All posts by SynchChaos Staff

Cristina loves hiking, biking, fresh strawberries and blueberries, classical and worldbeat music, travel, photography, babies and children, literature, astronomy, volunteerism, and publishing Synchronized Chaos Magazine! She's currently finishing a master's in journalism at San Jose State University and lives in Northern California with her family and cat Mischief.

December’s issue: The Introspective Journey


First of all, thanks to our readers and contributors for continuing to follow and support Synchronized Chaos magazine through the end of this year. We appreciate the variety of projects we’ve been able to help develop and publicize, and the many fascinating, unique, hardworking artists, authors, and readers we have met so far along the way, and look forward to more in 2009!

Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a very happy New Year full of infinite potential for creative possibilities, for finding beauty and fascination along life’s winding roads.

December’s submissions seemed highly disparate at first glance – yet after awhile I pulled out a common thread of discovery through introspection. Using careful thought and consideration to determine the true nature of people, objects, places, or ideas.

David Cicerone probes the near-physical memory of a sudden coming-of-age moment, a glimpse of one’s own tiny harmonica against the sounds of the universe in his highly atmospheric short story. What is it that brings us up to epiphanies and back down to earth, and how do we find motivation to continue our efforts afterwards in the calmer, wiser times?

Sara Waugh combines scientific concepts of biological growth and change with feminine imagery abstracted from modern, sexualized images of naked or nearly naked women. She brings her cultural anthropology and ecology background to explore why we find certain aspects of nature appealing or intriguing, and celebrates female bodies by re-integrating them into the context of natural cycles, transformation, history and cultural archetypes rather than viewing them as isolated objects of pleasure or even momentary beauty. Her work invites introspection into how and why we look at art, and blurs the lines between archetypes and realities, memory/imagination and physicality, the natural world and human society.

Sodalis’ philosophical essay on the differences between art and craft is another attempt at exploring the nature of art and beauty. Why do some works remain with us, touch us throughout centuries, become classics or masterworks? In this second offering from our San Francisco-based citizen-of-the-world blogger and writer, we take a look at some potential defining characteristics of art. We hope his essay will invite discussion among the artists and connoisseurs who peruse Synchronized Chaos.

Kate Evans’ For the May Queen’s title comes from Stairway to Heaven’s lyrics – a backdrop for another kind of coming-of-age story, where Norma Jean becomes exposed to various ideas and ways of life during her freshman year at Sacramento State. As her world expands she learns to reconcile and choose among different hopes and dreams, and eventually embrace a certain level of fluidity and complexity in her life. As with Walter Whitman, she can ‘contain multitudes’ and cry at beautiful weddings and hope for true love while simultaneously adventuring around the world as a travel writer and wishing there were more solo female travel memoirs. And she can stay friends with a surprising variety of people while allowing them space to change and discover their own personalities.

Evans shows Norma most developing her own personality during the times when she steps back from her social world and considers who she is, who she would most like to become. It is her encounters with other people and ideas inside and outside of class which give her something to consider during those times, though – introspection is a powerful, necessary capacity but not enough alone to create a mature personality. One must also engage with the real world to formulate and test one’s ideas.

Perhaps the winter months have inspired contributors to curl up inside with a warm cup of tea and embark upon personal journeys. We invite everyone to question and reflect and enjoy the freshly fallen snowdrifts with us, and to comment to thank and engage with our writers and artists.

Review of Kate Evans’ debut novel For The May Queen


Kate Evans is a professor of English and Comparative Literature at San Jose State University and the author of a poetry collection, short stories, and essays, as well as this college coming-of-age novel. Warning – there are spoilers in this review concerning major plot points, although the novel is still enjoyable with the added information.



“You [could] never be too young, too rich, or too thin. Money made the world go round. Everything and everyone could be bought, it just depended on the price. Drugs propelled many people in this modern world full of new technology. Anyone could get rich so long as they were willing to pay the piper.

          Independent fashion designer and zinester Lux la Due of Girl is Poison ( describes eighties American culture as a decade of experimentation and self-enhancement. Hairstyles, music, fashion, technology, finances and consumer products, and social expectations for young people all went through a period of confusing, exhilarating flux. Between the sixties-era rebellion, political activism, and free love, and the nineties’ economic worries, AIDS scare, and talk of ‘family values,’ the 1980’s were a decade of trying new things and figuring oneself out.

            Kate Evans’ recent novel For the May Queen follows Norma Jean, a young girl from the small California town of Auburn, through her 1981 freshman year at Sacramento State as she sorts out her own values with the help of a variety of colorful dorm-neighbors. Although the music and other cultural artifacts in this book (typewriters!) make it impossible to forget the novel takes place almost thirty years ago, the complex, conflicting messages Norma must explore and confront are still relevant nowadays. Those emotional similarities, and Evans’ unique, complex characters, are this book’s greatest strengths, and what inspired me to give this book a qualified recommendation.




