Writing Re-Enlightenment

A Taste for It (Apocalyptic “Laugh ‘n Cry” Flash Fiction Featuring Ants That Like Oreos, Roast Chickens, and Other Things; Pigs That Like Tar-Paper Because They’re Smart but Weird-A** Animals; and People, Who Just Want to Live Their Best Prosperity-Filled Lives so Leave Them Alone With All That Environmental Sh**)

Posted in Uncategorized, writing by Caralyn Davis on March 16, 2018

Ant hills rose by the thousands from cracks in the asphalt and concrete. The abstract granular cones, ranging from light sandy brown to dark rust, created a new miniature topography across the city. Unimpressed, unaware even as an endless march of 99 degree days claimed our attention, we ploughed through them with the steel toe of a work boot, the stiletto heel of a platform pump. ….

Read the rest at The Molotov Cocktail HERE.

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My Mama Is a Demon (Or ‘Stop Being So Mean’ So-Called Christians Because Mean Ain’t a Look Approved by Jesus)

Posted in Uncategorized, writing by Caralyn Davis on December 19, 2017

Demon possession has come a long way since the days of Linda Blair and The Exorcist. Back then, possession was a messy, visceral business rife with fluids and ejaculations of one sort or another. For average folks confronting a demon, sturdy raingear came in just as handy as a Bible and Holy Water. These days, demons do a better job of blending in. For example, on the TV show Supernatural, the demons who take over the bodies of hapless humans appear to bathe regularly between bouts of evil. Nevertheless, one constant remains for demons: They do evil. Perhaps they slit the throats of schoolchildren, or take a machine gun to a crowd of fair-goers. Whatever the specifics, they are action-oriented, full-throttle evil-doers.

Consequently, I was surprised to learn that my mother is possessed by demons. She has twice been informed of this fact by fellow church members. (She’s lost count of how many times she’s been accused of not being a Christian.) Mama first experienced the sacred when she was seven years old. No one in her family had ever taken her to church or Sunday school, but one summer day, she was lying on her back under a tree in her front yard when she looked up through the canopy of green leaves and saw glimpses of the blue sky. At that moment, she knew that God was there with her. So she hied herself off to Sunday school with a neighbor family to, as she describes it, “find out what the sacred was about.” …

_________________________________

Read the rest of my essay here:

http://killingthebuddha.com/mag/confession/my-mama-is-a-demon/

 

A Damn Fine Female Body Part (Or Why You Really, Really Need to Stop Using C*nt as a Curse Word)

Posted in writing by Caralyn Davis on December 19, 2017

Originally published on Aug. 5, 2014, in The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review. Can’t find it now, so republishing here since it’s still valid even if the footnote links are lost to time:

The female nether regions divide Americans into two distinct camps. On one side are the people who cannot bring themselves to say, hear, or read the word vagina no matter how legitimate the circumstances that prompt its use. Depending on whether they over-identify with daytime talk show hosts or public leaders, the antivagina crowd either reverts to baby talk (e.g., vajayjay) or condemns the dictionary-approved terminology as profanity and debauchery most vile. Sexual repression being the obvious diagnosis, I can do nothing but feel sorry for the stricken and wield the word with purpose and clarity whenever warranted.

What worries me and even pushes me to the point of active dislike is the growing multitude on the opposite end of the spectrum — the ones who are comfortable using the edgier cunt as an everyday, casual obscenity. Cunt as insult has been around a long time and, within the hierarchy of derogatory expletives, is still one of the worst as far as I can tell from my middle-aged perspective. But it’s everywhere:

  • Free Showtime weekend, first episode of the acclaimed TV show “Dexter” that I see: Dexter (the antihero serial killer) and some wily enemy with a hold over him are discussing two contract killers who plan to murder the enemy. Dexter wants to know what these killers are like. The enemy, a cosmopolitan sort who gives the impression he would feel comfortable wearing an ascot, trots out the descriptive phrase “a vicious little cunt” as a crucial identifier.
  • The Twitter feed of Kurt Sutter, creator and show runner of the TV show “Sons of Anarchy”: Across the board, males and females bothersome to this man get a “cunt” tag.1
  • A CD review at a literary/culture website uses the term “cuntjuice” to describe a musician’s less appealing work.2
  • More personally, during a phone call with my ex-fiancé to catch up on our families, he says, “My brother is such a cunt sometimes.” Reason 252 that I am content to let go of old wounds and enjoy the balm of gratitude that we aren’t together in our golden years.

