Website Updates

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.I’ve updated the fiction, nonfiction, and poetry sample pages on my website. I’ve already posted these pieces here, but if you missed them or want to read them again, you can check them out at the above links. Enjoy!

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

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Review: Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone

Abbie-1

Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone: An Anthology of Wyoming Writers

Edited by Lori Howe

Copyright 2016

 

This is a collection of stories, poems, and essays that touch mostly on aspects of western life. Some pieces talk about nature and dealing with the elements, such as Patricia Frolander’s poem, “Wyoming 1949,” in which she describes cutting open a dead horse and crawling inside to stay warm while in the middle of nowhere during a snowstorm. Then there’s Aaron Holst’s poem, “Fire and Water,” inspired by one of the author’s firefighting experiences, that depicts an incident that can happen anywhere, not just in the west.

Other works discuss wildlife, such as Susan Marsh’s essay, “A Heart in the Shape of a Bear,” about the plight of this creature in the wild and in civilization. Still others deal with history and culture, like Cindy Jackelen’s poem, “Whose Land,” which depicts the brutality of the Indian War through several voices.

Not all pieces are set in Wyoming. There’s Patti Sherlock’s short story, “Mother George, Midwife,” a fictionalized account of a Negro midwife in Idaho during the 19th century who turned out to be a man disguised as a woman. Julianne Couch’s short story, “Reintroduction,” is set in the Nebraska wilderness. Then there’s Alyson Hagy’s short story, “The Saddlemaker,” in which a young girl from South Dakota is sent to live with her grandparents near Riverton, Wyoming, before her mother’s shady past catches up with her.

I’d love to tell you about each poem, story, and essay in this book, but there are so many of them. Like most anthologies, Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone can be read either cover to cover or in bits and pieces, depending on what strikes your fancy. Poems, essays, and short stories are bunched together, each in their own section.

That’s one thing I don’t like. In many anthologies and literary journals, stories, poems, and essays are together, not each in their own section. You might see a poem sandwiched between two short stories or two essays or one short story and an essay. For example, in Magnets and Ladders, an online journal I help edit, poems, stories, and essays are grouped into sections by topic. It creates less monotony that way.

Otherwise, I enjoyed reading many of the works in Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone. I know some of the writers whose works appear in this anthology, and it’s always fun to read what they have to say. Even if you don’t live in Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, or Idaho, this book will give you great insights on western life.

 

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

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Waves (Fiction)

“Why are we doing this?” I asked, as the van pulled into a parking space next to the beach.

“Honey, it’s your birthday,” said Mom, turning in the front passenger seat to face me. “You always loved going to the beach.”

“Yeah, when I could walk,” I said, tapping the side of my wheelchair for emphasis.

“Anna, all you’ve done since you got home from rehab is feel sorry for yourself. It’s time you got some fresh air. I made all your favorite foods: fried chicken, potato salad, corn on the cob. I even baked your favorite kind of cake, chocolate.”

“Mom, you just don’t get it. My legs don’t work anymore. I can’t surf, walk in the water. I can’t even sit on the sand and build castles like I did when I was a kid, let alone go back to college. I can’t do any of it.”

“Listen Anna,” said Dad in his no nonsense voice, as he turned off the ignition. “Your mother went to a lot of trouble here so the least you can do is show some gratitude.”

He was right of course, but I still couldn’t get out of the funk I was in for the past six months since I woke up in the hospital and realized I would probably never walk again after the car crash. I fought to keep from crying, as Dad opened his door and climbed out of the van. “You all stay here a minute,” he said. “I’ll run and find us a spot.”

“I’ll start getting stuff out of the trunk,” said Mom, climbing out on her side.

“Let’s get you out of here, Sis,” said my brother Will, flipping the switches to open the doors and unfold the ramp.

With a sigh of resignation, I unfastened the seat belt as both my younger twin brothers Will and Tim worked together to undo the tie-down that held my chair in place and maneuver me onto the ramp. “Okay, here we go,” said Tim, standing behind me.

I grasped the chair’s armrests, as we descended to the parking lot in the California June sun. “I hate this stupid thing,” I said. “I know. I know I should have thought of that before texting Monica last Christmas Eve while driving to the market for those eggs so Mom could make her world famous eggnog. If I hadn’t been asking Monica what she wanted me to bring to her New Year’s Eve party, I wouldn’t have hit that stupid truck, and Bonnie wouldn’t have gone flying through the windshield.”

“Hey, quit beating yourself up,” said Tim, patting me on the shoulder.

“Yeah, look at it this way,” said Will who’d jumped off the lift ahead of us and was standing on the ground. “The truck only sustained minor damage while Dad’s car was totaled, and the driver, unlike Miss Bonnie, was wearing a seat belt, and since the air bag worked, he was hardly hurt at all.”

“Yeah, but Bonnie’s gone, and I can’t walk, and how could I have been so stupid?”

“Anna, knock it off,” said Tim. “You’re not doing yourself any good.”

Of course he was right. Why did men always have to be right? I stared ahead of me at all the people sunning themselves on the uneven sand. “Oh God,” I said. “even if Dad finds a place, how will I get there? This is a wheelchair, not a dune buggy.”

“No problem,” said Tim. “I’ll carry you.”

“What?” I asked, as I turned to stare at my brother. He was a few years younger but a head taller. Since he played football in high school and lifted weights, his arms were strong, but I still wasn’t sure.

