Category Archives: Literary Orphans

JOURNEY TO PLANET WRITE: Crucial Early Conversations on the Road to Writing

by Teri L. Kline

It is interesting, to me, thinking about those first nuggets of encouragement or discouragement on the path to identifying as a writer. I spent some time today going back to those earliest days. These conversations stand out in my mind.


MOM: You are sitting too close to the stove with that book, Terry! How many times do I have to tell you?

ME: One more chapter, ok?


LIBRARIAN: Teri, I was just about to lock the door! I didn’t see you behind that counter! What are you reading? Let’s go!

ME: Nancy Drew. Five more minutes?

LIBRARIAN: I loved Nancy Drew, too. OK five more minutes.


MRS SEE: Hello, Mrs. Lee? This is Theresa’s teacher, Mrs. See.

MOM: Yes? Is there a problem?

MRS SEE: Oh no, not at all. We at St. Patrick’s are noticing that Theresa is very quiet at school. She asked to stay in at recess and read. She is always writing stories and daydreaming. Don’t worry, she seems happy, not lonely, but we would like to have a discussion with you and Mr. Lee about starting to think about the convent for her eventually. What do you think?

MOM: My Theresa? A nun? I have never thought about it.

MRS SEE: Well, let’s just keep it in mind as the year progresses.  

Christmas Day 1965

ME: (crying) THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! MOM, DAD, THANK YOU! I never thought I would have my own desk! I love the lamp attached! Can we set it up right now? Where can we put it? I love it. I love it. I love it. THANK YOU!

Christmas Day 1966

ME: (crying) This is the book bag I wanted! Red plaid! Filled with books and paper and pens and pencils! I love you Mom and Dad! I love it. I love it. I love it.


MOM: Where have you been, it is getting dark?

ME: Walking.

MOM: Where?

ME: Trout Brook.

MOM: Why?

ME: Why?

MOM: Yes, why?

ME: I like it there. It is quiet. I sit on the bridge and write poems.

MOM: I’ll never understand you.

ME: I’m sorry.


MRS DELPHINE JOHNSON: Teri, would you and Debi help me with writing a skit for the Family Night Program? I know you are a very good writer. It only needs to be five minutes long? Would you like to do that?

ME: Yes. Yes. I would. I would like it very much. Thank you. Really? Thank you!


MRS WUBBELS: Did you write this story?

ME: Yes. Of course, I did. My name is on it.

MRS WUBBELS: You didn’t copy it from somewhere?

ME: No. I wrote it.

MRS WUBBELS: Is the story true?

ME: No. It is a story. It is fiction.

MRS. WUBBELS. I don’t believe you.

ME: I’m sorry. I wrote the story.


“We are pleased to announce the winners for Wisconsin’s Statewide Eighth Grade Creative Writing Competition:  First Place: …… Second Place:  ….…. Third Place: …… Honorable Mention: Teri Lee from Hudson, Wisconsin.”


“The Co-Editors for the 1972 and 1973 True Blue Yearbook will be Teri Lee and Debi Iverson! Congratulations!


University of Minnesota: “The winner of the Marjorie H. Thurston Scholarship for Outstanding Writing by a freshman goes to Theresa Lee Kline.”

PROFESSOR HORBERG: Please stay after class, Teri. I need to speak with you.

ME: Is everything all right?



PROFESSOR HORBERG: Teri, our committee has decided that you will be awarded the Marjorie Thurston Award for best freshman writing in the Creative Writing division.

ME: Are you sure?

PROFESSOR HORBERG: (laughing) Yes, I’m sure. Congratulations. You deserve it. The vote was unanimous.


As the years went by, I continued writing and studying and taking classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.

Moving to the Bay Area in 2009 was a huge turning point in my life. The lit community in San Francisco and Oakland is very active. I learned about all the places one could submit work and was supported by this lively group of writers. Attending my first AWP, after having a several pieces published, gave me an opportunity to make more contacts. I am now on the Masthead at Literary Orphans out of Chicago as Interviewer and Reader. I’ve read my work at several locations around the Bay and at AWP HEAT. I have a short story forthcoming in Connotations Press.

