I Can’t Quit You Mr. Starbucks Baby by Laurie Frankel

I have never been able to write at home. I can edit at home, but I cannot create. “Writing at home” is code for doing laundry, watering plants, googling my name, grooming my eyebrows, checking email, researching anti-frizz product, eating chocolate, decoupaging planters and petting the dog. Because of my complete lack of at-home-self-discipline I have always written at a Starbucks. This practice started in 1999 when I lived in Seattle, WA, which makes sense given Seattle is the birthplace of hipster beans at hedge-fund prices.


While in Seattle, I lived in the groovy town of Fremont, home to the Fremont Troll and, in celebration of the Summer Solstice, the Bike Naked Parade (a parade in which yes, grown men and women biked naked; let’s just say not everyone should be naked . . . in public . . . with paint on their balls). Near my apartment there was a small, dingy Starbucks with make-up free, funky smelling baristas with a comfy, if-I-sit-on-this-will-I-catch-something arm chair in the front window. Eighty percent of the time, some indefinable creative energy would take over, and I’d write two pages.

In 2001, for a variety of reasons, I moved to the buttoned-up, pod city of Orange County, CA, a place where the type of car you drive influences your child’s college admission and having your breasts redone every ten years is automatically factored into your retirement plan. In Seattle, if people were petitioning, it was to save the whales or hemp forests or VW buses. In OC, it was to end school funding or deport illegal immigrants (except for the ones who picked fruit, cleaned houses, and cared for the progeny of fancy car owners—those ones could stay).

Lucky for me there was a nearby Starbucks complete with a gas fireplace surrounded by four over-sized pleather armchairs. With the flick of a switch, a gentle yellow glow appeared from within the glass enclosure which, if you sat within two inches of it, emitted heat. I loved this Starbucks. It was my creative haven. Writing can be such a lonely endeavor and there, among the many, I didn’t feel alone. I got to experience being with people without having to really be with people (Jeopardy answer: what is an introvert?) Occasionally, I had conversations that went like this:

Guy with British accent: Got your Christmas tree up?

Me: Well, I’m Jewish, so no.

Guy: Ok, but you put up a Christmas tree, don’t you?

And I befriended the dreadlocked barista who, without asking, regularly supplied me with free morning buns until he had to move back to Montana for drug rehab.

Jeannie-Phan-Illustration-QQ-ReadingFebruary 2013, my Starbucks got a makeover. “Fire”place? Gone. Pleather chairs? Gone. Morning bun? Still there but now with posted nutritional content: 350 calories, 40% of which were fat! Basically they paved paradise with faux-wood plank flooring and made a larger, more efficient coffee bar, a streamlined food heating station, and for those who wanted to pay even more for coffee, they added the—wait for it (because it takes a while)—single-cup Clover Brewing System.

Why Mr. Starbucks, why? Because you’re sick and tired of people paying $2 to sit around all day in your store filching the WiFi and messing up the restrooms?

Mr. Starbucks: Yes.

Me: Oh.

Hello, Newport Beach Public Library! One year later, it’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I am in the library scribbling (I write longhand and yes, I have plumbing). I am surrounded by students, the homeless, movie watchers, book readers, and those catching up on sleep (often one and the same). This library with its recent 17,000 sq.ft. expansion is pretty swank with it’s mod decor, concrete bunny sculptures, and did I mention, café? Yes, café! So eff you Starbucks. Except for my five-day-a-week morning coffee and spinach feta wrap run, who needs you?

Mr. Starbucks: You do.

Me: Right, sorry.

Laurie Frankel’s fiction and non-fiction have appeared in North American ReviewShenandoahThe Literary ReviewAlaska Quarterly Review, and The Pedestal Magazine. Read her latest book There’s a Pattern Here & It Ain’t Glen Plaid, about which Kirkus Reviews says: “. . . laugh-out-loud funny . . . great practical suggestions . . . A quirky, earnest guide to regaining self-esteem for the modern woman.”  Contact her at LauriesLoveLogic.com

Illustrations done by Jeannie Phan, a full-time freelance illustrator who specializes in conceptual editorial work. Originally hailing from the prairies of Canada, she is now based in a studio in Toronto’s West End.

