Raw Literature: Asperger’s, Voice and the Search for Identity

My guest post features at Carrot Ranch today. I’m honoured for the opportunity to write about a subject close to my heart and share my passion for increasing awareness of the impact of Asperger’s on Aspies and their families, in the hopes of a better understanding.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

By Sherri Matthews

The first few pages of the children’s book, ‘Are you my Mother?’, both captivated and troubled me as a girl. The story tells of a baby bird who hatches while his mother is away from the nest looking for food.  The hatchling flies the nest to look for her, but he has no idea what either he nor his mother, looks like.  He asks everything from a kitten to a boat, ‘Are you my mother?’, but to no avail.  Then he starts to cry.

Thankfully, unlike the baby bird, I didn’t have to search for my mother. But I questioned my identity when, after my parent’s divorced and I no longer lived with my dad,  I was told to use my stepfather’s surname. In 1970’s Britain, I was the only one of my friends from a so-called broken home; I understood it was to save…

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Sixty Seconds’ Worth Of Distance Run

The sun disappeared taking last year with it, and I quietly prayed that this year would be better. Eyes straight, time to press on and write.  This is THE year, right?

Lyme Regis, Dorset, December 2017
(c) Sherri Matthews

The Summerhouse is five years old this month.  Five years of blogging, except I am not exactly prolific these days.  Five years since I scrawled out the first words of the first draft of my memoir and five years later, I am still writing.  But it’s too easy to think I’ve failed because I haven’t finished it. I forget what I have accomplished when the climb back up from each derailment is more protracted than the last.

A change of scene helps, so I’m told.

Perhaps a cottage in the English countryside…

Selworthy in Exmoor, West Somerset (c) Sherri Matthews

Or a spot by the Aegean sea where the cicadas strum to the rising heat and a lazy lunch awaits…

Crete (c) Sherri Matthews

Both would be nice, but I already have my change of scene in a room for an office in our new pad. It’s in need of some decorating and organising, but it’s my space.  It is a work in progress. Like my memoir.  Like me.

So the new year rolled in and I set to work, and then a friendship from long ago rolled in, though I knew she had never left. Threaded throughout my memoir, she was there at the start, stood firm at the end and is with me still.

We reminisced of the times we sat up all night drinking Bacardi and Coke reciting Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ until we knew it by heart, word for word, pondering its mighty value against our flighty aspirations…

‘If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same;…

…If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!’

We planned a road trip across America by Greyhound bus when we were eighteen, before the ‘gap year’ was invented.  My friend reminded me of all the poems I had written and read out to her and of the reams of letters I sent her from America.  My Lord, she must have been bored stiff!

I got my trip across America, but it wasn’t what I planned and it wasn’t with my friend.

And there lies the story.

So now to complete my memoir and cling to blogging for all it’s worth, and what better way to begin than with a return to Irene Waters’ Times Past prompt which for January is:

High School Graduation

Writing as a tail-end Baby Boomer growing up in rural Suffolk, England, my high school graduation experience was non-existent.  There was no such thing for school leavers: only university students graduated with tasselled hats, long gowns and degrees.  My last day of school in the early summer of 1976 consisted of getting signed out by each of my teachers, a hurried handshake and a mumbled ‘good luck’.   My friends and I then faced two nerve-wracking months for our ‘O’ Level exam results.  That was it.

But if my high school graduation was non-existent, Eldest Son’s was filled with pomp and ceremony and endless speeches beneath the baking Californian sun.

American High School Graduation
(c) Sherri Matthews

My son was three when we left England for America, and he spent his entire grade school education there.  I was glad for the celebrations that made up such a large part of his and his siblings’ American school experience. Mine felt more like boot camp in comparison.

Although I was grateful for my maths teacher who turned up on Friday for double last period dressed in tweed and armed with a projector and slides of his safaris in Africa.  Anything was better than maths.

My son wasn’t too enamoured with all the fuss around graduating with a high school diploma, but on the day, he had a great time with his friends.

High School Graduation. Eldest Son second from left.
(c) Sherri Matthews

A graduation party supervised by parents and teachers followed.  ‘Safe and Sober’ was the theme.   I had to laugh.  Safe, hopefully, but sober?  At eighteen? Being a Brit, I didn’t know anybody at eighteen who stayed sober at a party.  But never mind the American legal drinking age, after what happened at the little party I held for him at home, I’m sure it was the beer keg at his friend’s party afterwards that he most looked forward to.

