Three Cheers Spring 2015 is OPEN

The Three Cheers and a Tiger Spring Contest is now open.

Entries must be received by 5 PM Eastern Time, Sunday, March 22, 2015.

Write a mystery story that centers around muddy footprints in a hotel lobby.

Word count: Between 2650 and 2750 words.

  • Send entries to: threecheers15@toasted-cheese.com
  • Your subject line must read: Three Cheers and a Tiger Contest Entry
  • Paste your story directly into your email. No attachments please.

For complete rules:
Three Cheers and a Tiger Guidelines
General Contest Rules

Recycled: Books

Absolute BlankBy Shelley Carpenter (Harpspeed)

Last spring I attended a vintage craft fair and my take-away was unexpected. The fair was a delightful mix of antiques and art but with a twist—the old and the new were fused together in a recycling theme. Familiar objects got a second life as they were transformed into something new with added parts and new purpose like the birdhouses made from broken crockery and ancient-looking license plates. Painted signs from bygone days were transformed into coffee tables. Purses and tote bags were created from recycled juice boxes, candy wrappers, and burlap sacks straight from somebody’s barn. I felt a resurgence of my own creativity happening with every step, every glance, and every touch. Some of the crafts I wanted to try out like the folk art ocean buoys and the wind chimes made from fishing wire, spoons, and glass doorknobs. Both would look pretty nifty in my front garden I thought.

I walked around for about an hour when I spied the book tent. I was almost giddy and I could hardly wait to see what treasures awaited inside. I paused a moment for a crowd of young families to exit and stepped into the small space immediately surprised at what I didn’t see—where were all the books? I expected a table of stacked books sorted by author or genre: contemporary fiction novels piled high–crime, mystery, horror, historical, romance–and another section of non fiction–biography, poetry, memoir, coffee table books on various subjects, crates of old trade journals and magazines. But there were no tables. No crates. No vintage journals.  Not even an old Playboy magazine. When the last of the crowd headed toward the door flap I saw bookcases lining the perimeter—books at last!

Photo credit: Pimthida/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Photo credit: Pimthida/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

I made my way over to a case that displayed classics. They were shelved with their covers facing out. There weren’t very many but I did spy some familiar old friends:  Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, Dracula, Huckleberry Finn, Scrooge, and The Great Gatsby himself. They were hard cover editions and I reached for Mary Shelley’s book. It had a black leather cover with faded, etched details. I held it in my hand a moment and when I was sure no one was watching I lifted it up to my face and inhaled deeply. It smelled old and oily and reminded me of saddle leather. It was a beautiful book and would be “a first” in my collection of classic novels. I brushed its cover with the palm of my hand… so soft and worn like it belonged to Frankenstein himself. I turned the cover over to see what was on the back and that was when I noticed the spine. Someone had carefully taken it apart and added thin leather strapping like shoelaces that held its two covers in place. (The spine flipped open and shut thus hiding the strapping.) I opened the copy and found its pages had been replaced with blank ones–it was a literal absolute blank. I fanned through it and felt a little pinch in my heart. All that was left of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece was its leather façade. I replaced it and reached for Huckleberry Finn and felt another pinch.

On another shelf I spied Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and some kid’s books from the golden age of children’s literature—a Dick and Jane story from the 1950s, and other books that I didn’t recognize. They were all the same inside. They were all just the covers devoid of their printed pages, reduced to notebooks or journals. I picked over a few more when I caught the eye of the proprietor. She smiled and was about to say something when two women came in and distracted her. They went straight for the rose-colored copy of Vanity Fair, marveling at the ingenuity of the “artist” who created such a thoughtful and “useful” article.

Meanwhile, I stood there in horrified fascination watching them pull the journals from the shelves as I had done just moments before. It was like witnessing something terrible and not being able to look away. In those moments, I thought about the authors—how they would feel to see their life’s work capitalized upon in such a grotesque manner. My spell broke when one of the women asked me if I was going to buy the remains of the Jane Austin book that I was clutching to my chest. I shook my head and gave her the copy before leaving.

I thought about this encounter all the way home. I felt repulsed. Had the covers of the journals been replicated, made to “look” like the books themselves, then I would be okay with it. Some of the most revered classics and artwork have had their cover images borrowed and placed on tote bags and mugs. I own a graphic T-shirt with the imprint of a famous Japanese woodcut painting that I wear guilt-free. But the books on display at the vintage craft fair were in fact the real covers of real books, the skeletal remains of what I considered to be icons of our literary culture. I felt a small fissure forming in one my ventricles. Was I over-reacting?

I thought some more.