These examples feature insults made by men, but women — girls — are prime culprits as well. A simple Internet search for “Miley Cyrus X-rated shirt” brings up the pop singer going fashion forward in a black halter top with “YOU CUNT” printed in red block letters that coordinate nicely with her lipstick. And you have only to go to an unmoderated fan site, Facebook account, YouTube video, or Twitter feed to find angry teen girls slinging out a commonplace “cunt” to anyone they decide to hate. The issue of reblogging vs. reposting on Tumblr also raises enough ire among what appear to be female bloggers to warrant a public service-type announcement that Cindy reposts, giving the content originator no credit, therefore “Cindy is a CUNT. Don’t be like Cindy.”3 Even young women who could be hailed as America’s future leaders are willing to threaten nonconformist females with the physical violence of a “cunt punt.”4

I’m tempted to shake my fist and yell, “Curses, pop culture!” Yet the literary crowd is doing the same thing. I admit, a year or two ago I wrote a short story that included cunt as a curse word (since deleted). When my main character cut off her husband’s thumb with a meat cleaver, “Cunt!” came out of the husband’s mouth almost automatically even though I’d never said or written that particular word before in all my years as a functional human.

In my defense, I wasn’t hip to the modern usage. The word held both significant degradation and shock value to me, qualities fitting of an extreme, involuntary mutilation. But the reality is that the shock value is now minimal. Fiction writers employ cunt as a Monday-through-Friday type of attack. Cunt as insult enjoys such mainstream acceptance that even The Best American Short Stories series isn’t exempt.5

I’m tired of it. Fucking tired of it. I say that to demonstrate that I have no problem with a well-placed, all-inclusive obscenity such as fuck, shit, damn, or asshole. I can even accept the more general gender-based insult of bitch.

However, race-based obscenities should be off the table (and no, using the alternate spelling of nigga doesn’t make that particular word magically okey-dokey if you aren’t a black person). Same goes for belittling someone by describing them as what is, let’s be honest, a damn fine female body part. Demeaning the physical core of femininity is bottom-feeding objectification.

So, cunt as insult is bad and should not be taken silently. That suggests tacit acceptance, which is a problem when the practice is bleeding into so many avenues of communication and is perceived as imbuing artistic endeavors with an aura of gritty coolness. People need to be made aware that the simple fact of living in the 21st century doesn’t give them an inalienable right to say shit they shouldn’t, and that starts with an insult that is detrimental to all women everywhere. Here are some sample conversations offered as inspiration:

Misogynist/weirdo: “You cunt!”

Potential female response: “Not a cunt, but a proud owner, thank you.”

Potential male response: “Basic anatomy says no.”

Potential gender-neutral but more inflammatory response: “Shut up, asshole.”

There’s a good chance the misogynist/weirdo will continue to use cunt as insult. But maybe not. And maybe someone who hears your response will think twice before they use it themselves or allow others to use it without social repercussion.

Wait, what if womenfolk want to take back the power of the word? Achieving true power doesn’t involve equal-opportunity degradation of the female sex. In this regard, I don’t give cunt the same leeway as I do bitch. Bitch as insult is broader, less personal, less defining, and consequently, more malleable in meaning. Cunt as insult is just such an intimate attack that there is no way to spin it into female empowerment. All we’re doing is “mean girling” ourselves over our basic anatomical structure — pretty much the ultimate display of self-loathing. Note: I’m all for male empowerment as well, so even though I find the insult “cock face,” which I recently discovered via Instagram, quite visually evocative, I have no plans to indulge in its use to balance the scales.

