As some of you already know, I am the Managing Editor of The Dillydoun Review. TDR publishes online, monthly issues and TDR Daily. Stay tuned for the details of our upcoming literary contest and the new year will bring print anthologies! New issues released the middle-ish of each month. Until then, please feel free to browse our past issues:

Sometimes, when I’m feeling anxious or in need of a distraction, I search for a quick writing prompt and just let the words fly with no thought, no planning. Here is the result:

Flash Fiction Writing Prompt #1

A straight-A high school student falls in love with the troll who lives in her locker.

Heavy rain fell at Wicklow High School. Leaves from a shedding Sugar Maple clogged Building Three’s gutter and overpour sheeted the windows.  Inside, a warning bell sounded, the halls emptied, and the second period began for all students except one. Mattie stood at her locker. She leaned in so that her forehead pressed against the cool metal.

“I thought we were going to run away together,” she whispered.

The troll who lived in her locker held out his pocked hand.

Mattie grasped tightly, “You promised,” she said.

The faint smell of lingonberry and wet soil wisped as the troll shifted his weight onto Mattie’s Intermediate French book. “I just can’t,” he said.

“But I don’t understand. You said you love me.”

“My family doesn’t approve,” the troll admitted.

She looked hurt, and tears began. “But I’ve got straight A’s this year, and I’ve never been in any trouble. Why wouldn’t they approve of me?”

As the troll searched for the right response, Mattie let go of his hand. She said, “I’ll never give up on us. I’ll go talk to your family, and I won’t leave until they like me.”

She slammed the door of her locker and hurried away. The troll sat there in the mostly dark, thinking of Mattie and the figure she’d cut as she walked up the craggy hill to his family’s cave. He imagined the sweet sound of her voice as she called out for them. He knew they’d like her. Probably with cabbage and carrots.

Birmingham Man Released from Hospital After Drinking Unsweet Tea at Southside Restaurant

A Birmingham man was released from St. Vincent’s Hospital this morning after a touch-and-go night in the Emergency Room. Rapid responders were called to the scene of a Southside restaurant Thursday evening where Lee Hightower and his wife, Geneva, had planned to enjoy an anniversary dinner. However, the celebration ended abruptly when Mr. Hightower had an attack of the vapors after being served a large glass of unsweet tea.

“It was terrible to watch,” Geneva said. “He was thirsty and got a real big gulp of it. A real big gulp.”

Witness reports vary but all agreed that what followed was traumatic for everyone especially Melanie Grubbs, the server who brought Mr. Hightower the incorrect beverage. Grubbs was given a mild sedative and taken to the back alley for some fresh air but patrons could still hear her screaming, “You said unsweet! You said unsweet!”

During the aftermath, Mr. Hightower reportedly fell to the floor and had a good, old-fashioned hissy fit. It’s understood that, while lying on his back, shoulders pressed firmly to the ground, he wildly kicked his legs into the air which one witness said was, “really impressive when he got both them going at the same time, sort of like a Forked-tail catfish outta water.”

The Emergency Response Team reported that Mr. Hightower begged them to, “Get me a green persimmon so I can get this taste out of my mouth.”

Governor Kay Ivey has set up an Unsweet Tea Support Hotline not only for people who were at the restaurant and their families but for the wider public who may be affected by the sad state of events. She held a press conference early Friday at the time of Hightower’s release during which she issued this statement:

“Mr. Hightower and his family have asked me to thank you all for this outpouring of support. Your tweets are like gold to them. They will not pursue this matter through the Alabama Justice System. There is no evidence to suggest, nor do they believe, that there was malicious intent when Miss Grubbs presented Mr. Hightower with the bitter swill. As soon as he can speak again, Mr. Hightower will address you himself. The good doctors here at St. Vincent’s have provided excellent care and expect that Mr. Hightower’s tongue cast will be removed in approximately 4 to 6 weeks and that his taste buds will make a complete recovery. Let this be a lesson to those of us who are quick to raise a tea glass to our mouths. Pour beverages for yourself or confirm first: this is sweet tea, isn’t it? Ask before you sip and never gulp unless you are sure.”

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Before I get too far into this, let me state for the record:

I do not have children, biological or otherwise.

There were a few vague months spent in Mississippi back in the mid-90s which I can’t account for with complete accuracy. But I’m pretty sure that I didn’t give birth during that time.

I say pretty sure because, now that I think about it, I did find a bottle of neonatal vitamins in the back of my car. There was no reason for me to have a bottle of neonatal vitamins. But there was also a circular saw and the torso of a shop mannequin which was zebra striped with spray paint. I don’t suppose there was a reason for those things to be in my car either.

About me having children though, while I have none of my own, I do have three nephews. They should count as mine in a partial sort of way because I 1) bought them a lot of stuff and 2) my behavior held some sway in their overall delinquency. And, after all, isn’t that what parents do to a large extent? Buy their kid lots of stuff and affect their development in either a positive, negative, or combo/biggie sized sort of way?

Ah, yes… I’ll have the number 3 Combo. Value sized. With hang-ups about my body on that Bruised Self-Image and instead of Codependence, I’ll have… let me see… I’ll have Unable to Maintain Intimate Relationships. And can I please add a large order of Controlling Parents resulting in Stubborn Children? Great, thanks…

I love my nephews and couldn’t imagine anything happening to them unless I did it myself. I mean, haven’t we all fantasized about throwing children into the drainage ditch behind Wal-Mart?

(Crickets.)

No?

(Tumbleweed.)

Whatever.

My nephews are older now. They could get themselves out of the drainage ditch behind Wal-Mart if I threw them in there. Nephew 1 has two kids of his own. (Side Note to Nephews 2 & 3: I’m not convinced that spreading our genes any further is the best idea. Perhaps we should do everybody a favor and let Nephew 1’s contribution to the population be our apology to the world. May those two precious demon spawn go forth and prosper.)