            Sharing a name with pre-Hollywood makeover Marilyn Monroe, Norma Jean travels through a world full of music, movies, sex, drugs, friendship, parties, and sudden freedom. Norma observes various personalities and life choices through her dorm mates: her strong, go-getter sorority-girl friend Liz, who pursues what she wants in sex, romance, and fun without worrying about social norms, the funny, offbeat, classic movie buff Chuck, who keeps to himself and hates parties, and her sweet, friendly but private roommate Stacy, who takes her under her wing. Interacting with other people expands Norma’s potential life choices as she becomes exposed to different ways of life.

            However, Evans suggests, through the important realizations Norma comes to when she steps out of her social circle and by the fact that she chooses to leave Sac State by the end of the year, that one also needs time alone for personal reflection to be able to chart one’s own course. One can definitely learn from others, but must ultimately choose one’s own identity and values.

            Norma struggles to balance conflicting desires and ideals throughout the novel. She craves independence, wishing to journey and backpack alone in the style of her literary heroes Jack Kerouac and Isadora in Fear of Flying. She even thinks of this in feminist terms, wishing to hear more about women adventurers. However, she also wants very much to fall in love and have a serious romance with someone who values and cares for her. She stays with her older boyfriend Jack even when he’s emotionally distant and she’s sure he’s involved with other women, and also simultaneously hopes for something to start between her and Chuck.

            When Norma is asked in English class to write on something she cares about and stands for, she draws a blank until Stacy suggests that she believes in true love, that one can find happiness in a healthy relationship. Norma recoils, afraid the statement will sound foolish, that she’s making guys the center of her life. But Stacy is clearly very independent and sure of herself, and definitely believes in love (although with a female partner.) This encounter suggests the possibility of a strong woman’s believing in and desiring love without necessarily surrendering her identity or the rest of her life.

            Norma also enjoys the social freedom, the relaxed rules of the dorms. She admires Liz for feeling free to drink, cuss, go after guys, and not act like a ‘nice’ girl, for not fitting into old fashioned social rules expected of women. However, she looks wistfully for aspects of life that are more elegant, idealized, and romantic. Although many of the places she looks for idealized beauty (Princess Di’s televised wedding, Jack’s romantic splurges in the early days of their relationship, wanting to light candles while the group drops acid, the General Hospital wedding) do not end up matching reality, she still maintains her hopes.

            Princess Diana’s marriage ended, as did Norma and Jack’s relationship. Fire safety precludes lighting candles, and the soap opera plotline involves a rape victim unrealistically embracing the perpetrator. Her English teacher singles out the essay she writes on the soap opera wedding as an example of feminist satire on society’s minimizing the impact of violence against women. While one could legitimately write such a critique, Norma’s paper more concerns her desire for something idealized and lovely in which to believe.

            Do weddings represent a system of stuffy old social rules that restricted people’s behavior, or is the ceremony a representation of something meaningful and beautiful that people crave and will miss? For the May Queen suggests both conceptualizations are possible, depending on the people and the situation. On the one hand, Norma’s friend Suzy feels constrained to go ahead with marriage when she feels restless and unready simply because the ceremony’s already planned, and the marriage ends in divorce. On the other hand, Norma genuinely admires the beauty and romanticism of true love as well as ceremonies of all types, and we see Liz and Benny in a fairly functional marriage at novel’s end.

            Balance among all these desires and life goals, the possibility of incorporating many different ideals simultaneously into one’s persona seems to be hinted at in For The May Queen. Walt Whitman’s continual use of the word ‘and’ jumps out at Norma – and her English professor suggests that combining and mixing together different thoughts, identities, and goals was a part of Whitman’s philosophy and lifestyle. To paraphrase, Whitman was an ‘and’ rather than an ‘either-or’ personality – and perhaps Norma and her dorm-mates can follow in his footsteps if they so choose.

            Norma and her parents love to read, and her favorite books include Fear of Flying, Go Ask Alice, and On the Road. Her English class concentrates on essays in reaction to newspaper articles, assigned by a teacher wishing students to explore themselves and their own realities. Perhaps because they are removed enough from her own experience to give her space to reflect more objectively, the older books give her more insight than the newspaper as to what she can become. Adventure stories spark her interest in travel and independence, and open up a dialogue between her and her mother.

            However, she lacks the words to describe her ever-changing reality, with its sexual double standards and many layers of conflicting and simultaneous social expectations. She freezes up sometimes at parties and has trouble thinking of the best way to say something, and leaves Chuck’s lover’s apartment in shock without a word. She also has trouble expressing herself in English class, feeling detached from her personal essays, as if her mind and life are miles ahead of what she can think to put down.