Women who want to own the word and men who want to be decent human beings should take cunt out of the realm of insults, reclaim it as a beneficial organ,6 and use it in a complimentary light. In Victorian erotica, writers typically used cunt and its diminutive cunnie (also cunny) in service to happy though sometimes questionable pleasures, not as a rote opportunity to insult women’s sexual organs. These days, poets seem to be on the leading edge of artists willing to reclaim cunt from the realm of negativity.7

I myself am not above objectifying human body parts. To wit: See Norman Reedus aka Daryl Dixon on the television series “The Walking Dead.” As Buzzfeed writer Erin La Rosa said last year, “DEM. ARMS.”8 When one views such proportional elegance, appreciative objectification — linguistic ogling if you will — is a natural response. In fact, the Reedus fandom often labels photographs of the actor based on the different types of “pornography” they offer the viewer, brandishing anatomical hashtags like orgasmic yelps.9 The point: Sexual objectification can be a positive experience when it celebrates rather than denigrates.

My one caveat is that the person to whom this objectification is applied should appreciate the effort and not be made to feel scared or annoyed. Continuing with the Reedus example, if I were ever to meet the man, I would stab my own hand with a ballpoint pen before I let him feel the creepy slime of sexual harassment as a result of my words. Unwelcome objectification of either sex by word or action is always inappropriate. You have to be able to turn off the objectification and deal with people on an individual, human level.10

So, cunt as compliment is good — as long as the recipient is happy. The next time you and I have sex, I’d be pleased to hear “Wow, lovely cunt!” Otherwise, shut up, asshole.

Footnotes

  1. Lurk at the Twitter feed of @sutterink for a few weeks at the outside to observe supreme proficiency, if not grace, in using cunt as insult.
  2. The review equating bad music to cuntjuice occurred more than a year (or two) ago, so I can’t find the link, but it’s the reason I stopped frequenting the website. Bad karma pending htmlGIANT.
  3. See the Feb. 3, 2014, All Monsters Are Human Tumblr blog posting, which features this original or possibly reblogged but likely not reposted PSA. Here, CUNT is written in pink type. Taken together with the redlettered Cyrus shirt, the post suggests that while women enjoy cunt as insult as much as any man, it’s OK because they make it pretty.
  4. In 2013, a sorority executive board member at the University of Maryland (UMD), which Forbes ranks as No. 73 among America’s top colleges, e-mailed her sisters threatening to “cunt punt” anyone who dared to cheer for both teams at Greek Week events, according to Gawker. UMD’s notable women alumni include the journalist Connie Chung and Vashti McKenzie, the first female bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
  5. See the lovely but for this one flaw “Alive” by Sharon Solwitz and the intriguing but similarly troubled “Tenth of December” by George Saunders, both in BASS 2012.
  6. Need help understanding exactly what a cunt is, and why you should venerate it? See Cunt Coloring Book by Tee Corinne, but the short answer is that even if a cunt isn’t your thing sexually, it still had something to do with how you arrived on this planet and deserves appropriate respect.
  7. Natalie Eilbert is one poet who opts to take the negative out of cunts. Your cunt’s a star? Hell yes, Natalie, so’s mine. Karma partially restored htmlGIANT.
  8. On March 29, 2013, Erin La Rosa penned the seminal Buzzfeed article “28 Reasons Why Daryl Dixon Is the Hottest Man on ‘Walking Dead.’”
  9. Visit the Twitter feed of A Norman Co-Stalker @ennoia3 to learn about the glories of #wispocalypse, #greybeard, #holyshoulders, #goodlordcheckoutthosearms, #handpornerrific, #helpmeispyfangs, #peekabooear, #Reeduspornarama, and more.
  10. Take note, co-hosts of “The View,” who in a 2013 interview exhibited no qualms squeezing the Reedus arm muscles even as he physically shied away from the contact.