Our lumbering black Lab, a totally loveable Scooby Doo of a dog, managed somehow to break a water pipe at the side of the house while gallivanting around the garden.  Water gushed out of the ground, flooding our patio and turned our grass into a mud pit.  EH (ex husband) spent the rest of the evening trying to fix it and had to turn off the water.  Meaning we had a house full of guests with no running water or working toilet.

That night, after everyone had left or gone to bed,  I found a bottle half full of champagne in the kitchen and I sat on the sofa and polished it off. I pondered what family life would be like once my son left home for college in a few months.  And I wondered where the last eighteen years had gone.

I wished I could have had them all over again, hoping I had made the most of every distance run, my days with my son.   I had a good cry and then looked to the years ahead, and I resolved not to waste a single minute of all that was to come, unforgiving or otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Winner of Flash Fiction Contest #7

At last! I’m thrilled to announce the winner of my Murderous Musings Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #7. Fantastic flashes, all thirty-two of them a deviously delicious read. And the winner is…Marjorie Mallon! Huge congratulations Marje!

I’m also hugely excited to announce the publication of The Congress of Rough Writers: Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. I available here (universal link). I’m truly honoured to have several flashes and an essay feature among so many accomplished and talented writers.

Thank you so much, dear friends, for your support of Carrot Ranch’s first ever Rodeo and my first ever writing contest. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and the ride ain’t over yet, with Charli’s announcement of her TUFF contest next week and the ‘Best of Show’ overall winner announcement on January 2nd!

As for the Summerhouse, thanks so much for hanging with me through all weathers. Maybe I’ll find Sweet Robin soon and when I do, I’ll tell you all about it. But until then, I wish you all the merriest of greetings for this wonderful festive season. And my hope and prayer for 2018: Keep the dream alive; hold fast and write like the wind.

Happy Christmas!

Love Sherri xxx

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Murderous Musings Winner at Carrot Ranch @Charli_MillsMurderous Musings

By Sherri Matthews

When I set my Murderous Musing’s prompt for Charli’s Flash Fiction Rodeo, I expected a few good folk to turn bad, but not thirty-two of them. And what a deliciously devious lot they are! Thank you so much to all who entered; my esteemed judges and I read wide-eyed and suitably horrified through a disturbingly chilling collection exploring the dark side of the Rodeo.

Some had us baying for the same sweet revenge, such was the pain of the story.  With others, we pondered the tragic price of a seething jealousy, bitter resentment and an all-consuming rage.  One or two gave a chuckle, clever in the twist at the end.  We enjoyed every flash and it was a close call, but we agreed our overall winner is Mr Blamey by Marjorie Mallon.

Mr Blamey by Marjorie Mallon

Mr Blamey had no first name. He had…

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Brown Paper Sealing Wax And Vintage All The Way

Every Christmas, my present from Granny arrived by post in plenty of time for the big day,  its yearly arrival creating one of my fondest childhood memories.

But it wasn’t so much what was inside the parcel that made me so eager (and don’t get me wrong, Granny had a knack for finding the sweetest little books which I adored,  including the tiny Observer’s Book of Birds which turned me into a Bird Twitcher of sorts – serious bird watcher, I should say or, at least, so far as a ten-year old with toy binoculars can pretend to be – and would probably be a collector’s item today), but rather the parcel itself.

This is because Granny’s parcels were always wrapped in shiny, brown paper and tied up with string, the small, tight knot held firmly in place by a blob of dark red sealing wax. The centre held an image, smooth and flat and probably Granny’s initials, from her personal sealing wax stamp.  More than anything, it was that blob of wax that fascinated me.

Strange, I  know. But if I was a strange child, then I’m even stranger as an adult: I could barely contain my excitement when I found this little treasure at our local garden centre last week  in the ‘vintage’ toy section of its Christmas display…

A Post Office set! I had one of these and oh the fun I had playing office with the miniature notepads, parcels and labels, and, of course, the rubber stamp.  Not quite up to Granny’s sealing wax standard, but it would have to do.  And it must have done, as many years later, I got a job at the Post Officer working behind the counter with stamps a-plenty. Had to go away for a six week training course and everything.