Even though the three boys aren’t technically my children, I still know what it feels like to be all Mother Bear about them. What I’m trying to say is, I sort of get it. I sort of get parenthood as much as a person who hasn’t actually had children of her own can sort of get it.

Tonight I went out for a drive with my dog.

Yeah, that wasn’t a very smooth segue, was it? All the parents reading this who were already skeptical about giving me the benefit of the doubt about ‘getting’ parenthood are now rolling their eyes and clicking off this page never to return. “Did you see what she wrote? She went out for a drive with her dog? I’ve got three kids, chewed up Cheerios in my hair, and school just started back. But this bitch went out for a drive with her dog. OH, and she sort of gets parenthood…”

So, tonight I went out for a drive. While I was out I saw one of these signs in a neighbor’s front yard:

DRIVE LIKE YOUR KIDS LIVE HERE

The Drive Like Your Kids Live Here website offers some soul-crushing statistics about how many children are injured or mortally wounded per year in motor vehicle accidents.

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children 14 years of age and younger!

  • Every day in the United States an average of 3 children are killed in motor vehicle accidents!

  • Every day in the United States an average of 500 children are injured in motor vehicle accidents!

  • Every day motor vehicles kill more children than any disease!

None of these statistics are laughing matters and I’m not trivializing the importance of the campaign. If anything, I want you to share a laugh with me here,  go and buy one of these signs, and put it in your yard asap.

But, I mean… come on! It does leave some room…

When the dog and I got home, I posted a quick ha-ha on Facebook about the sign I saw but, the more I think about it, the more I mean it.

Imagine: Typical Southern Momma Voice:

Drive like YOUR kids live here? Uh-uh… That’s assuming way too much. You best drive like MY kids live here and you KNOW I’m gone whoop your butt if you come tearing by like a bat out of hell.

Drive like your kids live here, my foot. Cos, I’ve seen the way some of y’all raise them little heathens. Don’t be driving like them miscreants is in my neighborhood or you’ll wake up one morning with four flat tires and one of these signs parked where the sun don’t shine. Can I get an amen?

Preach.

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Sometimes when I don’t know what to write, I take out a book that someone bought me for Christmas which has emblazoned upon the cover: 500 Writing Prompts. The book has a prompt or two on each page and then some lines upon which you are supposed to write your response.

I have never made it past the first page.

There are several reasons for having never made it past the first page. The main reason is that I am obsessive compulsive and, if I ever do write in this book, I would want to start at the beginning and answer each prompt thoroughly in the order in which it appears. The main problem with that is, I can’t seem to negotiate the first prompt. What is the first prompt?

While at the beach you decide to write a message in a bottle. What would it say? Who would you like to find it?

I have often been tempted to answer this prompt but found myself staring at it with contempt. I hate this prompt. My simple, belligerent brain begs me to give a very Amy Answer. The kind of answer that nobody wants to hear but that I can’t resist.

While at the beach you decide to write a message in a bottle. What would it say?

Dear Whom It May Concern,

Please get me the hell out of this bottle…

Who would you like to find it?

Somebody who could get me out of the bottle…

You see, I would never go to the beach and decide to write a message IN a bottle. I am not the kind of person who often climbs into bottles to write messages. Unless they’re speaking metaphorically (which, they are, it’s really the sentence structure that irritates me). If they’re speaking in metaphorical terms, there have been great swathes of my life where I have basically lived in a bottle.

In fact, thinking of being in a bottle at the beach reminds me of my high school graduation trip to Florida. That trip haunts me to this day because I behaved like a space shuttle re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. I wasn’t sure if I was going to destroy myself in a friction rich ball of atomic, tangerine flames. Or, if the dynamics of deceleration were going to fail me completely and I leave me to goose flop into the ocean at 25,000 miles per hour.

I remember at one point being locked in a bedroom with two boys. We were very drunk and it was the only way our friends could keep us safe. They came back periodically to check on us, I think. I don’t know what all happened in that room. I woke up now and then. It was dark except for a pale green light coming through the curtains.

At one point, I recall sitting with my back against the foot of the bed. I took an empty fifth bottle and broke it over my right knee. That kind of pain is sobering. One of the boys, crawled over and wrapped his arms around me and told me, “Stop. Please stop… You’re going to hurt yourself.”

And he was right. And so I stopped. For a while.

But it was too late. I was already hurt.

During that trip, I also half-heartedly tried to jump off a balcony. I thought I was in love with a boy who didn’t even really know I was alive. I remember lying on a sofa and watching him and the next minute I remember running for the balcony. I can only say that, now, I endure isolation and loneliness with a tad more grace.

I didn’t even know the boy that well. When I look back at it, I suppose what I was in love with was the idea of being loved. I needed somebody to love me so badly.

Okay, right… I didn’t mean to go there. I’ve felt embarrassed about that trip since 1988. It bothered me so much to think about people hating me. But, no… I didn’t set out to write about it tonight off the back of messages in bottles and beaches. I guess if I were going to answer the writing prompt without being a smartarse, it would go something like this:

While at the beach you decide to write a message in a bottle. What would it say?

Please forgive yourself.

Who would you like to find it?

Me.

The three of us sat around the kitchen table doing our best to ignore each other when Eliot came hobbling in and said, “I’m going to be teaching a banana handling class today.”

My sister, who usually doesn’t say anything until she’s finished her first cup of morning coffee, looked at her middle son and, without a hint of irony, asked, “Is that a euphemism?”

Her husband, who was playing chess on his tablet, snarled and said, “Please!”

Eliot limped over to the refrigerator and took out an alarmingly large bottle of Pepto-Bismol.

He was limping because his foot was broken. The story we got was vague, as are all his stories. The story, as he told it, involved pushing his car onto a soft shoulder after said car quit on the NASA bypass. The break and accompanying bruising gave me an immediate mental image of him kicking the bumper, but who am I to contradict him?