For the Love of Bucket Lists By Jessica Morey-Collins

In Nicholas Sparks’s A Walk to Remember, a virginal Jamie Sullivan has only a few years left to live. After much cantanker and conflicting interest, bad boy Landon falls in love with her, and she—after a time—reciprocates. Over the remainder of the narrative, the purity and power of her love calls forth his ambition and retunes his moral compass. The role of ambition in their love is explored through the conceit of Jamie’s bucket list.

Hummingbird - vlad

Much of their courtship centers around this bucket list. In the film adaptation, Landon (played by mega-hunk Shane West) makes Jamie (played by a pale and angelic Mandy Moore) feel special by applying a temporary tattoo of a butterfly to her shoulder, so she can check off “get a tattoo” from her list. (Although—not really Landon, ugh.)

The characters make it through the obstacle course of their circumstances and personal differences and find love. They cross the nuptial finish line, thereby crossing off Jamie’s #1 bucket list item: to marry in the church where her mother and father wed. They spend a brief hiatus in bliss, then (spoiler alert!) Jamie dies, leaving Landon bound for medical school and sad, though he has experienced “more love than most people know in a lifetime.”

Continue reading

Why Does Poetry Matter? by Charlotte Pence

My poetry often siphons science for inspiration. Scientific American, Nature, “Best of” series all provide me with gifts like “humans taste brown” and “the measures we use depend on what we are measuring.”For the past five years, I’ve taken a special interest in human descent with modification, which has turned into an interest regarding literary evolutionists and what they have to say about why we spend so much of our time in the land of narrative. According to Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative, if you add up all of our time watching TV, listening to song, day dreaming, night dreaming, not to mention actually reading, approximately 2/3 of our lives are spent in fantasy land. In an era of ever-increasing productivity, why has narrative remained such a central part of our lives? Neuroscientists and biologists tell us point blank: the mind is hard-wired for story. For example, if your boss gives you a wobbly smile in passing, you will have a hard time not wondering why the smile didn’t seem genuine. Is she mad at you? Is it maybe not at all about you? Is it that she knows you will soon have some work dumped on you? Whatever the case, the mind takes the fragments and attempts to create a narrative.

open - Artist jperkins fish

As an avid reader, I like that narrative is so important to our lives. But as a poet, I have a particular set of concerns regarding this sibling that everyone loves more than poetry. If our brains are hard-wired for story, what is the draw of poetry when narrative is sliced away? Is the lack of narrative in lyrical poetry part of what contributes to poetry’s small readership? Continue reading

Get Creative Inspiration from Your Other Writing by Martin Ott

Like many other poets, I have other creative outlets including fiction, non-fiction, and writing for TV and film. Sometimes research or creative output on one project can provide source material for work in other genres.

For example, the poem “Battlefield Typewriter” in the current issue of North American Review is the result of research I was doing to support the development of a TV pilot of my novel The Interrogator’s Notebook. I was surprised to discover that one of my favorite writers, J.D. Salinger, worked as an interrogator during WWII, and I found myself wondering how this experience impacted his personal life and writing life.

Writing Ball Keyboard

Continue reading

Nicolas Poynter on the inspiration of “La Bomba Grande” from issue 297.3

My story, “La Bomba Grande,” started with this seed: that a young, Mexican girl, without any formal scientific training, was going to do this amazing thing in science, unlock this great riddle, and then, to make things even more spectacular, she was going to tie science and God together in a way that would be shocking. Basically, this one girl was going to change the whole world for the better. Normally, I cannot identify where I got a particular idea for a particular story. But in this instance, I know exactly when and why and how. The inspiration was a very creative, young girl who did not like physical science one bit and happened to be in my physical science class the first year I taught high school.


Continue reading