Rust Belt Girl Roundup, September ’19

Summer’s parades are over. Now what?

It might not feel like it today, when we’re supposed to top out at 95, but fall is closing in. And even though I’m more than 15 years from being in the classroom–first as a student, then as an instructor–the change of seasons still signals a renewed sense of dedication. And I’m ready.

Have I mentioned it’s submission season?

Yes, yes I have, here.

It’s also a good time to re-focus this blog. If you remember, I met a poet and a memoirist at the last writing conference I attended (click for conference tips)–both from Rust Belt places. I love nothing more than picking the brains of my fellow writers and presenting their thoughts to you, here. So, I’ll be keeping up the interviews–and the reading required to conduct thoughtful queries.

Funny interview story for you: a few years ago, I thought I’d parlay my interviewing skills for the blog–and managed to convince essayist, memoirist, and journalist, David Giffels, into talking to me here and again here.

For the first interview, I had read–and loved–every word of David’s book of essays. But, breaking one of my own rules of interviewing, I hadn’t read David widely (yet). A music journalist and Akron, Ohio, native, David also wrote the rock biography, We are Devo!, with Jade Dellinger. Akron is famous for a few things. Among them: tires, Chrissie Hynde, Lebron, and that safety cone-hatted band, Devo.

Disclaimer: I’m not from Akron. Still, I should have known but didn’t. And, so… when I had David fact-check our interview, which I’d recorded, among his local cultural spokes-heroes appeared Steve-O, the stunt performing comedian known for Jackass. Not, Devo (as it certainly reads now).

David didn’t ask that I pull the interview or even laugh at me for my mistake (at least not to me). I was mortified…but mortification can instruct (when it doesn’t kill).

Here we still are. Thanks for sticking with me.

For me, fall also means another season of literary festivals, my favorite of which–Lit Youngstown’s–will take me home to Northeast Ohio. Last year, that festival inspired my post: 3 Reasons to Connect with Your Writing Community… And I’ll be sure to cover the event again this year, when I’m not reading my own fiction, sitting on a panel of editors, and moderating a couple sessions. It’s two full days of literary conversation–and my idea of heaven.

Of course, as our fall weather turns a bit cooler and the evenings darken sooner, my twin guys start discussing Halloween costumes and plans. Last year they played a rather nondescript, skull-faced “death” and a soccer star, which sounds like a good title for a horror movie. Stay tuned.

With darker evenings comes darker reading, as my editor gig with Parhelion Literary Magazine has had me reading fiction for a themed October issue. And I’ve been so inspired! I hope you’ll stop by for your fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, or photography fix. The summer issue is live now. You’ll also see what fun I’ve been having as features editor there.

Now, it’s your turn…What’s on tap for your fall? Pumpkin or literary festivals? Local wine or craft beer tent? Hike or bike? Write or read?

a bit of writerly advice for July 31, 2018

Free image courtesy of KathrynMaloney at

Every parent knows the torment of a four-year-old’s interrogation. Why is the sky blue? How do birds fly? … Questions are the backflips of the mind. They are, as the early-twentieth-century explorer Frank Kingdon-Ward once said, ‘the creative acts of intelligence.’ –from Lisa Garrigues’ Writing Motherhood

The past couple years, I’ve gotten in touch with my inner four-year-old in a way I never thought I would. I don’t often talk about my work-work here (except for lessons learned from writing direct mail); however, I will now, briefly.

In the last year, I’ve conducted what feels like a bazillion but is probably closer to 50 interviews, in order to write articles. All have dealt with science–not exactly in my cozy-and-comfortable arts and humanities wheelhouse. I’ve queried doctors about the symptoms of stroke and about virtual medical delivery systems. I’ve asked engineering students about minuscule solar cells and unmanned aerial vehicles. And I’ve asked budding scientists to describe and describe again a headset that can help detect Alzheimer’s. And much, much more.

Have all my questions spurred Grade A scientific conversation? Probably not. Have I asked a dumb question or two. Probably.

But I asked, and oftentimes asked a second time. (In layman’s terms please, I ask. If I still don’t understand, I say, Pretend you had to teach this concept to a child.)

There it is.

Ask questions like a child. Listen. Ask again. That’s my writerly advice for the week.

(Looking for interviewing tips? Here you go.)

What’s your best “writerly” advice?




“A Partridge in a Blog Tree”: a 2017 sing-song wrap-up and 2018 tease

Image courtesy

“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true self gave to me…one healthy kick in the pants.”

Is that right? Are we already on the fifth day? I’m still languishing in a sugar cookie stupor. Still digging out from leftover potatoes au gratin. Still trying to convince my family of the legitimacy of stale crackers and cheese rinds as a basic food group.

Sure, I will disconnect the sugar IV, menu plan, and get back to the proper care and feeding of my brood. I might even exercise. I will resolve! But it’ll probably be next month–which is next year.

In the meandering meantime, I will look back on the 2017 fun we’ve had here at Rust Belt Girl, you and me, thanks to inspiration from my native Rust Belt and its storytellers keeping it real.

Sing along to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” if you like.

In my first month of blogging, my Rust Belt gave to me

a blog borne from necessity (I didn’t say the cadence would be right)

Read more

Re-post from Belt Magazine and musings from a would-be do-er.


By Frank Bures Photo by Garrett MacLean When Richard Florida’s new book came out earlier this year, I saw some of the reviews and was intrigued. It was called The New Urban Crisis: How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class — and What We Can Do About It. I…

via Richard Florida Can’t Let Go Of His Creative Class Theory. His Reputation Depends On It. — Belt Magazine

Rust Belt Girl here with regret that I can’t devote more time to a proper post. However, this article from Belt Mag got me thinking…and regretting.

I regret that I’m not more of a real do-er, a maker of things–vital things. I’m the daughter of a (retired) draftsman, whose structural engineering projects studded (or, rather, supported) the built Cleveland landscape of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Buildings didn’t fall down around us like so many toppled snowmen–because of my dad. My brother is an accomplished marine engineer who designs hulking I-don’t-know-whats–ferries, yes, ferries, among other projects necessary for human progress. My (oh so young) sister works at the same engineering firm, and while she doesn’t design and build, herself, she knows the field, trods the landscape in steel-toed boots, and has mastered the language. That girl can talk “longshoreman” with the best of them.

I talk about…mostly…talk. I am a member of the Creative Class (or creative class).

I am a purveyor–sometimes even a perverter–of words. Marketing and communications work doesn’t feel so much like doing, perhaps because I enjoy it. But it’s also far removed from the making of things–like buildings or boats. I conduct a lot of interviews for my job; I learn about students inventing new kinds of batteries and solar cells–the technology of tomorrow–and I compile the ideas, synthesize, organize. And, yes, sometimes I create…a line or phrase or word that feels new.

But mostly, I work in an infrastructure of words that relies on a real infrastructure–of made things.

So, New Year’s resolution time: my work won’t change, and I don’t have engineering chops. But, I can do more than report. This year I do more do-ing–at least on my own time.

I start with my village, which sits on a river and creeks that are being choked by some invasive species I can’t name (because I haven’t conducted that interview yet). This spring, I will don boots and tromp in the muck. I will test the murky water. I will pick up trash.

Yes, creating is important. But, I think it’s clear the creative class can’t solve all our cities’ problems. I will still write, building worlds from my mind and the doings of others. But I will do, too.

How about you? (Dr. Seuss rhyming moment, sorry!) 

Have a resolution to share?