what had happened, but we did know it was hurting Miss P and that she needed us. We didn’t know what to say to her, so we just closed in on her so she could feel us there. After a while she raised her head and looked at each of us. Her eyes were filled with tears. Her voice was weak and thready when she spoke.
“His name is Lamont. He is the love of my life. That man hit him with the pipe. He said to me white girl why are you with that spook? He said I have been watching you come in here with him. Then he hit him with the pipe and dropped it where Lamont fell. He said you won’t be with him again bitch.
I don’t know why I picked it up. I don’t remember much except leaving the hospital this morning.”
She looked up at the sky. She let go of the pipe and let it settle in the deep grass.
“Well, how is Lamont?” I asked.
Miss P just looked at me and dropped her head. Then she walked slowly to the edge of the plateau. We followed. I grabbed her hand. Jimmy took her other hand. The rest joined hands and we just stood there together looking at the waves kiss the shore. They were gray and silty now.
Now we knew why she had brought us here. Of all the people she could have chosen for this moment when she needed someone the most, she had chosen us.
And as we stood there, afraid and worried for a man we had never even met, we felt Miss P’s palatable love for Lamont. Although in different ways, and for different reasons, on that day we all felt the ugliness, bigotry, tragedy and horrid meaning of what had been done to him.
We heard the roar before we saw it. The waves had become all foam and fierceness. They hit the rocks below with such force the plateau seemed to move backward.
When the spray hit us as we stood there together, we all knew Lamont was gone.
“Well, I said I would have you back by the 3:05 bell,” Miss P said as she disengaged from our hands.
We walked back to the VW bus. We rode back full of our own thoughts about what had happened. Everyone was sad. Miss P was silent. I was angry. So, so angry.
We reached the school at 3:00 and stepped out of the VW bus. Miss P hugged and kissed us all.
When the 3:05 bell rang out with a screeching finality, we watched as Miss P turned from us and walked slowly away, climbing into and starting up the VW.
And with what would be her final wave to us, and ours to her, we watched wordlessly as Miss Pennwender drove away.
THIRD PLACE WINNER
WRITER ADVICE FLASH FICTION AWARD 2023
THE ROTTEN ROSE
Copyright©2023 by Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte
He bump-rolled into town in his greyscale Volkswagen bug on three good tires and an uncooperative spare. The flat tire that happened ten miles back on the desolate country road had made him anxious. The now familiar gut-wrenching urgency was beginning its slow creep and would soon take over, breaking him again.
Pulling into the dry dusty driveway of the Daily Night Inn, the rotten smell again filled his nostrils. It had come back to him several times as he drove from Nashville to this awful place in nowhere Texas, but no amount of searching the small car yielded any clues as to the where the now acrid odor was coming from, so he just drove on.
His destination was more important than that smell and besides, he would be rid of all that very soon. He had now arrived at the place where it would all end.
A lonely motel room. A lonely man. One shot that no one would hear.
No note. No explanation.
They would come in two days and find him only because he would not have paid for the extra night.
She was in this town so she would know soon what she had done to him. She would have to be the one to come and take care of him. He had no one else.
He was thinking about this and how she would feel when they told her. Would she be sad? Resigned? Relieved?
He was thinking about this when he banged his fist into the crumbling, fragile VW dashboard. The force of his blow caused part of the dash pad to fall away.
Right there, wedged between the broken needle gas gauge and the mileage spent odometer was the source of the smell. A dead and rotting rose, the stem still embedded in a tiny holder with just enough stagnant water to change conditions in this miniature space. She always had a rose on the dashboard in that finger sized vase. How it had gotten to this place, he did not know.
The last time he had seen that flower she had been driving and he was in the passenger seat. They were arguing about something stupid that he could no longer recall. It had not been that long ago, but he had stopped living within the measurements of time.
He picked the brown and rotting rose out of the maze of dust, hoses, numbers, and rusty wire connections to find a small sliver of paper attached.
I will always love you. No matter what. Love, Jenine
Rose in hand, the man made his way to the desk of the seedy motel and rang the bell for service.
