Author Archive


Posted in Uncategorized, writing, writing craft with tags , on November 20, 2017 by Robert Crisp

Ideally, I would be working on my mannequin story…but this hasn’t been an ideal day. Or an ideal past few days, due to some medical issues. I sat down to get twenty minutes or so of writing in, but I’m not in the right physical, mental, or spiritual place to interact with these characters. I’m still invested in the story, so it was disappointing when everything that came out was garbage. I ended the session with this line:

Ugh. This is going over like a shit balloon.

At least that made me laugh, which is hugely important for me right now. My health takes priority over a smashing writing session, so I’m going to tend to myself and write when I can. No pressure…which is much easier than it used to be.

Awake (part 1)

Posted in short stories, short story, surreal, Uncategorized, writing, writing craft with tags , , , , , on November 16, 2017 by Robert Crisp


This is part one of my story about mannequins coming to life at night, a scenario I first read in a Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) style book when I was young. I’ve since looked for the book online with no success (this might be it, but I can’t be sure). The book chilled me to the bone, but I read and re-read it, trying out different outcomes. If you’re familiar with the CYOA books, you know the endings can be quite dark. In one ending, your left as prey for the evil, animated mannequins.

In my mannequin story, there’s no boy or girl trapped in a store after the mall closes. It’s a love story, and a sad one, at that. I haven’t done more than spot editing, so there are undoubtedly mistakes and things I’ll change in the final draft.

If she stood away from the security lights and stayed in the shadows, Ashley almost looked human, which made Barry more than a little uncomfortable. They had agreed to be themselves with no adornment, but Ashley had applied lipstick and eyeshadow, and she had found a wig. Her lips were curved in a permanent smile, even when she was upset.

Barry looked around the department store, but he didn’t see any other mannequins about. They used to all animate at once, exactly fifteen minutes after the mall closed. It was magical, all of them gathered in the center of the first floor by men’s casual wear, looking at each, flexing their plastic fingers which didn’t move more than a little, but any movement was a miracle.

That had been close to a year ago, and Barry supposed it was inevitable that the newness of consciousness had worn off. That still didn’t account for the different animation times…or the fact that some of the mannequins didn’t animate at all.

Barry took a few halting steps toward Ashley, suddenly unsure of himself. He considered changing his shirt, a complicated task that usually required another mannequin, but he decided against it. He would stick with the plan he and Ashley made. If she wanted to break it, fine. She was her own…person? Her own entity? Barry didn’t know. He imagined he felt a headache coming on, which he knew wasn’t possible. He could barely feel when he touched something, as if he had stunted nerve endings. Perhaps I do, Barry thought. Perhaps I have a functioning brain, but the rest of the system isn’t complete. Would it ever be complete? Barry liked to think so.

“Good evening,” Barry said to Ashley. He remained formal with her. It seemed the right move.

Ashley didn’t turn to face him. Her cool, flawless face stared at an unseen point on the shadowy wall. “You don’t approve,” she said after a moment.

“I don’t approve of what?”

“The lipstick. The eye shadow.”

“It’s not that don’t approve,” Barry said. “I just thought we were going to be ourselves.”

Ashley turned. Barry had to admit that she looked good. Somehow, she had expertly applied the lipstick and eyeshadow, and the blonde wig was situated perfectly on her normally bald head. She had always been more flexible than Barry. She had almost a complete range of motion in both her hands, and she could turn her neck more than a few degrees without causing tiny fractures in the plastic. Other mannequins usually whispered jealously about Ashley’s abilities, but Barry saw none of them around tonight.

As he scanned their corner of the department store, he realized they were the only two that had animated. He saw Evan in his corner, wearing the store’s latest fall jacket, along with a red scarf, jeans, a flannel shirt, and hiking boots. Beside him, Joey–no more than ten if he’d been human–wore the same outfit but in a smaller size. From where he was standing, Barry couldn’t see Elizabeth, Cierra, or Tonya. He also couldn’t see Alex, the half-mannequin with no eyes whom Elizabeth usually carried to the center of the store.

He heard no voices. He and Ashley were only ones awake.

Finding Time to Write Fiction is Hard…

Posted in creative writing, Uncategorized, writing, writing craft with tags , on November 13, 2017 by Robert Crisp

…as opposed to finding time to write poetry. I can write poetry just about anywhere, like on a car ride or sitting in the living room with my kids while they watch TV.  I can write in a notebook, on a computer, or my phone. It doesn’t take me long to get into the proper mental and spiritual zone with poetry, but fiction requires a different set of circumstances. Maybe it’s because I don’t typically sit down and write fiction. I used to, but that was when my schedule was different and I didn’t have as many obligations. I’m not making excuses (and I realize I could be working on fiction now instead of typing this), but I am trying to understand it.