            Her discovering the secrets of Chuck and Stacy further illustrates the power and limitations of language. There are dangers in not speaking about certain things, such as sexual orientation: Norma, Stacy, and Chuck become caught up in a colossal misunderstanding because of the secrets. But there are also problems with labeling, giving concepts words and names. Once one creates or accepts a label, one risks being judged by those who simply see the label rather than one’s whole personality, and having that label/group identity defined by others who use the term. Near the novel’s end, Norma pushes Stacy to come out and say she and Tabitha are lesbian. Having a category for her roommate would help Norma make sense of her world – but naming her orientation, telling people her secret (even when they already know, but don’t talk about it) would make Stacy’s inner life more public and take away from the private space she needs to develop her own personality independently.

            Stacy does not want her life to be a matter of public discussion, especially when other opinionated people might then take control of how people perceive her and her relationship. For example, Liz had put Stacy down earlier and judged her as a blonde ditz because she was jealous and assumed anyone so beautiful and kind must not be too intelligent. (Here Kate Evans makes a point about quick judgements of people and how women and people in general let their own insecurities and jealousy get in the way of potential friendships.) So, by choosing not to publicly give words to her love for Tabitha, Stacy protects herself from others’ snap judgements and definitions of her, and gives herself the personal space she needs to think for herself.

            Some parts of the college experience in For the May Queen stood out in contrast given my own past at UC Davis and present at San Jose State. Financial struggles seemed completely out of the picture, with several students coming from relatively wealthy or upper middle class families, and no one working part time, worrying about the cost of sophomore-year apartments, or even calling home for money. Everyone found careers appropriate for their personalities soon after graduation, including recovering alcoholic Dan/Goat, who supported himself as an entrepreneur. Was somewhat unreal to watch college students not live the ‘student life’ of Top Ramen, cheap entertainment, etc and have no worries about debt, financial aid, etc.

            Also, there was little mention of any political/social justice/environmental activity on campus in the novel, while in my experience there were plenty of causes, groups, petitions, etc. UC Davis generally did not see anger, violence, or confrontation over social issues, but people discussed issues such as the Middle East conflict, the environment, feminism and cultural diversity, etc. Not everyone chose to become political, but people were generally aware of broader societal topics, or at least brought cookies for their sorority’s charity bake sale or participated in the Cancer Society’s all night relay race.

            Not having attended college during the eighties, I am not sure to what extent those differences reflect cultural contrasts between then and now, or areas where Evans might expand her novel to broaden her portrayal of the college experience. Some social scientists have described our current generation coming of age in the 2000’s as the Millennial Generation, when young people are more relaxed and pragmatic and value tolerance, getting along with each other, and making a difference in their communities and the larger world. So perhaps some of what I mentioned would more resonate with modern college students, although I could definitely relate to Norma’s feeling ‘on the outside looking in,’ watching significant events happen, being one of the last to figure them out – but putting careful thought into what everything meant much later.

            For the May Queen shows the excitement of college parties, the sense of new maturity, self-exploration, social inclusion, and developing friendships. While definitely not a moralistic or cautionary tale, we do see some of the realistic dangers of some college experiences: Norma’s frightening bad trip while on acid, the specter of STD’s, friendships and relationships broken over sexual jealousy. There are some negative consequences for women in a world where social boundaries and rules are removed, but underlying cultural assumptions about women remain: for example, the potential sexual assault scene where a group of guys push a woman’s boundaries at a party, Goat’s unwanted advances towards Norma, and Billy’s insistence that Norma is solely to blame for his possible STD and she must be the one to get tested.

            The sometimes scary world of For the May Queen’s dorms reminds me of Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert (who also chronicles a personal journey of self-discovery among conflicting messages on women, sex, and freedom)’s observations: “…when the patriarchic system was rightfully dismantled, it was not necessarily replaced by another form of protection…If I am truly to become an autonomous woman, then I must take over that role of being my own guardian.”

            This novel chronicles Norma’s journey towards learning to protect and define herself, choose who she wants to become and what she values. It does end on a cautiously optimistic note, with Norma, still single in her late thirties, putting her love for novels and adventure to use as a travel writer. Her ‘secret hater’ prankster apologizes after twenty years, and Liz and Benny reconnect and find their way to a loving, happy, egalitarian marriage.

            And, perhaps most importantly given the novel’s themes and the way the characters learn and grow from each other, the novel ends with renewed friendship among several of the former dorm-mates. Norma definitely believes in friendship – reconnecting with Liz and Benny, forgiving Goat, staying friends with Chuck after realizing romance is impossible, even trying to see good in Billy at school year’s end. And in this case, Evans lets life match up to Norma’s hopes and dreams, even after all its complex twists and turns.

            Lux la Due describes the eighties as a time of experimentation – yet admits that not all of the ‘experiments’ worked. In some ways For the May Queen is an experimental novel, exploring deep sociological issues through life in a freshman ‘party dorm.’ The novel itself mostly works, with complex characterization, believable dialogue, effective pacing, and a realistic enough ending, although I would have perhaps alluded to other ever-present aspects of college life to add to the realism. Life still seems experimental for the characters at the end – Evans leaves us with some unanswered questions.