Eliot turned up the Pepto and drank freely from the crusty bottle which had apparently lost its cap. As I watched him take one prolonged swig after another, I felt my own stomach revolting and sending waves of wretchedness that reminded me of nothing less than acid drenched toenail shavings rising in the back of my throat. Yet there I was, unable to look away.

When he was done, he wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt and put the bottle back in the refrigerator. “No,” he said. “It’s a real thing. They’re paying me extra too.”

This elicited a snarf from his father who looked up from the game. “And what do you know about banana handling?”

I said, “Dear God, I’m begging you. Please do not answer that.”

Eliot laughed, grabbed a hat off the coatrack, and limped out the backdoor.

A hush fell over the house again. The only sounds came from the three Doberman who were still asleep and snoring on the whole of a forest green sectional sofa; my brother-in-law, who was still playing chess and maintaining a low-grade, mumbled disagreement with the expert computer opponent; and, from outside, the occasional percussion of a bull who lived across the street in a fenced field, playing with a large blue drum which he was fond of gorging into the air and sometimes smashing against a large tin shed.

It was only after a considerable time had passed that my sister looked up with an expression as if she’d been away with the fairies, “Did he say banana handling?”

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A Review by Rebecca Monks

Honest and occasionally hilarious novel about a recovering drug addict

‘I first realized I loved Jack the day he drowned,’ begins Amy Burns’ novel, setting the reader up for a wistful tale on the pitfalls of a modern, melancholic romance. Don’t buy into it. There’s nothing romantic about this darkly witty road trip through the bumpy highway of a young woman’s mind. Instead, it’s about the anti-romance of reconciling life and love, finding your place in an imperfect family, and the way our flaws are exposed and exploited by the people closest to us.

(read more from Rebecca Monk’s Review at The List…)

 


Has anyone ever asked you if you like poetry?

I’m curious because whenever someone asks me that question, I think to myself – a better question is: can you appreciate poetry?

Liking poetry is fine. But simply liking poetry will leave you skating along the surface.

Learn to appreciate it and you will learn to love it even if you don’t like it. Even if you find a poem disturbing, heartbreaking, traumatic… Even if you hate a poem…

If you can find a poem’s higher value and contribution to the world, recognize it’s worth, and see the wider implications, you’ll begin to feel the same tinge of passion or pain that the poet felt when they wrote it.

Today, as our ability to interpret art moves from simply ‘reading’ into other mediums, our relationship with poetry is more intimate than ever. Multimedia projects have made it possible to interact with art in a different way. In the case of poetry, to participate in the act of verse – a poem happening. Words at work.

I was recently introduced to just such a project. The idea of reading a poem in front of a camera isn’t new. But, I’ve never seen anything like what this project accomplishes.

Whitman, Alabama is the brainchild of filmmaker Jennifer Crandall, Alabama Media Group’s first Artist in Residence. Jennifer spent two years roving all parts Alabama; traversing the state with a camera and an invitation to sit a while and recite a verse or two of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself.

She enlisted the help of Alabamians, from all ages and walks of life, to help bring Whitman into the 21st century living, breathing, working South. There is no posturing; no falsification. There are no regretful performances. The common man and woman, who Whitman courted so ferociously on the page, have shown up to return their love.

And there is no better poem for a project of this nature than Whitman’s Song of Myself. His message of equality, tolerance, love, sex, freedom, and democracy first exploded on the scene in an epic 70-page, a book-length poem written from the perspective of many distinct voices, varying stories, and – at times – shocking circumspection.

The idea is this… each week for the next year, a video will be released featuring a recitation of one verse from Song of Myself. At the time of posting this article, there were about sixteen videos already released. I’ve watched them all. There isn’t one of them that hasn’t made a lasting impression on me. I think you’ll feel the same and hope you’ll pass this link along to those you love, those who need their spirits lifting, those who need reminding that we are all connected beyond a shadow of a doubt, and those who need an education in human nature, tolerance, equality, and love.

Thank you, Jennifer Crandall and Team. Thank you, Alabama Media Group.

Something happened to my hair yesterday. It wasn’t good.

And, it happened on one of those days that I had to, not only leave the house but, see another person who fully intended to see me back. To make matters worse, we’d never met before which meant that I had to seem as close to a functioning/productive human being as possible.

I knew the other person would have certain phonological expectations of me. There was no reason for her to suspect that I wouldn’t move my mouth in such a way as to allow sounds to escape which would coalesce into words and string together to form complete sentences, maybe even coherent, fully-realized ideas (perfumed with a hint of forethought).

I eventually managed to do that once or twice, even with the hair situation, albethey run-on sentences and tangential thoughts which contained, at times, too much personal information that I have never shared with another soul.  As I heard one confidence after another float into the conversation cloud hanging over the Ethiopian restaurant at the Pizitz Food Hall, my inner voice which still has some sense of dignity and hope for a brighter future kept saying, “I’m begging you, Amy – rip your lips off your face before you say anything else.”

But, it was too late.

Anyway, the hair emergency began earlier that morning when I sat in front of my laptop and turned on the webcam. I plugged in the heating-up, wand magic thing that I use when I want to look my very best to go to Wal-Mart or Publix and, operating my webcam as a makeshift mirror, I raised this wand to my head to start the long process of taming my hair. But I was caught, like the proverbial deer-in-headlights, when I accidentally got a good look at myself.

I see myself often enough but I try not to look. Look with a capital ‘L’. But I did in that instant and what I found disturbed me.

How long had it been since I’d washed my hair?

I put the wand thing down and thought.

After a while, I came up with a number. I’m not going to reveal the exact length of time. I feel that’s not particularly relevant at this juncture. (Cough, cough.) Let’s just say that it had been so long I thought, “I’m surprised the Health Department hasn’t threatened to shut me down; and, I can’t possibly meet this person without getting my head scrubbed by a professional.”

