Rejection letters from Santa

Dear Johnny,
Requests for video games are no longer being solicited.

Dear Susie,
Thank you for your submission. The reindeer read it with great delight, but upon further investigation it has come to our attention that your request for Ugg boots was plagiarized.
You’ve been coal listed. No further submissions will be accepted.
On Donner,

Dear Doris,
The submission guidelines clearly state the age limit for gift request submissions. You probably thought the backwards “s” at the end of your name was a clever ruse, but alas these red herrings swim past the North Pole on a regular basis. Even Rudolph wasn’t fooled.
Also, Dearfoams slippers went out in the 1990s.

Dear Viktor,
Thank you for submitting “1,000 Christmas Wishes” for consideration. Unfortunately, it is over the word limit for this year’s edition of Christmas.
Stuff that in your stocking.

Dear Jazmine,
Holy candy canes, that was one sassy request. Unfortunately Mrs. Claus went through the slush pile before I did and has flagged your submission as being inappropriate for the young elves.
However, should you have other submissions I would greatly like to read them. Please mark “Ho” on the envelope to ensure it arrives on my desk.
Under the mistletoe,

Daily prompt: 10 minute free write, unedited.
Ready, Set, Done!

write if you dare

your mother insists
“i never did / said / meant that”
you will say oh no

i merely wrote down
hypotheticals told by
fictional parents.

your partner demands
“i never treated you bad”
you will say I know

i was just musing
about things going worse with
more abusive husbands.

your best mate retorts
“it’s not — it’s complicated”
you will say of course

i overheard wrong
what you must not have said to
mutual so-called friends.

your own heart will say
“it was all in my head” — yet
do my thoughts betray?

we squirm / discern truth
and by denial affirm
our collective guilt.

Pizza, Oscar Wilde and limiting beliefs

Recently I was asked to read some poems by a person who just started writing, hoping I might suggest ideas for publication.



Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the ground.

I’ve been writing my entire life. It takes a couple of months or longer to write (and edit, and rewrite, and edit…) even one poem I’d consider showing someone else. Most of what you see here at WMBØ is the result of between ten and 60 revisions.

Write My Brains Out is not hyperbole.

“This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back again.”

― Oscar Wilde

Right you are, Oscar. I, too, nitpick my brains out.

Yet I remain unpublished.


  1. The submission process frustrates me. It’s long and tedious. I’d rather be writing.

  2. Life is busy. There are dozens of things on the to-do list. Submitting stories remains, regrettably, on the should-do list. But as Punk likes to say, you make time for what’s really important. (He also likes to talk about smashing the kids’ faces into a pizza, which is hysterical to a five year old, but does call into question the scope of his sagacity.)

  3. I think my stuff isn’t good enough. (This is the biggie.) I don’t necessarily fear rejection, I just expect it. If something’s not perfect in my book, why should I think it’s up to anyone else’s standards, right?


Because you know what else is not perfect? Practically every published piece ever written. Typos, misspellings, wrong words, dangling participles and misplaced apostrophes can be found in the best work.

Even Oscar’s.

Two Sundays back I heard a man speak about stepping out in faith, having courage to do something you’ve never done before. “Today I’m crossing the boundary of my limitations,” he said several times.

What does that mean?

It means this: We limit ourselves. What we believe dictates how we behave.

Numbers 1 and 2 are hurdles, but number 3 is the boundary I created. The first two can be climbed over or gone around; they’re just excuses.

The only limitation is the wall we ourselves build.

And today, we can choose to cross over the boundaries of our limitations— and smash pizza in their faces.

You have no new messages

She liked to say she was happy with no phone of her own
A passive aggressive badge of honor
Kept safe under the doormat where
Her children dropped their backpacks.

“That’s X amount of dollars a month into the college fund,”
She’d say overbrightly, ladling food and
Wiping unmanicured hands on secondhand pants,
Thinking of who she might call if she could.

Humming forcible as she cleared the table
For eat and run sons oblivious to the sink’s location or function
She wished for a ring from a friend almost as much as
She pined for the unworn band she had pawned.

Enter title here (or why i can’t write titles)

There’s an aspect of writing I’m bad at.

Not just bad. Awful.

Suck stinky raw eggs awful.

Can you guess what it is? Of course you can, because the title tells you! But that’s not always the case ’round here.

Enter Section Title Here

How many times have I labeled a poem “A poem”?

How many mind-numbing, uninspiring, nondescript blog post titles have I heaved into cyberspace?

B.J. Novak is good at titles.

I’ve barely read any of the stories in his book yet, but just looking at the table of contents, I’m immediately struck: His titles kick butt (and some of them even take names).

Confucius at Home
Wikipedia Brown and the Case of the Missing Bicycle
No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg

They’re intriguing. They’re fun. They inspire me to read on. They make me wonder if Confucius kept a neat and tidy home or left his dirty underwear face up on the bedroom floor for his wife to pick up.

In short, they sell the stories.

Punk says I write for myself. When speaking, I’m cognizant of my audience. When writing, it’s as if I think no one will read it. Fair enough.

Two questions.

  1. Is it wrong to write for myself? Writing is how I think, learn, process, grow. You’re welcome to look over my shoulder.

  2. If I were writing titles for myself, why wouldn’t I name them so I knew what they were? Even I don’t know what “A poem” is about unless I click on it, and I wrote it less than a week ago.

Some songs have obscure titles. Punk’s band plays a song called Oceans that has nothing to do with the sea. But maybe it’s a personal title for the dude who wrote the song. Maybe he wrote it at the beach, or while flying over that place in Alaska where two oceans meet.

My other problem is an excessive fondness for brevity. I especially love one word titles. My son would say I’m “fabulated” by them. I hear angel choirs proclaiming the birth of perfect, spunky, kick-to-the-groin titles, born to save us from the glut of wordiness plaguing the world today.

Check out these beauties from Amazon’s Best Books of the Year:




HECK YES. I want to read these books. But titles can be wordier and still retain their catchiness. These broaden my horizons a bit:

Savage Harvest

We Were Liars

Everything I Never Told You

They don’t knock the wind out of me, but they do blow my hair back a bit.

So I sifted through the archives. When I came to a title and didn’t know what the post was about, I renamed it.  Hopefully choosing titles that:

  • describe
  • sell
  • or at least mean something to me.

That poem that was set after a dinner party? Now titled After the dinner party.

Confucius say BAM.

>Enter witty encapsulating end paragraph here.

from zero to author in 40 years flat


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