            This book can be read as a fun, fast-paced read – or a look at all kinds of experiences, questions, and messages life throws at people young and old. Anyone who can resist either glamorizing or quickly judging the characters and sex/drugs in the book, could get something out of this. I’d recommend For the May Queen to mature teens/college students or anyone interested in a bit of music/movie nostalgia or a better understanding of how exhilarating, scary, wonderful, and confusing it is to be seventeen and on one’s own for the first time.


You may order For the May Queen here:




Sodalis’ comparative essay on the natures of art and craft – posted for discussion


In society, there is much confusion as to whether a specific work can be considered either ‘art’ or craft.

Although there is no checklist, no list of specific criteria to determine whether something can considered art or craft, there seem to be some inherent criteria common to both art and craft. Both require a good deal of talent and dexterity from the producer of art and craft and both require a great deal of skill and effort.

However, the two disciplines have several divergent attributes. Craft is considered practical and crafts often have a functional use. Craft does not express a specific ideal or arouse the deeper emotions. It can certainly be aesthetically appealing; I have seen quite a few aesthetically beautiful crafts, but they cannot be considered art in any sense of the word.

I think that the need for a deeper philosophy behind the piece is the important criterion for separating art from craft. I have produced some work that I can consider art, and other pieces that I consider craft. To me, graphic design is my craft, and writing (and to a lesser extent, drawing) are my arts. I do not intend my functional graphic design to have a deeper philosophy than what is directly visible there. It is concrete and tangible; there is no secret, numinous and arcane thought behind what I have wrought.

I consider pornography to be ‘craft’ as well. It is designed for the ‘practical’ purpose of sexually arousing someone. There is no hidden philosophy, and there is nothing hidden behind the brazen exposed bodies that grace the pages of pornographic magazines, or the words that convert the visual into the written expression of said purpose. A pornographic photographer might be adept at taking photos, but he is not producing any art.

Craft can be learned by most people. You can be artistically numb, unable to see the simplest abstract concept, yet be able to produce aesthetically-sound crafts due to an innate awareness of aesthetics. You can be taught crafts with little step-by-step kits and lessons. Even painting and drawing can be considered crafts if there is nothing behind them. A knowledge of craft is inherent to a knowledge of art, though. One must master the mechanics of what is to be produced before you can produce a great masterpiece that is able to convey your artistic expressions through that practical knowledge. There is a difference between art and craft, but one must master the craft before becoming a true artist.

Art, as opposed to craft, has a tendency to arouse the more profound emotions, rather than mere aesthetic appreciation or sexual arousal. Often there is a certain value or belief or message inherent in a work of art, something that transcends the tangible and concrete. Artists try to challenge ideas or support them through their work. In short, craft is about the tangible and art is about ideas. The great artists, both ancient and modern, tried to convey emotion and meaning through their work. Pathos and anger, lasciviousness and repentance, worship and blasphemy permeate the work of artists. It is obvious that artists’ work does not simply represent what is physically there, or is just meant to be pretty, for the most part. Not all of Picasso’s work could be considered ‘pretty’, yet it is art, because there is an underlying philosophy for it, and his work is a vessel for higher things.

Not just anyone can produce a work of art. One has to have an innate sense of how to play the tune of philosophy, to create a sense of awe and wonder or simply to convey an idea through one’s work rather than producing it for mere aesthetics. To make things clear, my opinions on craft and art also apply to writing, although if one is good with literary mechanics, it is easier to become an artist through writing because of words’ inherent ability to convey ideas. There are things you cannot see that can be described in words. Both art and craft are integral to civilisation, but there are areas that craft cannot reach that art can.

Essay by Sodalis – a San Francisco writer/blogger/social commentator, author of last issue’s Post-Racial Manifesto. You may read Sodalis’ blog here:

Sara Waugh’s 2008 Mutatus Series – mixed media



My multimedia works on paper are visual poems depicting the elements of life: birth, reproduction, the passage of time, transformation, and death. The imagery I use relates to these elements and is taken from botany and biology – seeds, fruit, plants, water, and parts of the human body. Life and living things are beautiful but also mutable and impermanent. I hope my work encourages viewers to contemplate time, change, and the life-death cycle.

 The images I create are inspired by my background in archaeology and science as well as my interest in gender and sexuality. This series, Mutatus, is inspired by the female form and the idea of regeneration and the natural cycles of the cosmos.  “Mutatus” is a Latin term meaning altered, changed, become different. 

 I work with a mix of media including watercolor, gouache, acrylic, ink, oil stick, and pastel on watercolor paper to create these introspective and dream-like worlds. The source material for the nudes in my work includes pornographic magazines and self-portraiture. I am interested in the art-historic roles of artist and model, and I enjoy playing with and challenging these traditional roles in my work. In addition, I am exploring ideas of female sexual power and the voyeuristic implications of looking at art.

