Welcome to WWPH Writes 46… In this issue, our writers do a deep dive into real-world issues of gun violence as well as life in DC for a twenty-something. In Chloe Yelena Miller’s vivid lament, Water Guns, a mother and son are playing on a hot summer day, and yet, play is so much more. In Joanna Urban’s A Real Writer, this second-person point of view flash takes us deftly inside the dreams of a driven twenty-something in our nation’s capital. Plus, join us for our first annual WWPH kick-off to National Poetry Month. It’s next Sunday, April 2nd at 7:00 pm–live via Zoom. See below for our spectacular lineup of poets!
co-president and fiction editor, WWPH Writes
WWPH WRITES: POETRY
Chloe Yelena Miller’s poetry collection, Viable, was published by Lily Poetry Review Books (2021). Miller is a recipient of a 2020 and 2022 DC Arts and Humanities Fellowship grant. She is the co-founder of Brown Bag Lit; she teaches and organizes events for them.
The bright yellow water gun
and we aim at each other
this 100-degree day.
Don’t enjoy getting shot, Mommy!
my nine-year-old pleads
as he tries to win the game
with rules he made up.
It is too hot to do much else.
Elsewhere a father bought his son a real gun
with real bullets
that killed real people.
He bought that gun despite his son’s
violent threats eventually carried out
(which is how we know of this decision.)
We know too much and too little.
We know guns kill.
We know what to do.
And yet. And yet. And yet.
©Chloe Yelena Miller 2023
WWPH WRITES: PROSE
Joanna Urban’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Sunspot Lit, Belle Ombre, Zibby Mag, and Grace and Gravity, among other publications. Joanna works in public relations at a nonprofit organization. She lives with her partner and rescue dog in Washington, D.C., where she is working on her first novel.
A REAL WRITER
You’ve just moved into your first apartment post-college. Three twenty-something girls and you in a group house on Kenyon Street in Mount Pleasant; a four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath slice of paradise that is just about the most adult place you could imagine. Your bedroom – your oasis – is a ten by eight square foot box. You string Christmas lights around your window that looks out on the tree-lined street and make a photo collage on the wall behind your bed.
You find an old desk that someone left on the side of the road and your roommate helps you carry it upstairs. You clean it off, sand and paint it, and you start writing stories there. You only write after dinner, with a glass of Trader Joe’s wine by your side for encouragement while everyone else is downstairs watching The Bachelor and swiping through profiles on Bumble.
Each morning, you bike to your nine-to-five at a global health nonprofit. Development Assistant, your email signature says. Beneath the CEO’s signature is an inspirational quote; he changes it every month or so, but this month it is Gandhi’s words on patience. You’ve seen the CEO a few times, always walking purposefully, in a fashionable suit, talking to at least one other person on his way to a conference room. You feel important when he says hello and remembers your name.
There’s a buzzy, urgent energy in the halls of your office suite that starts around eight forty-five when your coworkers trickle in. You fill your reusable mug with burnt-tasting coffee, forgetting about its acrid aftertaste in no time as you review budget spreadsheets, make travel arrangements for the Senior Associates’ fieldwork, take notes during your boss’s meetings. There are only so many hours in the day, so many days on this earth.
All at once, your roommates leave you: one to move in with her boyfriend, another for the Peace Corps, and the last for a job in Chicago. Moving on is what people do in this town, you’ve come to learn – they cycle through D.C. like it’s a fast fashion trend. New housemates replace the old ones soon enough. A pair of friends from New York City marvel at how affordable D.C. is. You take them out dancing to Eighteenth Street Lounge, and they bemoan the dearth of appealing men. Only government lawyers and Poli-Sci nerds, they complain.
The third roommate is a real writer, unlike you. You, who scribbles away into the night showing her stories to no one, submitting them nowhere. The real writer takes you to literary readings. At a coffee shop, a speakeasy, the back porch of a townhouse in Petworth — where people read poems and prose you don’t understand in serious, enchanting voices. The messages of their pieces mostly allude you, but their words make you feel things. The real writer invites you to her critique group, where you read your stories to her friends and they ask you why you chose this word or that, why your character did a certain thing or didn’t, and you feel powerful. Like you created something with great meaning.
Soon, the real writer leaves, too. She’s been accepted to a months-long artist residency in the middle of Wyoming. So, she breaks her lease and quits town, and says she’ll keep in touch, and it pinches your heart as you wonder if you’ll ever see her again. She emails you from Wyoming, always on Sundays, because she’s serious about protecting time for her art. She sends you photos, wide-open canvasses of land where the prairie grass and the sulking clouds meet at the horizon, and you think about how you could never witness such a thing in the city, or on the East Coast.
You set alerts for flights to Wyoming and map out your trip to visit the writer. What if you applied for the residency, too? What if you gave up your small, safe room and your admirable, useful job and went out there to join her?
You apply on a whim. A frantic wish on a secret penny that you mention to no one. You won’t get in. The chances are very slim. Despite the impracticality of it, and maybe because no one expects it of you, you can’t help but hope.
A month later, an email arrives. Status of your application says the subject line. You click on it and take a deep breath. What if? You close your eyes, try to imagine each outcome, and brace yourself for the most likely conclusion, then click. We regret to inform you… You let yourself be shocked for a few minutes. Did you really expect you’d get in? Were you banking on beginners’ luck, a gift from the Universe? It surprises you how much the rejection stings. Disappointment blooms in your core. You tell the real writer what happened. This is good, she says, keep going.
© Joanna Urban 2023
WWPH Community News
WWPH kicks off National Poetry Month with our first annual April poetry reading! Join us. Email us at email@example.com for a zoom link, or join via FACEBOOK live.
2023 Winners of the WWPH Annual manuscript contests in poetry, fiction, and for the first time: creative nonfiction! Winners will receive editorial guidance, book publication in October 2023, launch support, and $1500 awards. All entries were judged blind by WWPH writers. BIG Congratulations to all! This year was the most competitive in our forty-eight year history. More details about our winners and their award-winning manuscripts here. Our 2024 manuscripts contests open on September 1st.
Thinking of submitting to WWPH Writes? We are reading now for our JULY issues. Here’s a quick prompt: hot summer night in the DMV and submit it to us! And we are always looking for work that celebrates, unsettles, and questions our lives in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area (DMV) and our nation. New perspectives, diverse voices, and voices with craft and fierceness are strongly encouraged to submit. It’s FREE to submit, but you must live in the DMV. Please send us your best work–challenge us with your ideas and writing. Submit here
Purchase our award-winning books including YOU CANNOT SAVE HERE by Anthony Moll, winner of our 2022 Jean Feldman Poetry Award, and
THE WITCH BOTTLE & OTHER STORIES by Suzanne Feldman, 2022 Fiction Award-winner, on our new affiliate page on bookshop.org and help support our nonprofit cooperative press!
Thank you for being part of the WWPH Community!
Co-President & Fiction Editor, WWPH Writes
Co-President & Poetry Editor, WWPH Writes