WWPH Writes: Issue # 11

Issue #11

Dedicated to Poetry & Fiction Writers in the DMV

Welcome to Issue #11

There’s a ferocity to the writing in WWPH Writes issue #11, which features the poet Lucinda Marshall and novelist Aliza Epstein. This line of Marshall’s poem, “Ebb Tide” has its own propulsion: “I wonder/ with a fierceness/what becomes of us,/of who we are/ in this moment/before the surf falls back.” Aliza Epstein’s taut excerpt from her promising novel-in-progress opens with three men sucking on chicken wings, and our narrator, and this reader, could not look away. Fierce writing ahead.  

If you are a writer living in DC, Maryland or Virginia, we have something new for you! We are holding our first (maybe annual) WWPH WRITES THE HOLIDAYS contest. See below for prompts and details–one poet and one fiction writer will win $100 and publication in WWPH Writes on December 24, 2021. Plus, our annual contest for full-length poetry and fiction manuscripts is open. Read on for details. 

Lastly, we were thrilled to be able to nominate writers for ‘Best of the Net’ and for The Pushcart Prize: The Best of the Small Presses. Find out more at the end of this fierce issue! 

Write on!
Caroline Bock
Fiction Editor, WWPH Writes 

WWPH Writes: Poetry

Lucinda Marshall is the author of Inheritance Of Aging Self (Finishing Line Press, 2021). She lives in Gaithersburg, MD where she is the Founder of DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading, and helped create the Local Poets collection at Quince Orchard Library. Marshall is an accomplished mixed media and fabric artist.

photo credit: Jaree Donnelly

My Grandmother’s Tea Cups

Scent memory—
steeped jasmine
respite served 
with trembling hands,
translucent skin covering 
your gnarled knuckles.
I traced the china’s 
delicate pattern with 
my young fingers.
Be careful you said,
it’s fragile.

Sipping my tea now
from those same cups, 
my hands tremble too, and
I see the you in me 
as I become the wearer 
of your papery skin, 
an inheritance
with its own design, 
fine wrinkles and lines 
as delicate as the china 
that you left in my keep.

Ebb Tide

At the edge of 
our long ago realm,
where sand dollars 
were the currency 
of childhood kingdoms 
built by the sea,

my footing shifts on 
permeable shore 
as the tide that once 
plundered our fortunes
in nightly battle
washes over my toes,

and I wonder 
with a fierceness
what becomes of us,
of who we are 
in this moment
before the surf falls back.

 ©Lucinda Marshall 2021

WWPH Writes: Fiction

Aliza Epstein is a native of the Washington, DC area and currently lives in Arlington, VA. She is a non-profit manager by day and a writer by night.


Side Mark

Amy stared at a table by the dartboards where three men sat sucking on chicken wings. She began categorizing every object touching the table, sorting them in her mind from most expensive to least expensive. 

“Hey, what are you looking at?” Mark asked.

“Nothing.” She hadn’t realized her attention had drifted from her shuffleboard teammates. How did Mark notice everything about her?

“You know them?”

“No.” She felt like she should give a reason for staring. “I was just trying to categorize some stuff.” Amy wanted to take back those words as soon as they came out, to pull them from the air and swallow them whole. How could she have mentioned her carefully guarded secret so casually? She had only known her three shuffleboard teammates for four weeks, not nearly enough time to expose their imperfections to each other, and Amy didn’t want to be the first.

“Categorize? Is that a game?” Mark slid away two empty glasses from in front of him and signaled the waiter for another beer.  

Amy sipped her Yuengling even though it was warm.  She had never thought of her OCD as a game.

“How do you play this Categorize game?” Mark asked.

“Well,” Amy hesitated. She had never explained the rules to anyone outside of a therapist’s office. “You have to categorize every object at those guys’ table in order from most expensive to least expensive. And it only counts if it’s touching the table. See how there’s two laptop bags on the floor? Only one of them counts because it’s touching the leg of the table. The other one isn’t touching the table, so it doesn’t count.”
Mark nodded as if the rules seemed perfectly reasonable. “Okay, so I start by listing the most expensive thing?”

“Anyone want to play darts?” Noah shouted from the other end of the table.

“No, Amy’s teaching us a new game,” Mark said. “It’s called Categorize.”

“How do you play?” Deborah asked.

Mark repeated Amy’s rules.

“The most expensive thing would be the laptop bag because it has a laptop in it,” Deborah reasoned.