Sara Waugh’s work is available for purchase, shows, and galleries…she’s available at


Arthur’s Harp – short fiction by David Cicerone


A twisty experimental tale of creative curiosity and lost innocence. — editor Cristina Deptula

“Autobiography,” Arthur said, “is an indiscriminate drinker.”                                                                      

We were in Scotland’s Hollow, as we almost always were this time of night, and Arthur had just finished one of his glorious reveries, his second and last of the evening. The conclusion, coming as it did on the heels of a rambling fifteen minutes of accusation, absurdity and exaggerated self-pity, had brought him to an artfully drained state. It had been an extraordinary improvisation, and he’d capped it off grandly, eloquently, and in the perfect setting to boot.                                                                                               

For months I’d been enjoying Arthur’s offhand enlightenments, which, of late, had become a kind of mantra to me as the juggernaut of corruption disguised as the twenty-first year of my life had worn and worn away at me, reaching its apex this midnight, a wind-swept, leaf-tumbling Fourth of July. This particular tangent had been occasioned by a certain sighting of a very certain young lady, with whom Arthur had recently concluded an affair, one whose manifold effects had ranged from the loftiest of passions to the most wretched heights of scorn. Moments like this made me glad to have him as my friend.             

Read the rest of the story here:

David Cicerone plays guitar, writes, and creates visual art for sale and gallery show. An East Coast transplant, he admires Bukowski and all the Beats and performs at San Jose’s Cafe Trieste – and has more stories where this one came from 😉

You may find him online at or – or perhaps playing behind an open guitar case in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district?

Ivory Tower zine open to environmental/ecological submissions

Announcing that fellow zinester John Darling of the Ivory Tower ( is now accepting submissions for their upcoming quarterly issue, this time with an ecological/environmental theme.  More information and guidelines can be found here:

I have perused Ivory Tower at times and found some unique, interesting work there and would like to support another magazine’s efforts.

We at Synchronized Chaos would also love more submissions of any shape or form for our December issue. Thanks to everyone who has become part of this project and part of the Synchronized Chaos family.

Welcome to November’s issue: Choosing to Create amidst Challenges.

Hello, and welcome to the November issue of Synchronized Chaos! Thanks for the feedback on the webzine’s content and how we can best benefit authors and artists, and please continue the discussion.

This month saw a small variety of highly individual submissions, each somehow presenting the theme of creation. Fletcher Goldin’s flash fiction piece’s speaker builds a highly detailed house of sand out of his memory or imagination, fully aware the waves will eventually wash it away, yet still building for reasons he leaves unstated. Sodalis’ piece deals with creating an identity and developing friendships of one’s own choosing, not simply taking on expected roles or preferences because of one’s race or ethnicity. Alisha Fisher’s photography combines nature, spirituality, and a sense of humor in an unique way. She takes everyday ponds, leaves, and natural materials others step on or overlook and turns them and her own body into artwork. In the same way, the characters in Tosca Lee’s Havah create beauty while making their way in a strange new land by working with the natural objects around them, developing objects at once lovely and pragmatic: shapely smooth clay pottery, intricate designs woven into useful winter blankets, harmonic chants to assist women in labor.

Life – past and present, from prehistoric times to the experience of a modern San Franciscan writer – continually provides a series of challenges to our physical and social development. These works illustrate ways of working with challenges…choosing to create and enjoying the product for a short time even though it is impermanent, valuing the process of creation as much as the outcome, turning one’s creative energies inward to focus on developing one’s own sense of self when one lacks physical raw material or other people who understand and are on the same page, using whatever materials one has available, finding ways to honor memories while discovering and appreciating the positives of one’s current situation.

We at Synchronized Chaos thank November’s contributors and join in honoring and celebrating the creative impulse in all its forms and in a variety of circumstances.

We also invite people to check out the Benefit Auction/Sale portion of the site to help out members of our community and fellow artists who’ve come upon difficult emergency situations. Please pass on the link to anyone you think might donate (art or cash 😉

Thank you all for all of your support! Happy Halloween/Samhain/All Hallow’s Eve/Dia de los Muertos for those celebrating 😉

Press release from NASA’s Mercury flyby/photographic exploration:

Apparently the planet is old, has been bombarded evenly with electrical charge and meteorites. Many new images of a much larger surface area than before seen.

November’s book review! Tosca Lee’s Havah: A Poetic, Prehistoric Immigrant Narrative

“I do not tell him that I wait for the birdsong to seem somehow more heavenly and ethereal at once, as though from a throat which never devoured something so base as a worm. For the air to smell of apricot and peach, for the sound of a river fed by the waters of the abyss. I start at the stir of every breeze, at the whisper of the stunted grass on the plain.”

