Welcome to WWPH Writes 59! We are thrilled to share excerpts from our 2023 award-winning books by K. Avvirin Berlin, Len Kruger, and Bernardine “Dine” Watson. As a cooperative, independent, nonprofit, literary small press, we have been publishing books for almost 50 years! In 1975, the Washington Writers’ Publishing House was launched by four poets, including Grace Cavalieri, and we’ve been nurturing the literary community in DC, Maryland, and Virginia ever since. This year, we have added our first work of nonfiction, TRANSPLANT: A MEMOIR, which has just been honored as one of the “5 over 50 Debuts of 2023” by Poets & Writers magazine. We are open for our 2024 Manuscript contests. See more information below (the deadline is November 1st). We are also in search of our 2024 WWPH Fellows, a new initiative to offer emerging writers a paid opportunity to work with us–made possible by the generosity of Dr. Jean Feldman.
Caroline Bock & Jona Colson
co-presidents and co-editors
Washington Writers’ Publishing House
WWPH WRITES POETRY
K. Avvirin Berlin. Winner of the Washington Writers’ Publishing House 2023 Jean Feldman Poetry Prize for Leda’s Daughters. More here at www.avvirin.com.
DIG ME OUT, OR LOT’S DAUGHTERS ON THE AUCTION BLOCK
“take my dark daughters. do with them
as you please. only
don’t lie with the angelic flesh of men,
however willing it be.”
Lift my skirt and I will bare my teeth.
Lift my skirt and see
the divine animal
Let the Cotton Expo come to Atlanta.
Let love-root run my tongue.
I will wander down Decatur
covered in women
as he struck me once.
I won’t wash clothes today
Will baptize neither sleeve
Only behold! This body
Buttons from my high-laced neck
bare buttocks in the sun
around my ankles—blue
as the dead they hung
©K. Avvirin Berlin 2023. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Writers’ Publishing House.
LEDA’S DAUGHTERS is now available for sale everywhere books are sold. Support your local independent bookstore–and WWPH–and purchase through our affiliate page on bookshop.org.
WWPH WRITES: A NOVEL EXCERPT
Len Kruger. Winner of the Washington Writers’ Publishing House 2023 Fiction Award for BAD QUESTIONS. For more on Len Kruger, read this interview on “Asking Good Bad Questions” written by Denise S. Robbins here.
Rivulets of Tears
We were the same age—twelve and a half—but Michael Strohman looked like he was sixteen. He wore a beat-up army jacket dotted with protest buttons, and his father was a big-shot anti-war activist. I wore the Jeepers my Mom bought for me at Sears, and my father was a depressed Hebrew school principal.
I knew I wouldn’t be the coolest kid in the seventh grade, but I thought I’d be the smartest. Michael Strohman was not only cooler, he was smarter—grasping the concept of geometric proofs before anyone else. Or in my English class, writing what our teacher said was a “masterful” haiku which was supposed to be about “alienation.”
Rivulets of tears
Soaking into my parched soul
His haiku got an A, mine an A-minus. Was Michael Strohman’s really better than the one I wrote about Denny McLain, the twenty-game loser on the Washington Senators?
The Washington Senators
My haiku was better because it told a story: (1) Denny McLain was great on the Tigers, and (2) then he went to the Senators, and (3) then he stunk. What story did Michael Strohman’s haiku tell? And couldn’t “parched” be two syllables, thereby breaking the seven-syllable rule? Plus, “eternity” already has four syllables, so all he had to do was think of one more, and he couldn’t think of anything better than “yes”?
Michael Strohman first spoke to me during the second week of seventh grade. Starting that summer, I read Agatha Christie murder mysteries, one after the other. I loved trying to figure out who did it and how it was always someone you least suspected. It beat trying to figure out why my father had stayed at home all summer on three-month administrative leave, sitting in his La-Z-Boy with the curtains drawn, while my mom pleaded with him to snap out of it.
I had saved one of the best Agatha Christie mysteries for the beginning of seventh grade: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. By the end of the second week of school,
I was halfway through. I was hooked. Who stabbed Roger Ackroyd with the Tunisian dagger in the study? I couldn’t figure it out.
Michael Strohman walked up to me in the courtyard during lunch period. He pointed to the book in my hand with his lit cigarette. He smiled.
“The doctor did it,” he said.
The doctor. James Sheppard. Country doctor in the small English village of King’s Abbot.
“Couldn’t be the doctor,” I said. “He’s the one that tells the story.”
“Think,” Michael said. He tapped his temple. “Are you sure?”
Just like that, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was ruined for me. How would I ever forget that Dr. James Sheppard was the murderer? Maybe when I was eighty-five, I would forget who did it and I would sit in my wheelchair and finally enjoy The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. It would be something to look forward to.
©Len Kruger 2023. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Writers’ Publishing House.
BAD QUESTIONS is now available for sale everywhere books are sold. Support your local independent bookstore–and WWPH–and purchase through our affiliate page on bookshop.org.
WWPH WRITES: A MEMOIR EXCERPT
Bernardine Watson. Winner of the 2023 Nonfiction Award for TRANSPLANT: A MEMOIR. More here at bernardinewatson.com.
…In 1984, at thirty-three years old, and with a great new job and two dysfunctional marriages behind me, I thought I was poised to fly. However, that year, for reasons I will never understand, I was diagnosed with a kidney disease that had a name I couldn’t pronounce—Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). According to the doctor who gave me the horrible news, FSGS had the potential to destroy my kidneys and kill me. Did I fall apart? No. I handled it. I pulled myself together like the tough South Philly girl I am and spent the next fifteen years working and striving to stay as healthy as I could, telling almost no one about my condition. Why should I? My diagnosis was nobody’s business but mine. Besides, who wants the pity or curiosity of sympathizers? I certainly didn’t.
FSGS was my secret until I couldn’t keep the secret anymore.
By 1999, the year my daddy died, my diminishing kidney function began to make me ill. I’ll never forget the day a nephrologist told me, “You’re going to need dialysis or a kidney transplant soon.”
The doctor was right. I needed both. I went through all that back in 2000. Now here I am again.
©Bernardine Watson 2023. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Writers’ Publishing House. Photo by Leigh H. Mosley
TRANSPLANT: A MEMOIR is now available for sale everywhere books are sold. Support your local independent bookstore–and WWPH–and purchase through our affiliate page on bookshop.org.
WWPH Community News
Shout out to the Washington City Paper for highlighting our new books and for calling the Washington Writers’ Publishing House “A D.C. favorite,” and for noting that our “contest winning books have gained a national readership.” We are in their big FALL PREVIEW issue here. Our 2024 Manuscript contests in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction are OPEN through November 1. Read our recent award-winning books to learn more about our literary sensibility and submit to us. Our 2023 award-winning books are now available everywhere you buy books. 2024 submission rules and FAQS can be found here.
WWPH FELLOWSHIPS. Our 2024 WWPH Fellowship applications are open– a deadline of November 1st. We are seeking three WWPH Fellows to work with Caroline Bock and Jona Colson on editorial, marketing, and promotion at our small press. We offer $500.00 per fellowship for college, graduate, or recent post-graduates. Please note these are fully remote opportunities. We are seeking candidates from DC, Maryland, or Virginia, or those who have a connection to the DMV (i.e. students currently attending school in the DMV can apply). A big thank you to Dr. Jean Feldman for underwriting these WWPH Fellowships. More details on the WWPH Fellowships here.