A short, sweaty rotund man appeared and in an almost comical drawl asked,
“What can I do for you today, mister?”
If he noticed the rose, he made no mention of it.
“I’d like a room please,” the man said.
“For the night?” the clerk asked.
“For the week, please,” the man replied.
“My, I tell you that’s a surprise. We don’t get many around here who want to stay that long!” the clerk replied excitedly.
“Well,” the man said, “I am just having a feeling,”
The clerk narrowed his eyes as he turned register around for the man’s signature, “And what feeling would you be having if you don’t mind my askin?”
Through his shining and broad smile, the man said,
SEE OTHER WRITER ADVICE WINNERS AT
THE ROTTEN ROSE
HAS BEEN SELECTED AS A FINALIST
WRITER ADVICE 2023 FLASH FICTION CONTEST
WATCH THIS SPACE FOR MORE...
AND IF YOU WANT TO WRITE SOME FLASH FICTION CHECK THIS OUT:
ENROLLING NOW: GINIS.WRITERS1@GMAIL.COM
ENROLLING NOW AT:
IMAGINE, CREATE, WRITE AND HAVE FUN!
THE BIG BREAK-UP
Copyright©2019 by Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte
You named me
And in my last days
I look back and wonder
If you had believed
I was a man
Would you have
Respected me more
Would you have treated me
Like the devoted caregiver
Taken for granted
Thinking I would always be here
Because Mama always got you
Even when you
Slowly and deliberately
Break her heart
I have come to know you
As the indifferent children you are
Greedy and uncaring
Where those among you
With the loudest voice
And the biggest bag of coin
Silence those who want to save me
You shake my core
Producing unnatural fire
My heat does not subside
My tears evaporate
I only imagine I can cry
Gone are my seas
Of clear aqua calm
Debris clouds reflection
Of the exploding stars
Melting in my fever
Freezing in my chill
I am starving
Seeking the sweet breath
That is no longer there
I choke on my dryness
I drown in my wetness
My greens are dust
My browns are mold
I am toxic to life
My rancid smell repels
I cannot control my bowel
As I spill over
into the unknown
and places where
my wardrobe no longer fits
I am naked and alone
Stripped of my riches
As flames rage across my belly
With misplaced rain
Steaming from my head
Poison droplets swipe right
Across my chest
Landing at my center
I give birth sporadically
In strange places
Where some things do not belong
There was an order here
There was a freedom
There was a love
Openings for new beginnings
The portal is closing
My feet are missing
My soul is heavy
Movement is an elusive dream
I have grown tired
I must rest my soul
By leaving you
If enough are left
Who really love me
You may find my hiding places
While the sun continues to reveal
And the moon lights the empty dark
JOIN US AS WE CELEBRATE NATIONAL POETRY MONTH
NO POETRY NO PEACE™
FEATURING POETRY READINGS BY
DR. JEANNE POWELL
AND OF COURSE, YOURS TRULY
THESE POETS ARE ALL HAPPENING AT THE MECHANICS INSTITUTE LIBRARY
ON APRIL 12, 2023 AT 6:00 PM
ZOOM ON IN!
OH, YES, NO POETRY NO PEACE IS ALSO A BOOK I CO-WROTE WITH MY DAUGHTER ANGELA
HERE'S WHAT A RECENT READER HAD TO SAY:
"Sheryl Bize-Boutte writes her poetry with the edge of sardonic humor that is serious. Angela is more straight up, "this is how it is" in her writing. Both show a lot of love of family as their one collaboration, "A Tapestry of Memories" shows: "From that chance meeting on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley / You could tell that he truly loved the mademoiselle." Another family chronicle that I have read several times is "The 40 Paradox" which is a personal family journey that is also a cultural journey across our country, where shadows of old attitudes of superiority exist. The book closes with the delightful title poem, and should be read by every writer to know what poets suffer."