As she nears the site of the former Garden of Eden, in one last attempt to re-enter her old home, Tosca Lee’s main character Havah (Eve) finds herself filled with poetic nostalgia. This evocative, lush novelization of the story of Adam, Eve, and their children traces the first couple’s passionate marriage from their awakening in the garden through their exile, their work to survive in an often harsh new world, and the several generations of their family.

The characterization of Havah reminded me of Ashima in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake – after immigrating to the United States to accompany her husband, who has landed a Boston professorship, she exhibits quiet strength and slowly adjusts to their new home while never losing sight of her memories of eastern India. Havah is also a kind of early immigrant, forced to continually travel south with her growing family in search of water, food, and fertile soil. She is also left at home while Adam embarks upon dangerous explorations, defending their caves and reed brick houses against lions and wolves.

One of the first scenes in the movie version of the Namesake shows a loving, determined, but bewildered Ashima shaking red curry powder into her bland oatmeal before washing her husband’s shirts. In a similar way, Havah retains an emotional and spiritual connection to life in the garden valley of Eden to an even greater extent than her husband, who lived there with her before the birth of their children.

Busy with building their first permanent home south of Eden, Adam comes home exhausted one night and asks Eve whether their new lives are truly so bad compared to what they have left. He and most of the children rush to make their ways in the new world and scarcely mention the past, while Havah holds on in her mind to the beauty, the innocence, and the easy communion with nature and her husband she enjoyed in the old days. Through this characterization of the couple, and through the children with whom they eventually develop closer affinities (Havah with the sensitive, complex, burdened, protective and wild Kayin/Cain and Adam with the easygoing, social, fun-loving Hevel/Abel), Tosca Lee illustrates different approaches to resolving the dilemma faced by many immigrants: how to successfully adapt without losing one’s sense of oneself.

There are dangers in both remembering and forgetting: Havah effectively places a huge burden on Kayin to rescue his family by restoring a past he’s never seen, contributing to family tensions which end in murder, and Adam becomes detached, rootless, gone most of the time, emotionally disconnected from his wife and his own identity. Near the end, the couple talks during their final journey back to Eden, and the elderly Adam admits he’s always admired his wife’s poetic descriptions of the past and her focus on ideas beyond their everyday life. She in turn embraces Adam and reassures him that despite the new life’s imperfections they have both done their best to build a life and create a family in the new world. At last they grow into becoming the way they have always described each other: two bodies joined as one, one flesh, making peace with the past and present.

Tosca Lee resists the temptation to romanticize or melodramatize prehistoric life throughout her book. Food rots in Havah, animals eat one another and leave carcasses in the fields, and children must be toilet-trained so they will use the sanitary midden hole rather than the back of the family home. Adam, Havah, and the children, and eventually the children’s spouses and grandchildren, must all labor daily at weaving, farming, sheep-herding, sewing, etc to ensure the family’s survival. The descriptions of everyday work and everyday efforts to manage life in the new settlements ground the book firmly in reality as well as illustrating the dignity, strength, and equality of these men and women.

Lee found much of her inspiration for this novel through exploring older Hebrew writings on the creation story, and has explained how modern readers lose much of the lyricism, humor, poetry, and layers of meaning in the texts when we only access them in translation. And this novel certainly fleshes out and humanizes each of the major characters as a result of her research and imagination, while sprinkling the minor ones with distinctive traits to individualize them (Sufa’s flirtatiousness, Renana’s birthsongs, Lahat’s sewer engineering and early pottery accident.)

Eve is somewhat of an athletic tomboy, taking off to run across the fields and reveling in her outdoor adventures, and has a dry, earthy sense of humor, teasing her husband and children at opportune moments. The non-transliterated Hebrew names for the characters cause readers to take a step back from the usual associations one would bring to a story about someone named Cain or Eve, and to view them with fresh eyes. The natural setting is also described in extensive detail, using original language and varied sentence structure to bring a subtle poetic sensibility to even the most mundane events.

The author is personally Christian, yet this is not formula “Christian Fiction” and avoids providing easy, spiritual answers to the inevitable questions the characters face. We never know, for example, why Hevel’s sacrificial lamb catches fire almost immediately on the altar and Kayin’s (more humane!) vegetables simply smolder, humiliating him before the entire family. The event simply happens with no explanation, and the characters then respond as they choose. This reflects much of the human experience – we only understand so much, and then must go on to live as best as we can.

As a journalism student, our curriculum includes descriptions of early models of communication and persuasion. One of the most prominent early ideas was the ‘looking-glass self,’ the concept of learning about oneself and developing a self-concept from watching others and eventually the mass media. The novel provides an interesting exploration of how self-development might occur in the absence of a metaphorical ‘looking-glass’ – where the first family learns about life from observing the natural world around them. Adam and Havah peer into ponds and lakes and feel their own features for glimpses of themselves, yet most of their learning comes from everyday reality. They conceptualize and prepare for old age by watching aging animals, and create a moral code based on their own experiences and past feelings of betrayal, and from what they observe is necessary for survival. Life is difficult and they must eat, so everyone must work hard. Everyone’s cooperation is necessary – so one must be trustworthy and loyal. The world is dangerous – so having the courage to protect the settlement is a worthy ideal. There are many mysteries in everyday life – so cultivating an attitude of wonder and reverence is crucial.