I suppose the answer is just to put in the time until it becomes more natural. I don’t wait for inspiration when I write, and I’ve had more than my fair share of writing sessions when I produce nothing worthy of salvaging. I need to be patient and trust the process. If my foray into fiction writing doesn’t feel like a good fit, I’ll return to poetry until I feel the urge to write fiction again.

At least, I think writing some stories is the answer to the dullness I feel when I write these days. There’s a lot going on (like finding a full-time job), but that’s never stopped me from writing and producing some decent pieces. I could be going through a dry spell. It’s also possible that I just need a break from writing altogether.

Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice says.

curiouser and curiouser


A Dream of You (poem)

Posted in creative writing, poem, Poetry, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , on November 11, 2017 by Robert Crisp
woman in ocean.jpg

Image courtesy of Flickr and the Creative Commons license

Okay, so I said fiction was next on the agenda, but I really like this poem and wanted to share it.

A Dream of You

When I dream of you,
you smell sharply of valor,
and I taste the air around
us, finding it sweet and tame.

How unlike the last time we
saw each other, in waking life,
and the atmosphere leaked
grief, and I inhaled the scent
of damask roses and cruelty
that rose from your hot skin.

I wake and find sea shells
littering the bed, the dull sound
of surfing echoing in my ears.

I pretend I am not afraid of water.
I pretend that you still love me.

Perhaps a Little Fiction to Change Things Up

Posted in fiction, short stories, short story, writing, writing craft with tags , , , on November 10, 2017 by Robert Crisp

I’ve sensed lately that I need a break from poetry. Perhaps it’s all the rejections I’ve been getting. I certainly want a break from submitting poems. I still have a few out there, and maybe they’ll find a home.

I have a few stories running through my head. One is about mannequins who come to life at night in a department store, two of whom have fallen in love and find immense difficulty mapping the emotional and physical terrain in which they find themselves. Another springs from a wrong number text I received last night, and the other has something to do with this:


There’s a story hiding in this big ol’ pile of scrap metal

I’ll post the stories as they progress, as I used to, breaking them up into parts. I generally do little editing and revising of my fiction that I post until I’m finished with the story. I like having a record of the piece as a work in progress.

Here’s the beginning of the tale of the love-smitted mannequins:

If she stood away from the security lights and stayed in the shadows, Ashley almost looked human, which made Barry more than a little uncomfortable. They had agreed to be themselves with no adornment, but Ashley had applied lipstick and eyeshadow, and she had found a wig. Her lips were curved in a permanent smile, even when she was upset….

So stay tuned, and thanks as always for reading.

Working Class Poet’s Blues (poem)

Posted in creative writing, poem, Poetry, writing with tags , , , , on November 8, 2017 by Robert Crisp

I submitted this piece to an anthology collecting poems inspired by Bob Dylan…that was 680 days ago. When I saw the rejection in my email, I couldn’t remember the market’s name. I suppose 680 days will do that to my brain.

I probably haven’t laid eyes on this poem in that length of time. I still like it, especially after a little more revising.

Working Class Poet’s Blues

I’m a blind man drawing a man,
a deaf-mute composing an opera,
a singer/songwriter without a guitar.

“Jesus, you’re not Dylan,” Anne says
and makes another cup of coffee.
She lingers in the kitchen.

I’m Bob Dylan writ large and small,
macro and micro in my conceit
and mumbled phrases, my blue harmonica.

“Do you plan on actually doing anything?” Anne calls
from the bathroom where she plucks herself,
a preening bird on a swaying branch.

I’m doing everything by writing,
shaping the world with word and line,
encouraging kings and paupers to feel.

“Wash some clothes at least,” Anne mumbles
and she saunters naked to the bedroom
where she puts on her armor.

I’m the great galaxy washer man,
holding the suds of creation in my hands,
tweaking the temperature, dark earth, white sky.

“I should have married William,” Anne tells herself,
snatching up her purse and walking out the door,
unready for the night but keeping that quiet.

Once, a Man Knew a Woman (poem)

Posted in creative writing, poem, Poetry, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , on November 6, 2017 by Robert Crisp

Photo courtesey of Flickr and the Creative Commons License

I’d forgotten about this little poem until I stumbled across it this morning.

Once, a Man Knew a Woman

A man of lowly birth found
a trumpet and taught himself
to blast the hell of it, making
a name for himself on the jazz
circuit before moving into the
avante-garde world of Gay Paree,
where he met a legless woman
who sang like only a fucked-over
lover can, her doomed heart beating
hard whenever she saw the man,
his breathing turning ragged when
he picked her up and carried her
onto whatever stage would have them.