Get a copy here:
AS WE SAUNTER INTO SPRINGJOIN ME AS I MODERATE/HOST
WRITERS LUNCH VIBRANT DISCUSSIONS
READINGS FROM STELLAR POETS
AT THE MECHANICS INSTITUTE
HOSTED BY TARYN EDWARDS
ALL ON ZOOM
MARCH 17: WRITERS LUNCH
STARTING AND MANAGING A CRITIQUE GROUP
APRIL 12: NO POETRY NO PEACE™
APRIL 21: THE BIRTH OF A POEM
SEE MORE ABOUT ME AND MY WORK AT:
SEE MORE ABOUT THE MECHANICS INSTITUTE LIBRARY AT:
MECHANICS INSTITUTE LIBRARY OF SAN FRANCISCO
The Writers' Lunch: Journal Writing for the New Year; How Journal Writing Can Support Your Writing Practice
moderated by Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte
Friday, January 20, 2023 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
This event will be conducted via Zoom. Register and you will be emailed the Zoom credentials.
Join us in the new year for a discussion about how journal writing can support your writing practice and encourage a life of wellness, creativity, and purpose. Dr. Eric Maisel and Lynda Monk will present their new book The Great Book of Journaling: How Journal Writing Can Support a Life of Wellness, Creativity, Meaning and Purpose and discuss how journaling can enhance your writing endeavors. Moderated by Sheryl Bize-Boutte.
Dr. Eric Maisel is a retired family therapist and active creativity coach, is the author of 50+ books. He is the developer of the philosophy of life known as Kirism and widely regarded as America’s foremost creativity coach. He has also written extensively on the challenges of the creative life. His books in this area include Fearless Creating, Coaching the Artist Within, Creative Recovery, The Van Gogh Blues, and Mastering Creative Anxiety. His books specifically for writers include Deep Writing, Write Mind, Living the Writer’s Life, A Writer’s Space, A Writer’s Paris, and A Writer’s San Francisco. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, trains creativity coaches, and maintains a worldwide creativity coaching practice. You can visit Dr. Maisel at www.ericmaisel.com, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, subscribe to his weekly newsletter at https://ericmaisel.com/newsletter/, and be automatically notified about his new blog posts at https://authory.com/ericmaisel
Lynda Monk, MSW, RSW, CPCC is a Registered Social Worker, Certified Life Coach, and the Director of the International Association for Journal Writing – IAJW.org. Lynda is co-editor of two books including Transformational Journaling for Coaches, Therapists, and Clients: A Complete Guide to the Benefits of Personal Writing and The Great Book of Journaling: How Journal Writing Can Support a Life of Wellness, Creativity, Meaning and Purpose. She is the co-author of Writing Alone Together: Journaling in a Circle of Women for Creativity, Compassion and Connection. She developed Life Source Writing: A Reflective Journaling Practice for Self-Discovery, Self-Care, Wellness and Creativity. Lynda regularly teaches, writes, and speaks on the healing and transformational power of journaling and expressive writing. She lives with her family on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada. Find out more at https://IAJW.org
Award-winning author and Pushcart Prize nominee Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte is an Oakland multidisciplinary writer whose autobiographical and fictional short story collections, along with her lyrical and stunning poetry, artfully succeed in getting across deeper meanings about the politics of race and economics without breaking out of the narrative. Her writing has been variously described as “rich in vivid imagery,” “incredible,” and “great contributions to literature.” Her first novel, Betrayal on the Bayou, was published in June 2020 and a poetry collection she has written with her daughter Dr. Angela M. Boutte, titled No Poetry No Peace™, was published in August 2020 and is the namesake of the No Poetry No Peace™ series at the Mechanics Institute of San Francisco. Her in progress novel first chapter, “The Burden Keeper,” was the 2021 fiction category winner for the San Francisco Writers Conference writing contest anthology. An inaugural Oakland Poet Laureate runner-up, she is also a popular, teacher, literary reader, presenter, storyteller, curator, and emcee/host for literary and poetry events. Find out more at www.sheryljbize-boutte.com/
The Writers' Lunch is a casual brown-bag lunch activity on the 3rd Friday of each month. Look forward to craft discussion, informal presentations on all forms of writing, and excellent conversation. Please contact Taryn Edwards if you have any questions or if you would like to be a panelist - email@example.com
Join us, share and learn!