A few times I became confused with the large assortment of Adam and Havah’s descendants and it was difficult to keep all of the names straight. Also, Havah’s character change from being a lovely pacifist horrified at the mere thought of wearing fur to a scrappy hardworking survivalist proud of her hunter son seemed a bit abrupt, occurring  between two sections of the novel.

Overall, though, I would definitely recommend Havah to anyone who enjoys family sagas, immigrant narratives, survival stories, cultural anthropology – or simply a powerful, thought-provoking read. This is Tosca Lee’s second novel, and available online in paperback from its website:

Alisha Fisher: Nature-Inspired Shamanistic Fashion and Photography

Alisha Naomi Fisher’s artist statement:
I combine costume with jewelry, body-painting, hair design and background art in my work. I also take pictures.
I make myself and my models blend in with their surroundings whether I am doing scenes in nature or in the city.
I have studied Fine Arts in College and at university, Textile Arts and Painting. I also minored in college and University in Women’s studies. I have attended crafts workshops over the years.
For the past couple of years I have been working with plants. I am fascinated with the different textures and colors in the plant kingdom.
I love nature so much that one day I exclaimed “Why not dress people up in nature!” I first began my plant costumes in August 1999 on a trip to the Madeleine islands of the Quebec Maritimes , Canada . I am fascinated by the fact that many of my costumes look like fabric. In fact I have always been interested in fashion. All the materials I work with are free!
My work can go in many directions; fashion, performance art, photo art, movies, theaters can interpret any theme and transform it into an experience.
You are free to interpret my work as you wish but for me I feel that my work represents this: We are part of nature. When we die we will go back to the earth just like the plants. All that will remain is our bones like stones. Our blood contains chlorophyll and so do plants! Minerals in the earth we possess as well. By killing the earth we are thus killing ourselves. When we stop our busy lives by taking a slow walk in the forest and listen and touch then we are closer to god.
For me when I dress up in the plant clothes I become closer to the goddess/ god presence. The scratching of the branches against my skin wakes me up, brings me closer to god. I become the Shawomin; transforming myself into the nature spirit/nymph.
I believe that a fairy world exists in each species of plants, trees, and flowers.
My work can also be interpreted as ritual. A sacred act, performance.
I was born and raised in Montreal , Quebec to an artistic family. My father would give me fabrics and old hats as a child I would dress up in them. He was a photographer and would take pictures of me.
My work is owned by a number of celebrities and private collectors. I have appeared on TV in Canada and the United States. I have also had articles written about me. I have had solo shows and have been a performance artist in a couple of festivals.
I am available to hold/give workshops here and in other states or countries.