Imprinted (potentially triggery flash fiction with some knives, thumbs, and a marriage, plus it represents 6 years of my life so worth a read on that basis alone)

Posted in writing by Caralyn Davis on November 22, 2016

My husband’s thumb lies nestled among the mushrooms on the countertop. Not twitching and jumping like the body of a live fish when you cut off the head. Just resting, as the head itself would do. A small amount of blood, a soupçon in cooking terminology, fans out from the point of detachment in an irregular pool.

READ the full story here:

http://flashfictionmagazine.com/blog/2016/11/22/imprinted/

Loser Cat (A Little Apocalyptic Short Story W/ Religious Extremism, a Shoutout to Margaret Atwood, a Secret Cameo (Shh!!!) by Hillary Clinton, Feminist Nuns–Some With Jokes, Some With Stilettos (The Knife Not the Heel), Laura Ingalls Wilder Love, Spinsters, and a Wee Bit of Educational Twerking

Posted in writing by Caralyn Davis on June 29, 2016

In the year of Our Lord 2033, I bide here in my cell.

Technically, I’m a nun, not a prisoner, but why quibble because I have a name instead of an inmate number? Mary Elizabeth’s not even my real name. A preacher gave it to me when I took my vows at the virginal age of forty-five.

——

Read the rest of this story in the lovely EXPOUND, an international online journal based out of Nigeria:

http://expoundmagazine.com/loser-cat-caralyn-davis/

Rules of Engagement: A Step-by-Step Guide to My Very Own Home Invasion

Posted in writing by Caralyn Davis on October 3, 2014

I was making tea in the kitchen at the back of the house when I heard a boom followed by the tinkling sound of broken glass. A car accident on the street, that’s what I thought. I jogged forward a few steps into the dining room, stopping short under my thrift-store chandelier.

A gloved hand was coming through a pane of glass on my front door. The glove was knit with a thick, shiny white yarn and covered with brown leather patches on the fingers and palm. The hand was attached to an arm, nicely muscled and covered in a gray thermal T-shirt. The door was opening before the hand turned the lock. It had shattered in the frame to the left of the handle. …

Read the rest at: 

Is your creativity in tip-top shape?

Posted in writing by Caralyn Davis on August 25, 2009

I’ve been a professional nonfiction writer and editor for about 20 years. So you’d think that I would know how to write pretty much anything. Yet I was one of those people who dreamed about writing fiction instead of actually doing it. Basically I was too scared to try, and reading those ever-present articles about the dedication of true writers didn’t help. You know, the ones that say: “A real writer has to write. It’s in our DNA. We find a way no matter what, or we’d go crazy.”

Meanwhile, I would come close to crying blood as I struggled to find both the time and the creative energy to write a few paragraphs of a short story over a period of months, if not years. So I was pretty sure I would never qualify as a “real” fiction writer.

But then last October, I lost my primary writing contract due to consolidation in the publishing industry, and I decided that my enforced sabbatical was a perfect time to put my vague dreams into more solid form. So I enrolled in a creative writing class at the Great Smokies Writing Program at the University of North Carolina-Asheville.

I’m now about to start my third straight semester, and I’ve already written more fiction than at any other time of my life. I’ll admit, I’m no _____ (fill in the blank with your favorite literary giant). In fact, I haven’t been able to get a short story published yet.

But even if I never manage to make anyone’s best seller list, I’m better off. Learning to access my creativity, to work with language, and to create a good story that can impact a reader has produced an unlooked-for side effect: All of my writing has improved.

Whether I am writing a blog, a corporate presentation, or a scintillating educational article about technology transfer, I can dip into the creative well to craft a stronger story. It’s also now easier for me to be creative in other areas, such as designing mosaics, because I’ve gotten used to letting my mind flow freely and allowing ideas and inspiration to pop into my consciousness.

The Great Smokies Writing Program has classes in fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry — any of which can help anyone channel their creativity and learn to use language in new and better ways. The fall semester may be the program’s strongest yet, according to Executive Director Tommy Hays.

If you live in Western North Carolina, take advantage of this great opportunity. If not, scour your area and find a good program. A lot of people have let their creativity atrophy. (I think the mere existence of Twitter brings that lesson home.) So flex your muscles.