So, that was the plan: leave the house early enough to find a walk-in salon where I could get my hair washed, blow dried, styled – so that I wouldn’t look like a dandelion – and then go to my meeting.

It didn’t happen like that.

Imagine walking into a seemingly unremarkable beauty salon and asking, “Do you do coiffure reduction and follicle scarification?”

A Young Thing with suede brown eyes and dip-dyed split ends replies, “Don’t be stupid. Of course, we do.”

“Very well then,” you answer, as the beautimortician begins salivating and sharpening two antique fish knives.

You continue, “Cut it, fray it, thin it so that it’s REALLY easy for me to put on a wig.”

Young Thing takes a step back, a tinge of almost-respect pulls at the corners of her buttercup mouth. “You want the No Wig Cap? Are you sure?”

You nod… and somewhere in the back of the salon somebody whistles that famous western whistle from the Clint Eastwood movie, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly…“I’m sure.”

Then she comes at you with a freshly sharpened fish knife in one hand and a weed eater in the other and something ensues not wholly unrelated to shaving an Alaskan Musk Ox.

None of that actually happened.

It happened according to plan except, when she got it dried and straightened she said, “Do you want me to nip the ends?”

I looked at the ends and then I looked at Young Thing’s snarled lip. “Sure,” I said. “But only nip the ends. Okay? I’ve got a thing I’ve got to do today and I’m not feeling particularly adventurous. So, only a little bit off.”

“Yeah. I’ll just nip the ends.”

And she actually said it in a very impatient way, the same impatient way I used to talk to my mother when I was a teenager and she asked me questions like, ”Are you going to put ketchup on that?” as I stood there with a bottle of ketchup poised a half an inch above whatever food product I was about… to… put… ketchup… on… “Wait for it, you’ll see! Let the world unfold before you in a spectacle of wonderment, mother!”

So, anyway, somebody please get me a fucking dictionary. By definition does ‘nip the ends’ mean butcher this woman’s hair into some monstrous conglomeration of a fringe and a mullet; something that not even the Partridge Family would have wanted forty-seven years ago?

When Young Thing turned me around in the swivelly chair and and I got a good Look, capital ‘L,’ I didn’t say a word and neither did she. She took the cape from around my neck. We walked in silence to the front where she punched at the cash register for a moment and a surprisingly high number appeared on display. I swiped my debit card and left her a $10 tip when it flashed the question: do you want to add a tip to this purchase?

We parted without ceremony.

I went to the car, drove downtown, parked, and walked to the Pizitz Food Hall, found a seat in the restaurant where I waited for about fifteen minutes, drinking a Dr. Pepper.

The person I was meeting eventually emailed to let me know that she was standing just outside the door.

She described herself as, “In a pink dress.”

I ran my fingers through my hair one last time and went to greet her.

Once we were inside, seated, making first introductions, ordering, etc… I noticed that she was easily the most beautiful woman in the room, no doubt the smartest. She was confident, at ease, personable.

I heard a voice inside my head say, “Stop looking directly at her mouth. Stop squirming in your seat. Put your knees together.” And then, “How often do you think she washes her hair?”

Thanks to Beth Castrodale at Small Press Picks for the following review of Leaving is My Colour.

From Small Press Picks:

“I never thought I’d be the kind of person who could say things like, ‘Yes, I’ve spent a little time in jail,’ or, ‘If you count second cousins then, yeah, I’ve had sex with a relative.’ I also never thought I’d be married and divorced enough times for it to be financially sensible to invest in a courthouse parking permit. But, there you go.”

So observes Rachel Bennett, early in the witty, wickedly funny novel in which she stars: Leaving Is My Colour, by Amy Burns. As soon becomes clear, divorce and jail—the consequence of feeding a drug addiction—are far from Rachel’s only problems. The root of many of them is her deeply dysfunctional family: her well-meaning but mostly absent father; her selfish, judgmental mother; and her older sister, Julie, a bottomless source of disparagement and hostility.

Burns’s comic touch keeps the story from sinking under the weight of this dysfunction. Referring to her own birth, for example, Rachel observes: “Julie had asked for a puppy and [my parents] brought me home instead. She was put on infant homicide watch after my parents caught her trying to squirt dishwashing detergent up my nose. Our relationship hasn’t improved.”

 (read more from Beth’s review here…)

The first time I fell in love, I was taking a second swing at kindergarten. The Board of Education had birthday-based rules and, because mine fell late in the calendar year, they decided that I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to move along to first grade. Guess I showed them.

Donald was his name. He wore his hair high and tight. I used to stand behind him in line and sing, “Baby taboo, singing in the dew and making everybody happy.” I don’t know in what fit of genius I composed that lyric but I’m glad that I can share it now with the wider public.

It’s unclear whether Donald loved me or if he was terrified of me. Maybe both. He wasn’t communicative and I was never able to get to the bottom of either his stony silence or violent, red-faced giggling. In fact, I don’t remember any other interaction except those precious moments in line, waiting to leave a darkened classroom with the only light coming from a bank of windows behind us. The windows were always draped with our artwork so the spectrum of colors which refracted above our heads was intoxicating to a developing mind, and heart.

It was for the best that we parted ways, though. Sometimes it’s the unselfish acts that show how much we really care. I had some tough times ahead after I got caught peeing in the bushes and I didn’t want to drag Donald through such heated controversy. I tried to convince the little snitch who found me that the teacher had said it was okay to relieve myself there under the Cleyera but he said these words which have haunted me ever since, “You’re a liar and you piss like a racehorse.”

So, yes… things were difficult for a while. The considered and sustained response from my classmates made it difficult to maintain any social life worth mentioning. Although, it wasn’t anything nearing the magnitude of a later incident in elementary school when I would have to navigate the treacherous waters of Funyungate. I didn’t realize they made my breath stink. All I knew is that Funyuns were delicious.