I wonder if children today are interested in such a game with so much else to amuse.  Perhaps my ‘vintage’ generation has more to offer than we think. Back then, I knew one thing for sure:  how much I coveted Granny’s sealing wax stamp kit.   It seemed quite magical to me, and she was the only one I’ve ever known who had one.

A different kind of vintage attracted the kids at the garden centre, with a lot more excitement garnered around the Game of Thrones display than the Post Office game.  No surprise there. And it’s always nice to bump into Jon Snow.

Many Christmases have come and gone since Granny sent her last parcel.   Today I take in brown cardboard parcels ordered on the internet and not a piece of string, never mind a blob of wax, in sight. I wonder if Granny would have gone for the convenience of online shopping given half a chance? It wouldn’t have surprised me if she had; Granny had her traditions, but she took to modern advances with gusto if it meant an improvement on what she knew.

But how wonderful it would be to open the door and find the postman holding one of Granny’s brown paper parcels sealed with wax just one more time…

I received books as gifts throughout my childhood, all read avidly. Many I no longer have, but I came across this little pile while recently unpacking after our house move. An eclectic mix from my generation growing up in the 60’s and 70’s that has travelled with me a few times across the shining sea…

Peppermints in the Parlor is Eldest Son’s, one his childhood favourites and read together countless times, but the others are mine from days gone by.  I had forgotten about Peter Pan and Wendy, the book at the bottom.  It’s inscribed inside ‘To darling Sherri, with lots of love from Auntie Peggy’.  She was Dad’s older sister, someone I last saw when I was a teenager.

Last year in my Christmas post, I linked to books newly published by debut author friends, but this year, I’m way out of the loop. The aftermath of a house move and taking care of other ‘stuff’ remains all-consuming, but I do know of one book recently published which I would very much like to share with you:

Author D G Kaye (blogger and friend Debby Gies), through her own trials, has very recently launched her latest labour of love, her May/December memoir: Twenty Years: After “I Do”

Through ‘Reflections on Love and Changes Through Ageing‘, Debby shares her unique and inspirational stories from her twenty year marriage to a man two decades older than she:

‘In this personal accounting, D.G. Kaye shares the insights and wisdom she has accrued through twenty years of keeping her marriage strong and thriving despite the everyday changes and challenges of aging. Kaye reveals how a little creative planning, acceptance, and unconditional love can create a bond no obstacle will break. Kaye’s stories are informative, inspiring, and a testament to love eclipsing all when two people understand, respect, and honor their vows. She adds that a daily sprinkling of laughter is a staple in nourishing a healthy marriage.

Twenty years began with a promise. As Kaye recounts what transpired within that time, she shows that true love has no limits, even when one spouse ages ahead of the other.’

Debby’s beautiful book, inside and out (like the lady herself) is available here (Amazon’s universal link for all countries).

Next Tuesday 19 December, I’ll announce, with great excitement, the winner of my Murderous Musings Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest.  And the Summerhouse gets to proudly display its first ever Flash Fiction Rodeo Badge!

And more huge excitement on the way with the imminent release of Carrot Ranch’s very first Flash Fiction Anthology! I’ll re-blog Charli’s announcement post when the news breaks and then Happy Christmas!

Despite my dismal attempts at visiting blogs, thank you again so much to those of you who still visit the Summerhouse, virtual or otherwise.  Thank you for understanding my lack of visits. Much of what I want to achieve personally, on and offline, sits on the back burner for now; keeping up with any social media is pretty difficult, making me a rubbish online friend.  But I do not want to disappear and I have great hope that things will start to ease soon. I am optimistic, if nothing else.

One more thing, in case you wondered: that little red tin on top of the books in my photograph? It’s a button tin.  Because everyone needs a tin for their buttons…right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #8

This is it, the last ride of the Rodeo! TUFF: The Ultimate Flash Fiction by Charli Mills, Lead Buckroo, is live at Carrot Ranch!

A brief intro: ‘TUFF delivers your elixir. Yes, it’s called TUFF, a play on the acronym and the idea that it’s a tough challenge. It’s five steps, five flash fictions! Yet, it is a tool, a gift to you that you will understand because it will resonate with what writing flash fiction has already taught you.’

If you’re ready to write five flash fictions in one, then this is the contest for you. Deadline 11:59 EST November 6, winner announced December 26. As always, full details below, no entry fee and a cash prize!