“There’s something more expensive than a laptop touching the table,” Amy said. She had already determined the order in her head.

“A cell phone?” Mark asked.

“The keys!” Deborah exclaimed. “One of those guys has a car key touching the table. You can practically see the lock and unlock buttons on the fob.”

“Does that count?” Noah asked. “The car’s not touching the table.”

Everyone looked at Amy for a verdict. “The key fob only counts for what it’s actually worth. It doesn’t count as a car. But look at the guy in the green shirt,” Amy hinted. “Look at his hands.”

“His ring!” Deborah shouted. The man was sitting with his left hand resting on the tabletop. 

“You’re really good at this game,” Mark said to Amy.

It didn’t seem much different than the other pseudo games they played after shuffleboard.
They would pile into a booth with their beers and narrate the dart competitions or the pool matches, sitting close enough to see everything but far enough that no one else could hear them. Sometimes they’d add commentary to the scenes unfolding across the bar—usually guys trying to pick up women—interpreting the soundless stories through body language. 

“The male approaches his prey,” they’d joke whenever they spotted a man advancing toward a woman. They cheered when phone numbers were scored and mocked disappointment when pursuers were rebuffed. 

 “So, it’s ring, laptop, cell phone…” Deborah calculated.

“Car keys, that girly drink the guy in the brown shirt is drinking…” Mark continued.

“Two beers…” Noah added.

“And the chicken bones!” Deborah finished.

“Boom! We killed this game,” Mark said as everyone exchanged high-fives. He turned to Amy, “Thanks for teaching it to us.”   

Amy smiled, relieved that at least this was no longer something she had to do alone in secret.

© Aliza Epstein 2021

WWPH Community News


The Washington Writers’ Publishing House’s annual  JEAN FELDMAN POETRY Prize and FICTION Award for full-length poetry and fiction manuscripts is now open through November 15th. We have expanded our geographical outreach to include any resident from the DMV. We have also increased our awards to $1,500 and will select one winner and up to three finalists in poetry and fiction. Our entry fee also remains at 2020 levels: $25.00. Adam Schwartz and Steven Levya, 2020 fiction and poetry award winners, will lead the judging. Submit here.


Submit your work inspired by our prompts!  One DMV poet and fiction will win $100 and publication in WWPH Writes on December 24, 2021. WWPH Writes editors, Caroline Bock and Jona Colson, will judge with Kathleen Wheaton, the president of WWPH. FREE to submit. Deadline for the contest: November 22nd. 

Poetry Prompt: A Mind of Winter

As Wallace Stevens writes in “The Snowman,” “one must have a mind of winter.” What’s in your winter mind? The solstice? A holiday? Decorations? Or something more mysterious and darker. What hesitations do you have about winter? What conflicts? What desires? Let us read them and consider them for our WWPH Writes Holiday edition.

Fiction Prompt: A Gift

The O. Henry classic, “The Gift of the Magi,” is the tightly-written, unforgettable story of Della and Jim and their unexpected gifts to one another amid a very difficult year. If you haven’t read this story, it’s worth reading, especially for the dialogue and pacing. It’s here, in the public domain.  Here’s our fiction prompt: Write your 2021 version of “The Gift of the Magi.” Imagine two characters grappling with gift-giving in this unprecedented year, in 2021. End with a twist worthy of O. Henry, or even more so, worthy of you! Aim for 1,000 words or less.  Submit here.

Thinking of submitting to WWPH Writes? We are looking for poetry and fiction that celebrate, unsettle, and question our lives in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area (DMV) and in our nation. We seek work that is lyrical and dynamic, and we believe in cultivating a diverse environment of content, form, risk, and experimentation. New perspectives and voices with craft and fierceness are strongly encouraged to submit. Send us your best work–challenge us with your ideas and your writing. We look forward to reading your poems and stories! Submit here.

WWPH Writes is the bi-weekly literary journal of The Washington Writers’ Publishing House, a nonprofit, 501c3, all-volunteer, cooperative press. You can now easily donate to WWPH and help us support and celebrate DMV writers via our new donation page. Interested in a legacy? We are looking for a sponsor to ‘name’ our annual Fiction Award. Please email us at wwphpress@gmail.com, if you are interested. Most of all, thank you for reading and being part of the WWPH community!

Caroline Bock

Fiction Editor, WWPH Writes

Jona Colson

Poetry Editor, WWPH Writes