A Post-Racial Manifesto by Sodalis


A Post-Racial Manifesto
by Sodalis
This body is considered ‘black’ by this society, but it does not mean much to me as a person. It only means something to me insofar as other people define it for me. The colour of my skin is not a sufficient criterion for me to adhere to a certain behaviour pattern or subculture. It is not an impetus for me to buy rap and rhythm-and-blues albums, use stereotypically black slang, idolize Africa, or wear clothing that black people are stereotypically ‘supposed’ to wear. To me, it is a superficial physical property, and not something that defines my very being. I find that racial pigeonholing, particularly within my ‘assigned’ race, causes me to feel even less akin to those who are supposed to be akin to me. I diverge from most of the well-known black stereotypes, and to be forced into a cultural milieu that is alien to me intellectually and philosophically is quite offensive. I would rather be treated as a human being with the freedom to choose my own acquaintances, friends and sparring-partners, as opposed to being a Black Person who must do Black Things because My Skin Is Dark and My Ancestors Happened to Come from the Same Continent Three Hundred Years Ago.
Honestly, would blond people band together simply because they are blond, or blue-eyed people band together because they are blue-eyed?
There have been such movements in the past, or movements that wanted to embrace those who exhibited those phenotypic traits. Today, mainstream population rightly regards them as preposterous, and I believe that ‘race’, at least as a phenotypically-based construct, should be treated similarly.
I am post-racial. That is, as an individual, I do not view myself as belonging to a particular ‘race’; rather, I see myself as a human being, and nothing more. I am capable of viewing myself, and other human beings, outside a ‘racial’ framework, and become frustrated when others try to force me into such a framework, or when others try to force themselves into ‘racial’ stereotypes — as opposed to pursuing their own interests — in order to make themselves credible to their phenotypic compatriots.
I do not view phenotypes as a rallying point; rather, I see individual inclinations and proclivities as uniting points. I would much rather bond with someone over a mutual appreciation of the book Sophie’s World, or Imogen Heap’s music than someone’s being dark-skinned and of African descent. A black person who immerses himself in (in my opinion, largely pathological) ‘gangsta’ culture has less in common than the white person who shares my interests in historical linguistics and evolutionary psychology. The black person in question may share my phenotype, but he may not share my interests, ambitions or values, or any defining factors that would elicit my interest. The white person would have more in common with me intellectually, and I would be far more inclined to feel solidarity towards her than my black example. Certain activists would believe that because of immutable phenotypic traits that I would have more in common with the black person, and that I should join his ranks as a Person Of Colour™. Never mind that the hip-hop devotee might have had an entirely different upbringing and cultural heritage from me, even though our distant ancestry might be similar. Because he is black, he is my compatriot, and my white intellectual counterpart is not. Again, would this make any sense if one replaced ‘black’ and ‘white’ with ‘blonde’ and ‘brunette’?
I also believe that people can have their own cultural heritages independent from their ancestral cultural heritage. For example, my individual cultural heritage is very much Western European, as opposed to African-American or simply African. My ideas are influenced by Western thinkers and Western history. I was born in a Western country and have lived in two other Western countries. I speak a Western language and participate in a Western culture. I have never been to Africa, and do not feel particularly connected to it. For all its faults, Western civilization and culture are the ones that speak the loudest to me. I do not see that connection as a function of ‘internalized racism’: I appreciate many aspects of African cultures, and certain aspects of African-American cultures, but I do not identify with them in the visceral way that I am expected to, and do not care to have it shoved down my throat as the definitive way to see myself.
My people are my intellectual ancestors and peers, not simply people with the same colour as me. Perhaps you may think the same.

Sodalis is a San Francisco-based autistic transgender male blogger sharing his experiences here: He’s also working on a science fiction novel tracing the lives of a diverse group of gifted schoolchildren, set far into the future in an age of intergalactic travel, several sentient species, and genetic enhancement.

Flash fiction – “Sand” by Fletcher Goldin




                                                  —Fletcher Goldin



Fine and white, it tingles under your feet, between your toes.  But under your nails it grates.  Green fills the sea, foam tinges its waves; salt fills your nose.

          The bright sandcastle is new and smooth, the stooped man old and cracked.  The castle must be young, built so near the rising tide.  The lapping water drains a sliver of sand with each gentle, relentless caress.  Each wave reaches higher than the last.  But it’s not a castle, it’s a house. 

A simple, single-story house.  The roof is lightly pitched.  The sand is just wet enough to retain the finely etched features—the outline of the front door, the sills below the windows, their panes.  The veined, mottled hands tremble on their way to the chimney.  One holds an X-Acto knife, the other a child’s plastic shovel—small, yellow, flat.  The shaking hands near the frail sand, and are suddenly steel-steady.  The knife-edge scores a laser-straight line across the chimney’s side; the grains fall into the shovel’s plate, a finger’s width above the shingles carved into the roof.  A small step higher, and the blade scribes again.  A quiet but distinct splash—a wave-tip crests the slight dune in front of the house.  Waves at sea grumble, signal the tide’s rise.  The large nose, the watery pale eyes, the crevassed face remain fixed on the work:  the knife’s point begins at a horizontal groove and creeps down.  It stops at the next groove, the yellow shovel again catches the sandy waste.  The knife hand above and shovel hand below move to the right in unison, and a second short vertical scribe completes the tiny sand-brick.  The next wave plants its leading bubbles of foam at the doorstep. The knife, the shovel, the focused eyes continue.  Brick, brick, brick.  The chimney is finished, the house complete.  A crack as the back straightens, another as the legs slowly fight gravity one more time and bring the old man to a stand.

The man turns and walks away.  The next wave seeps into the foundation and steals enough sand for the house’s front to cleave and crash.  The man does not look back.

— Short piece by Fletcher Goldin, electro-optics engineer working on nuclear technology, docent at the Chabot Space and Science Center, and aspiring novelist with a satirical tale of dark office politics. I enjoy what I’ve read of his novel so far – gently funny, dry style. Would encourage interested publishers and agents to look into it.

Freelance Writing Gigs site – November’s issue coming very soon!

November’s issue is on its way – the theme will be Choosing to Create Amidst Challenges. Includes a novel review, photography, essays, and flash fiction. Also – encouraging everyone to check out another good opportunity for publication, the Freelance Writing Gigs site at This site attempts to collect freelance writing jobs (onetime things, major book projects, and many jobs in between) into a one stop site updated daily or every few days. Real people search out and blog about the opportunities – it is not a search engine and everything is described and commented on in detail. They aim to showcase legitimate, paid opportunities and provide a place where an aspiring or established freelance writer can go to find work.