I thought about the physical life cycle of a book. A book is created inside a publishing house and is born in the bookstores and in the big warehouses waiting for its first owner. After purchase it may linger on a shelf for weeks or months or even years before being read and then perhaps given away or re-sold. The lucky ones might make their way to a secondhand book shop or onto Craigslist or tragically and most likely end up in the carton at the end of someone’s driveway after a yard sale, homeless and at the mercy of the elements.

The story is not over. Perhaps a book dealer comes along and pulls the weathered volume out of the box and recognizes that it is a first edition collector’s item. It is sold at auction. That is a fortunate book, indeed, and it will spend its days in a glass library to be revered, but sadly again, never read. Better still, maybe the yard-salers will donate their unwanted collection to local charities that will distribute them to public institutions or maybe send them abroad as ambassador books to those who have a dire need for books. Books that don’t make the cut I presume would be put in the recycled paper bin or worse burned as kindling. My heart feels heavy from this thought. So what do we do with books that have outlived our need for them? Books that are beyond repair?

In my ideal world, we would send them to my figurative friend, Mortimer “Mo” Folchart, a character‬ from Cornelia Funke’s YA novel, Inkheart. Mo is a craftsman who makes his living repairing books and has the added talent of breathing life into characters that he reads aloud. A true book doctor he is. But there are no more Mos in the real world. At least none that I can think of outside of museums and monasteries…

Still, some people might argue that that we should be saving trees and reading books and other print on electronic devices. In fact, many readers I know are moving away from hard copies and are doing just that. When they are finished they have the option to save their book electronically, or click the delete button and be done with it. Nothing wasted or left behind. Yet, what of the rest of us whose books inhabit a shelf or more?  Should we have a funeral for them and bury them in the backyard? Rip out their pages and make paper wallets and cute origami animals?

In late November I returned to the fairgrounds, this time to visit the vintage holiday bazaar, some of whose artists and crafters I had seen earlier. Many of their wares were recreated art on a holiday theme. Not surprising, I also found more recycled books. This time carved into the shapes of pine trees and candy canes and letters that made words like: JOY and CHEER and MERRY. I admit that I wasn’t feeling very joyful or cheerful or merry as I picked through them. I found their pages intact but impossible to read due to their re-shaping and re-sizing. Once again, people found them to be clever and charming and bought them for $10 a piece. I suppose that the world won’t miss a 1972 copy of Reader’s Digest or an Encyclopedia Britannica that predates the Internet.

s-book

In fact, I received a monogram book as a gift. Ironic it is and even more so now that it is displayed in a place of honor facing out on the shelf alongside some of my favorite volumes. The book is in the shape of my first initial letter and was given to me by a very-special-somebody who recognizes me truly as a lover of books, a purveyor of novels and stories, a life-long reader. The recycled book may have indeed reached its final use and in its last life, it shall remain on my shelf indefinitely despite its appearance because it still resonates meaning.

A Book in Two Hands

A Pen In Each Hand

By Harpspeed

When I was ten or eleven years old I had a doctor’s appointment at Children’s Hospital in Boston and while waiting in the big lobby inside the main entrance to the building, I spied several of my Little Golden Books on a shelf. I knew they were mine because when I opened their covers, I found my name in my mother’s beautiful looping script with the date of receipt and the occasion for the gift. I remember looking around at the other children and seeing what I believed to be my copy of Goldilocks in the hands of a little girl and feeling a little awed of my mother and happy at the same time to see something that I had loved bring joy to someone else.

Why not give such a book that no longer has a shelf life in your home to someone who will appreciate it? The life of a book will increase if every reader considers the next reader. Early spring, I sort through my own books that are ready for their second or third or fourth life and keep them ready-to-go at a moment’s notice.

Photo credit: henry.../Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Photo credit: henry…/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Here are some general places in frequent need:

  1. Shelters
  2. Hospitals
  3. Schools and child care facilities
  4. Library book sales
  5. Senior centers
  6. Armed services (soldiers home & abroad)
  7. Prisons
  8. Charities—big and small—that will use or re-sell or re-distribute books abroad to those who have lost their books or have none.

Places to sell them:

  1. Your local used bookstore (if you can find one!)
  2. Over the Internet to specific buyers looking for your copy in places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble used book markets, eBay, and Craigslist.

Toasted Cheese 15:1

The March 2015 issue of Toasted Cheese features poetry by Holly Day, John Grey & Anne Britting Oleson; flash by Jill Boyles, Bradley Sides & Christopher T. White and fiction by Louis M. Abbey, Arika Elizenberry, Lane Kareska, Daniel Nazer, Marlene Olin, Jonathan Pauls & Tony Press.

TC 15:1 also includes the 2014 Dead of Winter Writing Contest winning stories by Erin McDougall, John Howe & Amelia Diamond.