This is the last of my reblogs for the Rodeo, which also lists all the dates for the winning announcements for all 8 contests. My ‘Murderous Musings’ winner will be announced on December 19, here and at Carrot Ranch.

I’ll be back here as soon as I come up for some air from the packing boxes and look forward to those long promised visits. And good luck to everyone ink deep in NaNoWriMo. It’s time to ride and write like the wind!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

TUFF: The Ultimate Flash Fiction

by Charli Mills

What if I told you that writing flash fiction will get you to where you want to be? Would you scoff, or consider the possibility? Would you think I’m handing you a magic elixir? Ah, an elixir. Let’s pause a moment and talk about the hero’s journey.

If you answered the call to participate in the Flash Fiction Rodeo this past month, you answered the same call every hero hears: the one the hero reluctantly answers. We think of heroes as Thor or Wonder Woman. Yet, the hero’s journey calls to us all. Winnie the Pooh and Frodo and Mary Tyler Moore are all heroes. It’s about the path:

  1. The call: the opening scene in which the hero is called out of the ordinary world.
  2. The test: the story develops conflict through tests, challenges, temptations, allies and enemies.
  3. The cave

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Halloween Music And A Homecoming

In February, we put our house up for sale.  Nine months later and four weeks at the Goose Farm, we moved into our new home last week.

For five of those weeks, my cat Eddie had to stay in a cattery.  The owner there could not have been kinder and more lovely.  She made sure my boy, who is eleven years old and has never been away from home before, was well looked after.   I visited regularly which helped, although it broke my heart as time went on having to say goodbye to the sound of his plaintive meows.

I collected him yesterday, and as you can see, he’s already settling in on his familiar spot…and a quiet Halloween for him this year…

Thank you again to all of you who have shown such amazing support for the Flash Fiction Rodeo running at Carrot Ranch.  I was thrilled to host my Murderous Musings contest last week. For those of you sitting on the fence, you still have until EST 11:59pm tonight to enter! Judges Hugh Mike and I can’t wait to read all your deliciously devious entries.

I’ll reblog Charli’s Ultimate Flash Fiction Challenge after this.  Her final Contest #8 at the Rodeo is a corker.

Sharing emails about the contest (and again, thanks so much to Hugh and Charli for stepping in at the Ranch while I was otherwise assailed by packing boxes), I let Hugh know we had moved. I told him about a photo I had taken on the last day as I stood at the top of the stairs for a moment, wrapped in the silence a house holds in that strange space between hello and goodbye.

Sunshine blazed into the hallway below through the partly open front door.  Minutes after I took this photo, we walked outside, handed over the keys to the new owners and drove away, not looking back. I promised Hugh I would post the photo to mark the beginning of a new chapter…

And that was that.  Now to new things and hopefully some kind of blogging and writing through the unpacking madness, ha.

Meanwhile, here’s a special treat for you: A fantastic collaboration on the Halloween Theme song between two of my favourite and talented musicians, Liam John Norton and Nick Estrada.  I’ve shared Nick’s music here from time to time.  That’s him (yep, my boy…!) on guitars.  Enjoy…

Happy Halloween!

 

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #7

Wouldn’t you know it. The same week I host Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #7 over at Carrot Ranch, I move house. It was supposed to happen in July, but how else to keep up with my broken record/cliché fashion Summerhouse phrase, Better Late Than Never?

But more on that later, because today, I’m thrilled to reblog Murderous Musings: When Good Folk Turn Bad at the Rodeo.

Wicked wranglings of the heart?  Great. You’ve got until 11.59 EST 31 October to write a 109 word flash fiction weaving a murderous vibe through an everyday setting.  A shock twist wins bonus points. As always it’s free entry with a cash prize. Read on for all devious and dastardly contest details.

Huge thanks to Hugh Roberts and Charli Mills for holding down the fort in my absence (this in haste).  And huge apologies to D Avery for dropping the ball and not re–blogging her Bucking Bull Go-Round Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #6, but there’s still time to enter if you gallop over today: https://carrotranch.com/2017/10/24/flash-fiction-rodeo-6/

Judges Hugh, Mike and I can’t wait to read your murderous musings and really hope you’ll join us. And look out for the final Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #8 live next Tuesday with Charli Mills’ ‘The Ultimate Flash Fiction’.