“Don’t worry, Sis,” he said. “I’ve picked up a lot of girls and haven’t lost one yet.”

Will guffawed. “Knock it off, Will,” said Tim.

“Both you boys stop,” said Mom, coming around from behind the van with the cooler. “Here comes your father.”

“I’ll take that,” said Dad, as he approached her. “I found us a spot a ways down. Tim, you get your sister. Will, you grab her chair, and I’ll help your mom with the food. Once you boys get Anna settled, you can come back for your boards.”

I couldn’t believe it. It was bad enough I couldn’t walk on the beach, let alone surf, but now, I had to sit there and watch them surf. They may as well have rubbed salt on an open wound. It was all I could do to keep from crying, as Tim flung me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and carried me through the crowd.

We reached our spot, and miracle of miracles, Will found a flat place to set the wheelchair. “We’ll be back in a few minutes,” said Tim after positioning me. Mom was spreading a blanket on the sand, and Dad was unloading the cooler.

A woman with a dog approached, and I took in a breath when I realized the pooch, a Golden Retriever, looked just like Bonnie. Was I imagining things? “Oh how cute,” said Mom. “She looks just like our dog.”

Apparently, I wasn’t. The dog came up to me, and without thinking, I reached down and stroked the soft head and scratched behind the silky ears. The woman smiled. “You must be Anna Martin.”

I stared at her. How could she possibly know who I was? “Yeah,” I said, not knowing what to think.

“I’m Judy Fridono, and this is Ricochet,” she said, patting the dog. “You might have heard of us.”

I shook my head. “Ricochet is a surfing dog. She likes to surf with people like you.”

“People like me?” Then I remembered. “Oh, I saw something on Facebook a while back about a dog who surfs with disabled people, but I thought she just surfed with kids.”

“No, Ricochet surfs with people of all ages. She’ll surf with you today if you’re up to it.”

It was then I noticed the two guys behind her, lugging a surf board. I couldn’t believe it. How could I possibly surf? My legs didn’t work at all so how could I even climb on the board? With only my arms, what would I do if I wiped out?

In answer to my unspoken questions, she said, “These guys will help you. They’ll get you on the board with Ricochet, take you out into deep water where you can catch the waves, and let you go. They’ll be there if you wipe out.”

“Happy birthday,” said Dad, opening a bottle of beer. He and Mom were both grinning. I looked at them and then at the woman and dog.

“Oh honey, this will be so much fun,” said Mom, rushing to my side. “Here, let’s get your shirt off.”

I now knew why she insisted I wear what I would have normally worn to the beach: my swimming suit with a long t-shirt over it and flip flops. Stunned, I lifted my arms while Mom helped me out of the shirt. Dad knelt and removed my thongs while Mom slathered me with sunscreen. Then, one of the guys put a life jacket on me, much to my relief. At least I’d be able to stay afloat if I wiped out. “You ready?” asked the woman.

“Sure, why not,” I said.

The next thing I knew, I was being lifted onto the board face down with Ricochet in front of me. I reached out and stroked her neck, and she licked my face and wagged her tail. “You set?” one of the guys asked.

“Yeah, let’s do this,” I said, feeling more confident, as we moved into the water. Before I knew it, we were past the shallows, and one of the guys said, “Okay, you’re flying solo, but your brothers are coming, and we’ll be right here.”

Hugging Ricochet, I found myself soaring to heights where I thought I’d never go again. It was as if the accident never happened. For the first time in six months, I felt the exhilaration of the waves, as they rolled over us, and we rode them with ease.

“Hey Anna, isn’t this fun?” I turned to see Tim at my left side on his board, smiling. I grinned back at him.

“Anna, look over here and smile.” It was Will on his board, balancing his camera.

“You’re gonna get that thing wet,” I said.

“So what? This is the underwater camera I got for Christmas, remember?”

Christmas, there it was, but for once, I didn’t feel angry or depressed. Another wave came, and we were airborne once more.

When the water became calm, I stroked the dog’s back. We were both soaked, but that didn’t matter. ”Oh Ricochet!” I said, kissing her forehead. “Maybe life doesn’t suck after all.”

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Note: Ricochet actually exists. To watch a video of this dog surfing with two terminally ill teen-agers, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yksy4M6HRxQ . You can learn more about Ricochet by reading my review of Judy Fridono’s memoir at https://abbiescorner.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/riding-waves-with-a-dog/ .

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Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

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Magnets and Ladders Spring/Summer Issue Now Online

Magnets and Ladders is an online magazine featuring work by authors with disabilities such as myself. You’ll find stories, essays, poems, articles about writing, and contest information. Even if you’re not a disabled author, I think you’ll enjoy this publication. It contains, among other things, two of my short stories and one of my poems. I’ll post these works here in coming weeks, but in the meantime, please check out all the wonderful work Magnets and Ladders has to offer at http://www.magnetsandladders.org/wp/.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

In Praise of Cats

The first poem I ever read by Marge Piercy is “In Praise of Joe” which can be read here. This poem, about her addiction to coffee, inspired me to write “Ode to Dr. Pepper” which I posted on my blog here. In case you’re wondering what Dr. Pepper and coffee have to do with cats, I just finished reading Marge Piercy’s 2002 memoir, Sleeping with Cats. You can read my review of this book here.

 

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver