Tag Archives: Missy Lacock

Dear Stephen King

Dear Stephen King,

I don’t like most of what you do. I’d apologize for telling you that, but I know you give zero damns if I like your work or not, and you write like hell itself couldn’t stop you anyway. That’s something I do like.

When you visited my hometown in Montana this month on your book tour, the weather knew you were here and took a turn for the dark and squally. I was the one in the back, the one who shared your love for Jerry Lee Lewis and was very hungry.

Until this summer, I had previously only seen film adaptations of your work and read one of your books, Cujo, when I was much too young. I mainly remember a description of some crusty sheets and how you desperately needed Jesus, you dirty old man. There was also something about a sweaty kid trapped in a car and a dog loitering outside like a bum.

But this year I received an education in all things King. It started with your terrific nonfiction book On Writing. You’re actually funny, witty, smart, I guess—not just the guy who writes about gummy aliens and fetid zombies. So next I read Misery, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, 11/22/63, The Shining, Pet Cemetery, and Tommy Knockers. The first two were fantastic, the next two were wastes of time, and the last two were spectacular disasters. (I can say that because you yourself admitted Tommy Knockers was “awful,” written at the height of your drug addiction, and when the man is right, he’s right. Your coke was on coke, bro.)

The most recent book I read, however, was about a certain clown everyone knows, even if they’ve never read about it. As a kid with teeth too big for my face, I’d sneak into libraries to read the scary parts of It, and as an adult I finally slogged through its thousand-plus pages this summer knowing a remake of the movie adaptation would be released in October. And yes, I broke a sweat conquering that sucker. Unfortunately, I found both the book and movie underwhelming, but I’m the only one. It made a killing at the box office, launched a series of sightings of creepy clowns, and caused a crisis of employment for friendly ones. (“I’ll tell you one thing—the clowns of the world fucking hate me,” you said during your book tour this month.)

I wonder what it’s like to wield such clownly power.

Story Shots: Pumpkin

‘Tis the season – for pumpkins. Carving pumpkins is a long held American Halloween tradition that’s on par with, well, pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. For those not already familiar with our Story Shots as a series, Story Shots are short creative nonfiction pieces (generally but not always in the form of a story) in which our writers all write with the same theme in mind and come up with vastly different stories for your enjoyment.


In college, I squatted between classes into a miniature chair—knees crammed to chest—and faced seven pairs of eyes.

“Tummies touching the table, please,” I said in the only place I said words like “tummy.”

I let Kyndal start the bread basket and passed a bowl to CJ, his hair as orange as a clownfish, as orange as a corn snake.

“Teacher, I don’t want those,” he said with a fantastic lisp, eyeing the willowy vegetables. “I just want ranch.”
“Just take a look-at-it bite, bro.”

CJ took the tiniest carrot with a martyred frown and shoved the bowl to Frankie. She took five slender sticks and blinked with the narrow eyes of a Cabbage Patch doll.

“I like carrots,” she said in that pious way so absurd for a four-year-old.

“Good.” I spoke slowly. “Carrots are healthy for us. They are good for our eyes.”

“And even milk!” CJ said.

I rubbed his buzzed head, his hair as orange as the leaf pile outside, as orange as the carrots he hated.

“Yes, milk makes us healthy too.”

“When my mom eats carrots, she even sees in the dark!” he said.
Lies.

“Oh, yeah?” I said anyway.

The wobbly rotation of dishes finished its first lap.

Frankie frowned. “I can’t see in the dark, even when I eat carrots.”

“You don’t?”

“No.”

“Hm.”

“But I see fog!”

“Well, that’s good.”

CJ’s meatball slipped from his fork and hit the floor with a splat. Goofy laughter erupted from the table, and every preschooler stabbed their own slippery globes of meat.

I put on my most dangerous Teacher Face before a dozen slick meatballs could fill the air.

“Hey! Where do our sillies belong?” They froze, rearranged their impish faces, and licked solemnly at the gravy instead, their round cheeks already smeared and brown as acorns. “Where, CJ?”

Sheepish, he pantomimed throwing something outside.

“Teacher, my sillies are in my pocket,” Frankie said and hugged my arm. I felt a rush of affection for her and kissed her forehead, bangs straight as a ruler.

“How’s that look-at-it bite coming?” I asked CJ. “What about what your mom can do?”

CJ pushed his carrot off his plate. Even his fingers were freckled. “I don’t want to eat a stupid carrot to see in the stupid dark.”

His head was so round, his hair was so orange, and he looked exactly like a pumpkin. I imagined lighting a candle in his mouth, flames shining out of his eyes so he could see in the stupid dark.

I bit my own orange, bendy vegetable. I didn’t like carrots either.

– Missy Lacock


Story Shots: Fall

The fall is a time of leaves changing colors, weather cooling down, harvest, pumpkin festivals, people going back to school, and so much more. Story Shots, our creative nonfiction series, has taken on this theme in our latest installment. Below we have four fall-themed pieces from different writers for your pleasure.


A List: We fall…

into bed.
and asleep.

in and out
of love.
into another’s arms.
in and out
of bad habits.
apart, and
together.

into debt.
onto hard times.
into a deep depression,
and on our knees.

down the rabbit hole,
like fall leaves;
ashes, ashes,
we all fall down.

– Nicole Embrey


As a child, I mainly remember triangle sandwiches at bible camp, but I also remember believing in the God of Israel as much as I believed the sun would come up each day. I was raised by a Christian, single mother and attended those camps at my grandma’s church every summer in an old logging town pared into mountains as green and buckled as elephant apples. The fundamentalist church preached a tough no-sin doctrine, and I pled for salvation at camp the summer before I turned fourteen, old enough to engage with an ancient text about God’s chosen people and a certain Israeli.

I entered the Bush administration wild with purpose. My love affair with Israel had begun.

Story Shots: Equality

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Thanks to the Supreme Court, we now have one form of equality on the books: marriage equality. But the battle for equality doesn’t stop there. While marriage is a great start, there are many battles left to fight such as racial equality, income equality, and, of course, gender equality. With that in mind, we present our creative nonfiction stories around the theme of equality.


“Amanda! You aren’t going to be happy about this.” Lorraine cried as she stood in front of my car.

“What?” I quickly opened my door to join her.

“You got a super flat tire.”

“Oh, crap. There’s like no air in that at all. How the hell did that happen?”

We were in Costa Mesa, California, 30 miles from my friend’s house, and about 50 miles from my house. We were heading to a wine tasting. After we got off of the 55 freeway, my car drove fine. We stopped at the light on 19th street and as soon as the light changed, my car started to make an awkward thumping sound.

My tire went from fine to flat in the span of a red light.

“I have AAA.” I quickly dug through my bag to find my AAA card as I sat on the curb where my friend had located herself.

While we waited, I pulled out my spare tire. I lacked a jack and a jack stand, so I couldn’t actually change my tire myself, but I could make the job easier for the roadside assistance person. I took auto shop in high school; I at least knew the basics of how to change a tire, a headlight, a taillight, windshield wipers, and, last but not least, my own oil.

In a half-hour, a guy, no older than 20, came to change my tire.

He pulled out his massive jack and a lug wrench and started to change my tire. He stopped after testing my lug nuts.

“I can’t change your tire.” He said, nervously.

“Oh, okay. Why?” I asked.

“I can call the tow truck in and have it taken to a shop for you. You need new lug nuts.” That’s all the explanation I got. “Don’t worry ladies; I’ll take care of this for you.”

The tow truck came and the first auto shop the AAA roadside assistant sent us to said they couldn’t do the work that day. I asked what work, and they simply replied that they didn’t have the parts.

The tow truck driver then took us to a tire shop, which was the first place to explain what was wrong with my car.

“It’s not your lug nuts dude; it’s the lug nut studs. The lug nuts are stripped, and that means,” he paused and I picked up his line of thought.

“That means they’ll break and I’ll have to get new ones.” I finished.

“Yeah. And we’re not an auto shop,” the tire guy continued, “so I can’t replace those parts. I don’t have the tools. I just do tires.”

It started to rain as my car was pushed towards the new tow truck. I ran out to help.

“No ma’am,” the new tow truck driver commanded, “you don’t push. I don’t want you to get wet in the rain; not in your dress.”

I didn’t listen and I continued to push my car. The rain was mild and it was, after all, my car. I wanted to get things done as soon as possible.

I was tired of polite sexism. I don’t like being told I couldn’t do something because I was a woman, or when people assumed I didn’t know something because I have tits and a vagina. I was tired of these men not telling me what was going on because I was wearing a dress. I was just tired, period.

I know the excuse is that these men were just being polite and doing their jobs, but no one should spend five hours and three tow truck rides trying to fix a flat tire, especially when no one will actually say what’s wrong with the tire, other than being flat.

I could push my car in the rain. I could push my car in the rain in a dress. If I had high heels on, I’d push my car in the rain in high heels. What I wore was not limiting; what was limiting was the way I was treated, talked down to, and ignored by men who felt I was in need of rescue.

– Amanda Riggle


So we have all heard of this fake geek girl thing, right? A girl enters a comic shop or attends a Star Wars convention or plays D&D, and immediately gets challenged by those “gatekeepers of geekdom.” The question always starts, “do you even?” I’ve been lucky enough (or perhaps intimidating enough) that I haven’t been challenged often about my geek cred. But I have run into other problems.

Story Shots: Gloom

Story_Shots

The shorts below were written by some of our contributors for the month of June, which, as we know, is typically a month associated with gloom. But rather than focus on April showers and May flowers—the weather and nature that springs up this time of year—our contributors focused on the way gloom has seeped into their own lives.


The story of how I ended up naked on the internet seems a lot more complicated than it actually is. The truth is simple.

It started with a boy named Tyler. Six-foot, thin, baby-faced Tyler.

He was my first date since my breakup with a longterm boyfriend, who was completely his opposite. It was a big day, and I was really just looking for a hookup, and yes, women can say that, too.

But the night came and went, and I remained firmly unlaid. It was full of science and art and history and music and booze and food until 5 a.m. but not a look down my shirt, not a grab for my ring, not a tongue in my mouth, let alone anything else in my anything else.

I walked out of his apartment after the sun was up with a hug and some new music but completely bereft. What the hell? What man would rather have a friend more than a vagina? What was wrong with me? It must be because I’m…fat? Am I fat? Did he hate my thighs?

It was then that I missed my old boyfriend more than ever—my boyfriend who knew what he wanted, took charge, could fuck like a man, and called me the right names. And who always made me feel sexy as hell. Maybe I’d made a mistake in letting him go.

So I did what any 28-year-old, freshly graduated girl living in Gresham, Oregon and looking to win back some of her self esteem would do: I slapped a pic of my boobs on a site called ratemeplease.com and waited to be judged—obviously a classy choice, since the domain name had “please” in it.

The average scores of others were lots of threes and fours, and the highest on the hall of fame didn’t even hit 8, so I wasn’t expecting much.

But then my scores and private messages started pouring it by the hundreds, and before I knew it, I was #12 on the entire site out of thousands (not now, so don’t bother looking)—my highest achievement after my master’s degree.

And the messages, or “fan mail,” as I like to think of them, well, they included it all, some sweet and others nasty enough to get me pregnant just by reading them. The only thing they always left out were negative comments. I never got one.

There’s more to this Missy’s-naked-on-the-internet story (so much more), but the only relevant thing is how one rejection in June can devastate the usual confident woman, and apparently winning a boob competition is the way to respond. Also: Tyler missed out, and I’m a respectable 7.8.

–Missy Lacock

Story Shots: Rejection

Story_Shots

J.K. Rowling said, over a Twitter interview, that Harry Potter was rejected “loads” before it was accepted by a publisher. And, after that story was published, J.K. Rowling not only became one of the most popular authors of her time, but one of the wealthiest as well. What’s the moral of this story? We all get rejected, but it’s what we do with our rejections that makes us who we are.


No one likes rejection letters.

You know the ones: “Your work was one among many excellent submissions, unfortunately…”

However, have you ever been on the other side of the editing table? If you have, you know the task of an editor is arduous and exhausting. And maybe somewhere along the hundredth rejection you decide on, you start to forget that these are writers your dealing with behind the blind submission numbers.

My mistake during this process was using my position as an editor for a literary journal to my own advantage: getting to listen in on the discussion process about my piece. I submitted my own work, which I knew would not be sent to me or my group of editors, but would be sent to another group I worked with for consideration.

Once blinded and given a number, it was handed out. I decided to find my submission’s number and locate the group it was assigned to.

I sat close to them as I eavesdropped on their deliberation, but this did not last long.

“So what did we think?”

“Mediocre at best.”

Suddenly, the passive rejection letter didn’t sound so bad.

– Nicole Neitzke


“Everybody gets rejected straight out of their bachelor’s degree,” Professor Powers, soon to be Dr. Powers, said.

I got the first rejection January 31st, 2015. It was from USC – the school I had been able to visit and speak with professors at. I didn’t take that as a great sign.

I was applying for my Ph.D. in Early Modern English, with an emphasis in critical theory, namely performance theory, and digital humanities.

I was applying so I could one day teach and share my enthusiasm for Shakespeare.

“If you want to teach Shakespeare,” my friend and former professor yet again continued offering much needed insight and advice, “you’re going to have to do lit. If you do rhetoric they won’t ever let you teach literature, especially not Shakespeare.”

Other rejections soon followed. On February 6th, 2015, UCLA rejected my graduate application. Ten days later, Cornell sent a rejection. Three days after that, UC Santa Barbra rejected me as well. UC Santa Barbara had a professor there that had, kindly, sent her regrets at my rejection.

“In my graduate program at the University of Iowa, only one student of the thirty was straight out of their undergraduate degree. Only myself and one other student of the thirty were two years out. It’s really competitive. They want to know you’re a serious student. They don’t want to waste their time on English majors who are just continuing school because they don’t know what else to do,” Professor Powers continued.

UC Santa Cruz rejected me February 27th and the University of Pennsylvania rejected me March 10th. I was getting numb to the rejections by now. My last hope was UC Davis.

Story Shots: Be Mine

Story_Shots

Love is an interesting concept. I’m not sure I quiet grasp it – especially romantic love. All of a sudden, we stop being a “me” and we start being a “we.” What’s one is the other’s. Thoughts and feelings and decisions and plans start becoming a topic of discussion rather than a choice you just make. Love is about union. About sharing. About belonging to one another. But is it ever really possibly to posses another person? Little chalky candy hearts proclaim it is – “BE MINE!” they shout as loud as any candy has ever shouted. “Be Mine” is the theme of the holiday, and the theme of our stories.


Dollar store chocolates. On sale dollar store chocolates. We put on a movie.

“Raspberry. Eww. Do you want it?”

“No. Want my coconut?”

“I guess. What’s this one?” She points at a dark round one.

“I don’t know, I haven’t tried it yet.” I take a bite. “It’s gross too.”

“If I ever get a boyfriend, he’s going to buy me expensive chocolates. And teddy bears. I want roses, too. He’s going to be so romantic.”

“Okay.” She has this idealized version of a man that doesn’t exist. She always spouts off this long fictional list of what her one-day, long-awaited boyfriend will have.

He’ll be emo.
He’ll be rich.
He’ll hate his parents, like she does.
He’ll give creamy kisses.
He’ll want to marry her right away.
He’ll take care of her.
He’ll be a little nutty.
He’ll teach her how to drive.
He’ll wear eyeliner.
He’ll listen to Green Day.
No, now he’ll listen to Fall Out Boy.
He’ll be sweet.
He’ll be romantic.
He’ll take charge.
He’ll be dark.
He’ll always text her back.
He’ll visit her at work with surprise lunches.
He’ll get her flowers to brighten her day.
He’ll pick her up from school when she gets out of class early and won’t make her wait.
He’ll want 2.5 kids.
He’ll worship capitalism.
He’ll be milky and smooth.
He’ll spoil her.
He’ll love her.
He’ll understand her every need.
He’ll be a little crunchy.
He’ll melt in her hand.
He’ll watch all of her reality T.V. shows.
He’ll tell her she’s perfect.

She wants all of these things in one person. She is unforgiving. She is unrelenting. She insists he will be hers. This mythical creature is both beautiful and horrible. No man can live up to this image. But what do I know? Whenever I doubt her monstrosity of man, this is the question I’m greeted with.

Her list grows every year. She’s 20. She’s my sister. Right now she doesn’t have him, she only has me. So we get dollar store chocolates and we watch movies and I listen and I don’t agree. I just nod my head and try another chocolate.

“This one is toffee. It’s crunchy. It’s good.”

– Amanda Riggle


She kneaded my abdomen. “How long have you been experiencing pain?” I was clay.

“A few weeks.”

She peeled off her gloves like fruit rinds, all elbows and moles.

“How often? After meals? After exercising?”

“Most mornings. I usually feel nauseous riding the bus to campus.”

Her face changed, as if she recognized the word in Hangman, gaps in its teeth. “Is there a possibility you’re pregnant?”

The exam room leaped to life, pulsing and yellow. “That I’m what?” But I didn’t want her to say it again. “No.”

“Are you sexually active?”

“Well, yes.” My heart sprinted. “But we practice safe sex.” Dirty and safe.

“Let’s do a pregnancy test. I’ll put in a lab order.” She sat in front of the computer.

I was levitating, suspended in midair.

Story Shots: Resolutions

Story_Shots

I have a very negative view of resolutions. I see them as promises we make ourselves that never work out. We make these promises because of cultural pressures to be better, or different, or new, but really, we are what we are, aren’t we? And if we want to change, a resolution isn’t going to be the motivating factor that does it. This is just my personal perspective, though. Our writer’s have other opinions.


It was the end of a particular nasty year, crammed with failure, transition, and plain bad luck. If I ever needed a year of salvation, this shiny 2011 was it. Farewell procrastination and debt—welcome gym and flossing! Tonight was my conversion to the real new Missy. I celebrated by buying another goldfish.

I have an affection for goldfish despite their lidless eyes, floating strings, and general refusal to stay alive. My room was never complete without that shimmering drop of gold. Each unlucky fish, however, became the next white belly tossed about by the bubbles from my air filter within two weeks. The day I flounced home with Ivan floating grumpily in his bag, I was resolute: This one was staying alive, damnit.

When two weeks came and went, my future with Ivan seemed promising. Although he wobbled his fat body away from my every friendly gesture and seemed bored as hell, Ivan was healthy. I fed him, cleaned his tank, and infused his water with oxygen and the best of intentions. Then one day before the three-week mark, my fish was suddenly a chunk of orange floating upside down, his magnificent fantail wilted.

Frraaaaaackkk!

I accepted defeat. I sanitized my one-fish-tank for good, zip-locked the purple rocks, bid all my wasted fish names goodbye, and locked the mess in the attic, weary. I had wanted to check each goal from my list; I had wanted to enjoy a happy life with Ivan; I had wanted to be a proud, accomplished, content version of myself. Trust a goldfish to put you in your place.