Donald sat all the way across the room from me, probably for a reason now that I think about it, and I used to watch him with amorous intentions as he ate Elmer’s Glue and pasted pasta onto construction paper. I wish now that I’d been more concerned with my own pasta pasting. But, no. It’s a proclivity that followed me through all my school years, through college and beyond; today even, forty years later you can ask me, Amy what do you want to be when you grow up? And the only thing I can think to say is, loved.

Demented narrator Rachel’s a kind of dysfunctional debutante. The daughter of vast wealth, she’s got through four marriages, endless drugs, breakdowns, therapy and rehab, all in search of the one thing money can’t buy. This is the love of her childhood sweetheart Jack, who’s with someone else and not interested.

The book’s a crazy mixed bag: sometimes dialogue, sometimes prose, moving back and forth in time and between degradation and glamour.

Restless Rachel might wake up in the Four Seasons penthouse, or sprawled on the floor with someone else’s wet dog.

Will she ever slow down and find happiness?

Very funny, fizzing with one-liners and sparkling with a febrile wit.

– Wendy Holden – The Daily Mail

Now, my writing doesn’t fall into the horror genre but those of you who know me will have a wonderful time cracking jokes about ME being a horror show after you find out that the folks at For Book’s Sake were kind enough to include me on their podcast #104 Women in Horror / Amy Burns. My bit comes toward the end but it’s a great listen the whole way through. Find out where I write, my one little-prized possession which sits on my desk, and my eternal downfall which must be purchased in lots of three!

And while you’re at it, head over to For Book’s Sake where you’ll find a world of brill stufflery like reviews, news, featured authors, and weekend reads all championing women writers. It’s really a site making a difference and deserves our lurve and support.

 

My first novel was published 16 February. Here are a few of the reviews thus far.

Demented narrator Rachel’s a kind of dysfunctional debutante. The daughter of vast wealth, she’s got through four marriages, endless drugs, breakdowns, therapy and rehab, all in search of the one thing money can’t buy. This is the love of her childhood sweetheart Jack, who’s with someone else and not interested.

The book’s a crazy mixed bag: sometimes dialogue, sometimes prose, moving back and forth in time and between degradation and glamour.

Restless Rachel might wake up in the Four Seasons penthouse, or sprawled on the floor with someone else’s wet dog.

Will she ever slow down and find happiness?

Very funny, fizzing with one-liners and sparkling with a febrile wit.

– Wendy Holden – The Daily Mail

 

‘I first realised I loved Jack the day he drowned,’ begins Amy Burns’ novel, setting the reader up for a wistful tale on the pitfalls of a modern, melancholic romance. Don’t buy into it. There’s nothing romantic about this darkly witty road trip through the bumpy highway of a young woman’s mind. Instead, it’s about the anti-romance of reconciling life and love, finding your place in an imperfect family, and the way our flaws are exposed and exploited by the people closest to us.

Burns takes us through the life of Rachel, a serial divorcee and recovering drug addict, with acerbic pragmatism. Her sister never warmed to her because ‘she was expecting a puppy’. Her mother tried to poison her father when she suspected an affair. Jack is the love of her life, but actually, Jack’s a bit of a douche. He’s also married, distant and an imperfect representation of the idyllic life Rachel craves.

If you like novels with linear plots and a neat little ending, this isn’t for you. If instead, you want a book that is as honest, fractured and occasionally as hilarious as life itself, Leaving Is My Colour will look good on you.

– Rebeccca Monks – The List

 

Relentless, delicious mischief spills from this family’s eye-popping dysfunction. Whipsmart and wickedly witty – as Rachel careens towards rock-bottom, no-one who tries to get near her stands a chance.

– Kate Tough, author of Head for the Edge, Keeping Walking

 

A roller coaster ride of droll wit, and often laugh out loud one-liners, Leaving is My Colour puts us inside the head of four-times-married and love-starved Rachel. From her defective and wealthy family to Jack, her first love, and her drug rehabilitation and therapy sessions, she tells us about the absurdity of her life with no holds barred.

Rachel dips into significant episodes from her past and gradually we build a picture of this complex young woman, and learn of what she’s wanted all along. The book is written in a non linear way, yet comes together as a seamless, and very funny, whole.

– Maureen Vincent-Northam, Author

 

Loved it! The narrator, Rachel, takes us on a tartly funny journey through her life, in which she has lurched from one bad decision to another, barely stopping to pause for breath. ‘Halloween, 1969. I was born. My three-year-old sister wasn’t happy. Julie had asked for a puppy and they brought me home instead.’ It’s all downhill from there, as Rachel wisecracks her way through disappointments, many self inflicted. Often laugh-out-loud funny, Amy Burns has the word skills and timing of a stand-up comedian, while pulling off the difficult act of dealing with the serious subject of mental health with both humour and sensitivity. A great debut novel from an appealing new voice.

– Nicola Taylor, Author/Tutor

 

Rachel grew up in a dysfunctional family of what she thought was modest means until the day her father decided to announce they were rich. She was in and out of counseling sessions from the time she was a child when her hateful sister Julie claimed she was sexually active just for spite. Through drug addiction, rehab, and several failed marriages she never forgot about her first childhood sweetheart Jack, but it’s a hard lesson to learn that letting go of the past is the only way to find our future. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, Rachel’s sarcastic humor kept me turning the pages.

– Irene, Goodreads

 

I read this through in a brilliant three hours non stop. So many laughs, such an original voice and such a satisfactory ending. Rachel is the kind of gal you want to spend evenings with while being glad you aren’t her. Her mother is also fabulous in a truly awful way. Her Father is like a fairy godfather. This is such an entertaining, funny, true to life book. Enjoy it and pass it on!

– Katherine G. Abbott, Amazon Reviewer

 

Rachel thrashes her way through life, trying to push and pull it into some sort of shape, wise-cracking from within her bouts of despair, without ever appreciating that life (and her family: especially her family) simply won’t do as it is bid. Her childhood is riddled with family-induced insecurities, her teenage years by an unrewarding infatuation with Jack, her ‘adult’ years by addictions various and behaviour self-destructive until… until…

No, I won’t spoil it. All I can say is ‘read it’. It’s a very clever and very funny book that satirises just about anything it can lay its literary hands on. I’m going to read it again. Right now.

– Amazon Customer

 

What fun and wild ride with Rachel! She is so witty, sassy and deeply troubled. Amy Burns did a wonderful job with this book and I can’t wait to read more from her.

– Cathy Parker, Amazon

 

You just can’t help but love Rachel! She’s weirdly wacky and terribly troubled but the author, Amy Burns, kept me enthralled in the crazy tale of her life. And somehow makes it humorous too. I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read more by this new writer.

– MP Ryan, Amazon

 

It’s almost like a collection of short stories the way that all the reminiscences are given their own chapters, and it’s also a little like an American Housewife take on Ferrante. You’ll love Rachel, because although she’s a mess she’s honest and realistic. She’s an incredbile character that will stay with you long after you’ve finished this book.

– Hannah Bookseller Review Waterstones Edinburgh West End

 

Such a great book, have to take a moment to highlight it. Provocative, witty and above all enthralling.It plays around with narrative structure to great effect but delivers in the essential art of a good story told.

– Silem Renk, Amazon

 

Great book. Loved reading it. Read it in 3 evenings because I could not put it down. Five stars

– Amy Whitfield, Amazon

 

Amy Burns brings us the indelible character of Rachel. Smart, sassy, recently rich and deeply troubled. Rachel’s dysfunctional family has made Rachel a neurotic, yet lovable mess. For anyone who has struggled with identity within their own screwed up family, you will empathize and be highly entertained by Rachel’s antics. Fun read!

– BabeOBooks, Amazon

 

This is a fast-paced novel which is rare in that it provides something for those of us who love literary fiction and humor. On the surface, the characters might seem glib but there is a lot to be learned from the complex relationships in this dysfunctional family. I loved Rachel and her wit but found that I also loved the cast of supporting characters – especially Phillip and the mother and father. This novel had me crying in one part (I won’t spoil it) and it had me laughing throughout.

– The Fifth Reviewer, Amazon

 

You are my new favorite author! Amy Burns this book is brilliant! I found so much common ground with Rachel it was uncanny at times! Her realizations and struggles were very thought provoking, her journey to her final realization so familiar…Amy this book… I loved it…can’t wait until the next!

– Lynn Gordon Jones

 

I understand it is customary to complete an entire book before submitting a review, but… I’m not even half way done and I’m hooked! Love it!

– Sad kid dad, iTunes

 

Funny with just the right amount of dark. Thoroughly enjoyed it! Looking forward to seeing what Mrs. Burns comes out with next.

– Amazon Customer

 

I could totally see this book being made into a movie. The characters can be perfectly horrible at times but that’s what I loved most about them! The family is blissfully dysfunctional and wisecracking Rachel is caught right in the middle of it. There are tender moments in the novel, though. While it made me laugh a lot, it also made me think too. Although it is funny, it is poignant at the same time, dealing with mental health issues and addiction. I love the mother character! Hilarious.

– Kindle Customer, Amazon

 

Dark and unconventional, but so funny – in a first world tragic kind of way.

– Laura Gillespie, Goodreads

 

This is a really funny book. Rachel, bless her heart, is a lovable mess. I couldn’t help but keep reading just to see what she would get into next. There is more to it than meets the eye. Her family isn’t close and it seems like they’re awful to each other but, it really is a real-life-glimpse at how we can hurt the ones we love most. I cheered at the ending and loved all the characters, despite their faults – especially her fantastic mother and father!

– Laraine Stewart, Goodreads

 

This book is creative and fun roller coaster ride through the life of an addict trying to run from life. I loved the dysfunction and the family dynamics. The way the book was written by giving just a little history at a time made me read til the wee hours to see what was next. I can’t wait for more from Amy Burns.

– Leslie H, Amazon

 

Reading a book like Amy Burn’s novel, “Leaving is My Colour”, is like watching a skilled juggler keep numerous balls in the air. One marvels not only how many balls the juggler can manage, but also how long she can keep them up. Burns keeps a lot of facets of Rachel Bennett’s life aloft at once: drug addiction and rehabilitation, dysfunctional family, multiple marriages, unrequited love, and caring friends, all serious subjects, but Burns infuses all of them with a pervasive, charming wit. They come at you in a dizzying, hilarious array, and part of the enjoyment of the novel is admiration for how Burns never drops one ball until she is ready, and when she does, it’s at the perfect moment, the moment she has been leading the reader to all along, the moment the reader has been wishing for without actually knowing it.

To accomplish this takes a mastery of the craft.I highly recommend this book.

– D.G. Wisker, Amazon

 

I love you! The book was amazing. What is funny is I read it in your voice. It was like having a reunion talk with you. Going from one of our screw ups to another and always being able to circle back around to any fore mentioned topic and keep going. I literally laughed out loud many times. I learned some new vocab words and was reintroduced to some I had forgotten I knew!! I loved the mother in the story… “she would abort me now if she could”. Felicia was the best. I want to hang out with her pretentious ass.

I bought all my employees the book. The ones that have finished it loved it too. We are in a warped field and it’s like hearing the story of some of our folks!!

– Leslie Heatherly Holland

 

What a hoot this book is!!! Rachel is a character…lol…The writing which brings us into the life of a drug addict and her family is sometimes sad, sometimes funny. I found myself wanting to get back to reading this book when I had other things to do. The way Rachel deals with her family will keep you glued to the pages. Very entertaining book and one I would recommend if you want a light hearted read. Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for the advanced copy of the book in return from my honest review.

– vnunez- msluv2read, Amazon

 

Both funny and serious. I easily related to Rachel! Poor decisions, not fitting in any particular place, total dysfunctional family life! Taking every direction except the right one to discover what she wanted was just in front of her all along. I laughted and cried, but couldn’t put it down! Can’t wait for the next novel from Amy Burns!