Have fun everyone, see you soon and remember, watch your back for this one: you never know who might be lurking in the shadows at the Rodeo…

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Murderous Musings:

When Good Folk Turn Bad At The Rodeo

By Sherri Matthews

Saddle up, tighten your reins and pull on your riding boots. And while you’re about it, watch your back, because wicked wranglings are afoot at the Rodeo. Western or English? Doesn’t matter. Thrown off a few times? Never mind. Devious, deadly or just plain dangerous, it’s time for some murderous musings.

Long fascinated with the dark side of the human heart, I read a lot of True Crime. Not for the gory details, neither for the whodunit: I want to understand the why.

As a memoir writer, I need to explore the true motives driving the story. I wonder how many of us ask ourselves, if truly honest, what might we be capable of if pushed too far? What would be our not so perfect storm?

But it never occurred to me that I could explore this…

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #5

Time to Twitterflash at the Rodeo!  C. Jai Ferry’s 9×11 Twitterflash kicks off Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #5 at Carrot Ranch. She wants us to complete a 99-word story using Twitter on any subject or in any genre as long as it is exactly 99 words and made up of 11 sentences of exactly 9 words each. Each individual sentence should be tweeted, one at a time, for a total of 11 tweets (plus one tweet with the title, if you choose to use one). C. Jai gives us 10 days for this challenge, deadline is Sunday, October 29 at 11:59 pm EST. If Twitter isn’t for you, why not enter your story as a challenge in the post comments at Carrot Ranch? And remember, there’s no entry fee, a cash prize of $25 for the winner who is then entered into the Best of Show with a further $50 prize. Read on for full details…happy Twittering everyone!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

9X11 Twitterflash

By C. Jai Ferry

We’ve Passed the Halfway Mark!

We’ve made it to Challenge #5, and we’re still alive and writing, so for this challenge, let’s see how you do with some rather unnatural constraints.

Carrot Ranch writers are used to the challenges inherent in writing a 99-word story. Flash fiction requires a delicate balance between brevity of words and richness of story. Becky Tuch at The Review Review offers the following perspective on flash fiction:

Part poetry, part narrative, flash fiction—also known as sudden fiction, micro fiction, short short stories, and quick fiction—is a genre that is deceptively complex. […] Distilling experience into a few pages or, in some cases a few paragraphs, forces writers to pay close attention to every loaded conversation, every cruel action, every tender gesture, and every last syllable in every single word.

[The link above also offers some great insights from experts…

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #4

Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #4 ‘Scars’ is live now! Memoir writer Irene Waters asks us to write a double length Carrot Ranch flash, or 2 chapters of 99-words each (198 words total), tell a story that shows a scar. It can be memoir, other forms of creative non-fiction, any genre of fiction or a BOTS (based on a true story). Deadline 11:59 pm EST October 26. Read on for all details and submission guidelines, and as always, good luck one and all!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Scars

By Irene Waters

Welcome to Contest #4 of the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo. This competition is free to enter and carries a cash prize of $25 for first place. Winning submissions will automatically be forwarded to the All-Around Rodeo Winner which carries an additional cash prize of $50. Naturally you can’t have a competition without rules and as each competition leader has devised their own rules I suggest that you read those for this competition prior to submitting your piece. The rules follow the competition topic.

The Topic

As a memoir writer and reader I am very aware that it is the situations in life that have a massive impact on the memoirist, those events which leave scars, whether physical or emotional, that are the chosen part of the life to be relayed. As a flash fiction writer delving into fiction, a genre with which I have…

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #3

Flash Fiction Contest #3 from Jules Paige live at Carrot Ranch! This is flash fiction with a difference: Jules asks us to use a form of poetry called a ‘Septolet’. Never heard of it? Me neither, but it looks to be a fun challenge. Read on for all the details and good luck one and all!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Septolet in Motion

By JulesPaige

Words are cast like magic spells. Some may debate the text in which such lessons exist. Religious works could be a type of Grimoire since often as children we are taught rote prayers that will lead us away from temptation. Other schools of thought may define Grimoire as a book devoted to just the teaching and instruction of magic and those amulets and talisman that would be endowed with gifting the owners with better fortunes. I quote this next line from the Wikipedia entry on the subject, “In many cases, the books themselves are believed to be imbued with magical powers, though in many cultures, other sacred texts that are not Grimoires (such as the Bible) have been believed to have supernatural properties intrinsically.

I would beg to argue that any book that transfers us to another world or jolts our imagination could be a Grimoire…

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