At Candle-Ends, Shelley Carpenter reviews The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle & Work to Do by Bob Zeanah and A.R. Cook reviews Swish Swirl & Sniff by Salvatore Marici.

This issue’s Snark Zone is by Stephanie “Baker” Lenz & Theryn “Beaver” Fleming.

The cover image is by Benny’s Chop House, with additional photos by photographers around the world, all of whom have generously made their work available for use under Creative Commons licenses. Please click through and check out their photostreams.

Congratulations to all. Happy reading!

Three Cheers and a Tiger 48-hour Mystery Contest

The March 2015 contest opens at 5 PM Eastern Time, Friday, March 20, 2015, with details posted here on TC’s homepage.

Send entries to: threecheers15[at]toasted-cheese.com

Your subject line must read: Three Cheers and a Tiger Contest Entry

Deadline: 5 PM Eastern Time, Sunday, March 22, 2015.

This year Baker will be assisting Bellman with the judging.

Winning stories are published in the June issue of Toasted Cheese.

  • If 50 or fewer eligible entries are received, first place receives a $35 Amazon gift card & second a $10 Amazon gift card.
  • If 51 or more eligible entries are received, first place receives a $50 Amazon gift card, second a $15 Amazon gift card & third a $10 Amazon gift card.

Three Cheers and a Tiger Guidelines
General Contest Rules

February 2015
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following words: later, change, dropped, star, clean.
    2. Fill in the blanks: “This is the first ______ of the rest of your ______.”
    3. Fill in the blank: “there’s no problem that can’t be solved by _____”
  2. Write Groundhog Day fanfic
  3. “Is this confusing or am I just old?”
  4. A backup copy saves the day
  5. a video of a hostage
  6. Summoned to the boss’s office
  7. Use these 5 words: legendary, curry, safe, unhealthy, months.
  8. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: good, brush, muffled, poor, comes.
    2. Use the phrase, “how could they know?”
    3. Write about not observing a popular holiday.
  9. “I got you into this and it’s my job to get you out.”
  10. Amusing yourself without electric power
  11. a middle school crush
  12. Taking responsibility for someone else’s action
  13. Use these 5 words: country, cardboard, balloons, pooling, qualify.
  14. Write about someone who’s been single for many years.
  15. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. 1. Use the following five words: silence, lives, memory, sand, depends.
    2. 2. Fill in the blanks: “_____ today, ____ tomorrow.”
    3. 3. Use the phrase, “You’re too good to me.”
  16. livetweet an event
  17. “There’s nothing to hide.”
  18. Snow higher than a character’s head
  19. a character reveals a secret
  20. A vanity license plate
  21. Use these 5 words: killers, rejection, driving, route, detour.
  22. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: dismantle, roads, stone, twists, seducer.
    2. Write about taking a big job in stages.
    3. Use the generic weather comment: “It’s never like this.”
  23. “Why do I drink?”
  24. Why is Feb 25 weeks long?
  25. a character who is offended by skateboarding
  26. Write a whimsical warning label
  27. Use these 5 words: boom, rockstar, women, faking, cheering.
  28. Twisting the plain sense of the words.

Question of the Week

Welcome to TC’s Question of the Week minicast. We post a new question every Wednesday for #writerwednesday. Each minicast is approximately 30 seconds.

Be sure to check out our longer A Podcast in Each Hand writing-inspiration podcast on Mondays. If you like the minicasts and podcasts, please let us know!

 

Answer in the comments or link back here if you post your answer on your own blog. (If you’d like to record your response and are looking for somewhere to host your audio file, try SoundCloud.)

Sounds: PacmanGamer and Corsica_S; Music: gadzooks. All shared under a Creative Commons Attribution license and available at Freesound.org

Question of the Week

Welcome to TC’s Question of the Week minicast. We post a new question every Wednesday for #writerwednesday. Each minicast is approximately 30 seconds.

Be sure to check out our longer A Podcast in Each Hand writing-inspiration podcast on Mondays. If you like the minicasts and podcasts, please let us know!

 

Answer in the comments or link back here if you post your answer on your own blog. (If you’d like to record your response and are looking for somewhere to host your audio file, try SoundCloud.)

Sounds: PacmanGamer and Corsica_S; Music: gadzooks. All shared under a Creative Commons Attribution license and available at Freesound.org

A Podcast in Each Hand

Toasted Cheese presents A Podcast In Each Hand: original exercises and writing prompts from our archive to inspire you for the week ahead. Each podcast is briefer than the time it would take to sizzle up a toasted cheese sandwich. If you use any of our exercises or prompts, we’d love to hear about it!

 

Producer: Stephanie Lenz
Sounds: PacmanGamer and Corsica_S; Music: gadzooks. All shared under a Creative Commons Attribution license and available at Freesound.org