– Lynn J, Amazon

 

This is a must read! So funny and a great style, crying out to be filmed. Can’t wait for the next Burns novel 🙂

Amazon Customer, Amazon

 

This book is fun and cleverly written – you’ll want to read it all in a single sitting. It reminded me a little of The First Bad Man by Miranda July but Burns allows her readers to enjoy the tale in seemingly effortless style. Buy a copy, buy a few – what else would you get friends for birthdays and Christmas?!

Ailsa, Amazon

 

Ace beach read by @Amy_E_Burns. I love @FreightBooks. Thanks for recommendation & loan, @somefiasco.

Emily Morris, Author of My Shitty Twenties (Twitter)

 

Just a few words and a video that I put together. I’ve been experimenting with such things. It’s fun playing. I hope to sit down one day and actually do a video with INTENT, if you know what I mean. Everything now is a learning process and I find myself playing with various tools and etc etc etc more than I find myself hitting marks or playing the phrases. At any rate, I hope you like it.

©Amy Burns Video and Poem Everything’s Gonna Be Fine

This magnificent beast is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Sure, the photograph is really just an app’ed snapshot from my iPhone but, hand-to-heart, it didn’t look much different in person. So imagine spring, 2013…

My vantage point was a spot in Kelvingrove Park where I was also watching my springer spaniel get up to springer spaniel things. This was Glasgow at its finest: four-seasons-in-one-day. Toward Kelvingrove the sky was blue, purple and blackish while behind me theUniversity of Glasgow towered and the sun was shining.

The near fluorescent green was new growth on the trees and notice the white flowers being pushed by young leaves to just the tips of the branches. Although you can’t see it, the lawn was strewn with fallen petals. The dog had them stuck to her nose and her hair was full of them as her wagging tail swept the sidewalk.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Glasgow, have a wander around Kelvingrove. The Gallery and Museum underwent a massive refurbishment which was completed in 2006. To describe the Spanish Baroque styled building as ‘impressive’ is an understatement. And, as their website proudly points out, the Museum has 22 themed galleries displaying over 8,000 objects including: Dutch Old Masters and French Impressionists, Scottish Arts, Salvador Dali’s Christ of St John on the Cross, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style, Natural History, Arms and Armour, Ancient Egypt, Scottish History and Archaeology, and World Cultures.

One of my favorite times to visit is during the midday hours when there is an organ recital. There’s nothing like hearing that instrument come to life in those cavernous halls. I understand that they have a special Alastair Gray exhibition on from now until 22 February 2015 which would be wonderful to see: From the Personal to the Universal.

When you’re finished at the Museum you’re just a short walk from one of my favorite hideouts in Glasgow, The Two Figs. Please have the lunch portion of the mee goreng noodles for me if you go. (Alright, have whatever you wish but the noodles are delicious.) Then you might as well head up Byres Road for whatever sorts of mischief you fancy whether that be a bit of vintage/antique shopping or pints/shots at a pub. Ashton Lane will keep you busy for either of those things, really. Not to mention you can get a pint and watch a movie at my favorite cinema – The Grosvenor.

Hope to write more on each of these things at another time. Glasgow, though… get yourself there.

 

Dr Amy Burns holds a PhD from the University of Glasgow and is the Managing Editor of Mulberry Fork Review. She recently completed a novel and is represented by Lucy Luck @ Aitken Alexander. Visit Amy on Twitter: @Amy_E_Burns.

The Exit Helen FitzgeraldIf psychological thrillers are your thing and you haven’t read work by Australian author Helen Fitzgerald then get your skates on. You can start with The Cry (Faber & Faber, 2013) which Fitzgerald perfectly tunes, throttling the narrative forward at a steady pace until the reader is racing along at a fevered pitch, white-knuckled and desperate to know what happened to Noah – Joanna and Alistair’s newborn son who was apparently taken from the couple’s hire car. The case becomes fodder for a media firestorm and, as events continue to disintegrate, Fitzgerald’s prose patches the reader directly into Joanna’s decent into madness and Alistair’s suspiciously cool detachment. It’s one – must read – to find out if all is what it seems.

The Cry should be enough to whet your appetite while you wait for the release of Fitzgerald’s latest novel, The Exit (Faber & Faber, February 5, 2013). The Exit deftly alternates between the points of view of Catherine, a beautiful 23-year-old whose world revolves around social media, flirting, and partying; and Rose, an 82-year-old children’s author who suffers from dementia and fades in and out of her present self to her 10-year-old self.

The novel opens with Catherine who lives at home, has huge credit card bills, a steady diet of shallow relationships, and no real ambition other than to dodge conflict with her obsessive, hyper-organized mother who has finally cracked the whip – insisting that Catherine gets a job. To appease her mother, Catherine does take a job at Dear Green, a care home in Glasgow. She can barely hide her repulsion for the old people but keeps her spirits high with the secret knowledge that, just as soon as she has enough money, she’ll take off to Costa Rica where she’ll be free from all responsibility – free to dance, drink rum, and work on nothing but her tan!

But Rose, who in her lucid moments is still extremely savvy, knows a secret. A terrible secret about what goes on in Room 7 at Dear Green. It’s been easy for the regular staff at the care home to brush Rose’s concerns aside as the ravings of a demented old woman but she sees an opportunity with this new girl. Maybe Catherine can get her message to the outside world. Maybe Catherine can get to the bottom of the whole twisted, depraved mystery… if only Rose could stay in the present long enough to convince Catherine without the trauma of her past rising up and plunging her into the cold river of her past, into the world of a terrified 10-year-old child.

With interesting twists throughout that heighten the importance of making Catherine a ‘believer’, the question is… can Rose convince Catherine that something horrible is happening in Room 7 before it’s too late? And is Catherine ready to shed the pretense of her shallow existence and face both the darkness and the light of the real world?