I don’t know why I saved that fish gear. Maybe I’m just secretly afraid I will never try again and this time succeed.

– Missy Lacock


She was just a girl in my class in summer school. I guess we were friends. I didn’t really like her all that much, but she was dating one of my friends from school so I had always been nice to her.

She was at my house. We didn’t have any plans. It was a slumber party with just two people. It was December 31st, 1999. Y2K was the great fear of the day, and we spent the night listening to rock music on KROQ and DJ’s crack jokes about the end of the digital world.

We were 16 years old and in my parent’s house, so there was no alcohol to speak of. We were eating chips and drinking Coke. My house had always been a Coke house, despite my personal like of Sprite and Pepsi. I wasn’t in command or control, so Coke it was.

“Sean isn’t very big,” she started to comment. Sean was my friend. I really didn’t want to hear about his dick size.

“Did you want to watch a movie or something?” I awkwardly tried to change the subject.

“And he’s about this thick,” she continued, holding up two of her small fingers.

The Hobbit Movies: Adaptation Gone Mad or A Work of Art?

Part 3 of The Hobbit trilogy has finally come and practically gone, and I have to admit, I didn’t go and see it.

I’m a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, I’ve read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, his translation of Beowulf, and some of his criticisms, but I just didn’t have a strong desire to watch The Hobbit‘s final installment.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” One of the best opening lines to any children’s book.

While I’m not one that hates movie adaptations if they aren’t 100% true to the book, I feel that The Hobbit films suffered from overindulgence, or, that is to say, the movies really became more about Peter Jackson’s vision than the story itself.

I did see Part 1 and Part 2 of the trilogy, and I was underwhelmed. While the visual effects were fun, the story relied far too heavily on them and, at times, felt extremely long and drawn out for no other reason than to add more digital effects.

Missy Lacock, fellow writer in this blog, is more forgiving than I am of the adaptation of The Hobbit into three movies:

Story Shots: Choice

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Choosing is never an easy task. For this month’s Story Shots, our short nonfiction series, we asked our writers to think about choice.

Here’s the thing about choices: they’re never easy. If a choice was easy, it wouldn’t really be a choice, would it? Robert Frost plays with the idea of choice in his poem, The Road Not Taken.

Choice isn’t picking the better option, for all options in a choice have equal value to the chooser at the time the decision is being made. Choice is a struggle. Choice is regret. Choice is convincing yourself that you didn’t make a mistake or accepting that you have. Choice is about telling yourself, after you have chosen, that there really wasn’t an option to begin with. Choice is a fork in the road where both roads ahead have equal wear, but as time passes we convince ourselves and others that one road was more unique or special or different than it really was.

Here are the stories our writers told about their choices.


A spectacular demonstration of comedy and codependency:
“Are you sure?” Him.
“Yes.” Me.
“But you hate Taco Del Sol.” Him.
“No, I don’t.” Me.
Him.
Me.
Him.
Me.

A close call with war buddies and lovers:
My personal crisis.
His personal crisis.
A breakup.
A reunion.
A lost election.
A death.
A won election.
Two years of long distance.
An experiment.
The same choice every day.

A looming, breathing thing:
Friends, parading through weddings and babies and china cabinets and Easter egg hunts.
Him, brilliant and sweet and coveting the American dream.
Me, happy and alone in my tiny apartment.
Us.
Us.

– Missy Lacock


Next episode playing in 15 seconds

I should stop. Netflix, you fiend, you temptress. I have three papers due this week. Three!

But I’m a good student. I deserve a break, don’t I? I work and go to school for over nine hours a day. I have graduate applications I work on when I get home. For the month of October, two of my Saturdays were dedicated to graduate testing. The rest of my Saturdays were spent studying, along with my Sundays.

On the other hand, I have to keep working. I can’t let my grades slack or I might not get into a good graduate program. I have to work hard. I don’t have a choice.

Next episode playing in 10 seconds.