It’s a novel worth reading to find out. Fitzgerald’s prose is at once straightforward and humorous; insightful and chilling. The Exit, have a read.

 

Review By:
Amy Burns: Managing Editor of Mulberry Fork Review, holds a PhD from the University of Glasgow, and is represented by Lucy Luck at Aitken Alexander.

I was at the doctor’s office today, waiting my turn after having graduated from outer perimeter to inner sanctuary but, still waiting nonetheless. One of the doctors was walking down the hall towards me, a nurse sort of skip-hop running along behind him to keep up. She handed him a chart over his right shoulder and said, “She’s in exam room 15. She’s lost eight pounds in a week.” The doctor opened the chart and looked at it. As he passed me he said, “Eight pounds in a week? That’s my kind of girl.”

What does that even mean?

I went to Galveston, Texas with my sister this weekend. We stayed at the Hotel Galvez which is a beautiful, historic building on the seawall. Built in 1911, the Hotel Galvez is a blend of Mission Revival and Spanish Revival that has hosted the likes of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, General Douglas MacArthur, Jimmy Stewart, Frank Sinatra, and Howard Hughes. Apparently no famous women have ever stayed, at least none that they’ll admit to.

The Hotel Galvez is haunted or, so they say. There’s supposed to be a ‘Ghost Bride’ in room 501 and throughout the fifth floor. We stayed in room 503 and saw no evidence of her. I even downloaded a 99¢ app from iTunes that promised to pic up all paranormal activity. Why wouldn’t I have all the faith in the world that a 99¢ app, created by some fourteen-year-old in his bedroom, would accurately and honestly reveal paranormal activity? Exactly. So I walked around the room for a while with my iPhone outstretched, begging the spirits to communicate with me but the only two words that came from the ether were ‘big’ and ‘popcorn’. More words may have come from the ether if we’d been willing to extend our disbelief just a little longer but we turned it off and decided to order room service.

If it turns out that the key to the great beyond, or maybe even the meaning of life, is Big Popcorn – may I forever be known as the poor bastard who ignored the message.

The weekend was basically a humid eat, sleep, shopfest. And I ain’t complaining. We had a great time. It ended with a couple of skull sticker books, a Humpty Dumpty Christmas Ornament, and a bag of Maple Nut Goodies. Anything that ends with a bag of Maple Nut Goodies can’t be all bad.

I think it ought to be said that a fiction writer can try anything. He has tried a great deal but presumably, not everything. The possibilities are endless because the stirring of the imagination never rests, and because we can never stop trying to make feeling felt.
Eudora Welty

I fly across the Atlantic today. I arrived in the UK in 2006 and settled in Scotland January, 2007 when I began studies at the University of Glasgow. It’s a sad departure for me but I shall try to look at it as an adventure and I will certainly look forward to the time I can return to England to see my friends and my little dog.

aeroplane

Please allow me to categorize myself… In the interest of making the website easier to sift through, this page merely serves as, well… a sifter. That will be all. Carry on.
Amy

Christmas Lunch Spoon

Today was Christmas-Lunch-with-Friends. We went to visit Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage (Canteen). Hugh wasn’t there but I won’t hold that against him.

I wore clean clothes, brushed my teeth, thought about washing my hair but things can go so wrong with my hair; best not to tempt fate. And, anyway, I’ve got this thing lately about not wanting to get my shoulders wet.

The restaurant is at Royal William Yard, a complex of former Naval ‘victualing’ buildings which have undergone a reincarnation, of sorts. It’s got an up-scale yet relaxed vibe, a little bit like wearing a £120 t-shirt. Much of the space has been converted into exposed-works, loft-inspired apartments which have on-your-doorstep access to bars, cafes and restaurants. There are also a few shops – a boutique, a gallery, a beauty salon. Life-sized, white cow sculptures stand in the common garden.

We arrived early and went for beverages at a place trying very hard to strike a balance between rough-around-the-edges eclectic and you’ll-need-a-second-mortgage-to-pay-for-that-latte. The beverages were less exciting than the guy sitting behind us with his arse showing. I’m not talking a glimpse of plumber’s crack. I’m talking full-on, ready-for-the-proctologist exposed. His pants had slipped down so far, I was surprised he didn’t notice other important naked bits pressed against the wooden chair.

And the place was loud. I couldn’t hear a word that anybody in my party was saying. I tried to participate in the conversation but it ended up with me just nodding and agreeing and trying to look interested in what… I’ve no idea. I laughed when they laughed, that sort of thing. When one of my friends leaned over and said, “I didn’t know you like Michael Jackson.” What?? “Michael Jackson. I didn’t know you were a fan.” I didn’t either… More shrugging and smiling but I figured it best to get out of there before I unwittingly (and wrongly) confessed to something even more incriminating.

Once we made it to River Cottage everything was… well, it was perfect. The atmosphere was jolly. The conversation was good (and audible). We discussed microwaved water, football, and crispy duck. And the food was delicious. Shout out to my field mushroom soup, roast partridge, and apple fumble. Chances are that I won’t be with my UK friends next Christmas and that makes me feel a little tickly around the tear ducts… but… today was a day to remember.

The other Saturday we went to a place called Mothecombe Beach. It was one of those experiences that made me stop and realize: I’m smack dab in the middle of perfection. Kurt Vonnegut beat me to it when he said, “If this ain’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

I suppose the magic was heightened by the fact that it was October in the United Kingdom and the weather was hospitable enough for us  to enjoy a few hours resting on a warm rock while the spaniel played in the waves. We had the whole place to ourselves for a good long while which made it very easy to play out all sorts of escapist fantasies. I mean, before the first family showed up with their buckets and spades, I was ready to give up modern conveniences and hide there forever all secluded paradise, beautiful savage-like. The couple of families that did show up were sweet, don’t get me wrong, but those few hours alone with all that beauty are something I’ll never forget.