I still get nervous when saying the words, “I AM A WRITER,” but there you have it!


Teri Lee Kline, though currently residing in Berkeley California, left her heart on the banks of the St. Croix River in Wisconsin. She studied at the University of Minnesota and the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Her short fiction has been published in Chicago’s Literary Orphans,Sein und Werdenout of the UK, and in the “Utter Nonsense” Issue of the illustrious Black Scat Review, an international journal specializing in absurdist literature and art, and in Connotation Press. Her literary interview and profile series has highlighted Meg Pokrass, Tantra Bensko and, most recently, Portland’s Dena Rash Guzman. 

Journey to Planet Write: Lost and Found

by Lynn Mundell

Bed Is for Reading

Squashed between warm bodies, I listened to my parents read to me in their bed. Soon, I read to myself. In public school, we all pored over the Scholastic Book catalogs and filled in order forms. I would order 10, 20 books. School was very dull. Then the delivery came, and a high stack of books bound together with a jumbo rubber band landed on my desk, and I was saved by Amelia Bedelia, that fantastic blockhead.

When I was 9 my teacher announced a writing contest sponsored by the American Legion. We all wrote about what it meant to be an American. I was a so-so American, so got third prize, a small bronze medal hanging from a heavy red, white, and blue ribbon. I wore it constantly until my older sister asked me to please stop.  If you were a writer, you were pretty much a dignitary. Practically royalty. Who wouldn’t want to be a writer?

Youth Was for Writing

I wrote poetry and newspaper stories in high school and college, while working a series of weirdo jobs — toy store clerk, men’s clothing saleswoman, failed florist (I was fired after sending the funeral arrangement to the baby shower, and vice versa), trailer cleaner, preschool flunky. A boyfriend asked me what I planned to write about. I told him I wasn’t sure, and he scoffed, fueling my doubt.

Chico Senior High newspaper staff. 
Lynn is second from the left, seated.

In the midst of being in big trouble at my newspaper internship for accidentally deleting the entire issue of the weekly during production, I was accepted to graduate school. At 20, I moved East to earn my MFA. More jobs. Hat shop worker. Postcard saleslady. Frank Conroy shredded my prose, then once gave me a friendly ride to class in his old station wagon. I wrote at odd hours and went alone into dark places in my head and wandered out again a little bit stranger and worse for wear each time. I worked at papers, and one sent me to St. Louis to interview U.S. Poet Laureate Howard Nemerov, simply because I was the closest thing to a poetry editor they had. I won a prize at the university. It felt almost as good as the one from fifth grade.

Throwing in the Towel

In my 20s I tried valiantly to be what I thought constituted a writer. I taught at a college, and whether due to circumstances (grammar night class) or myself (uncertain), it wasn’t for me. I chased literary magazines. The fat, healthy envelope would go off in the mail with a poem and an SASE, and a thin, pale one would return, sometimes months later. I stopped writing creatively. I thought my professors’ belief in me must have been misplaced. I threw myself into work life, married, moved home to California. On a whim, I took a creative non-fiction class from columnist Adair Lara, a wonderful teacher. An essay was published in The Sun, then another in The San Jose Mercury News.  The morning I went to a Merc box on Market Street and bought 10 copies of the issue with my essay, I broke down and cried. Somewhere in my now 32-year-old body, the writer lived.


Also growing in that body was a baby. Then another. Nothing had prepared me for just how hard it is to be a working mother. Years passed in a blur of commuter trains and playgrounds. I read aloud to my sons in bed. I volunteered at the schools. (My favorite gig was  … the Scholastic Book Fair!) While I wrote for a lot of people and places, I never wrote for myself. I had given up.

One day my old friend Grant Faulkner invited me for a drink and asked if I would like to start an online literary journal with him. I didn’t understand the term “flash fiction” that he kept using, but I said yes. If I wasn’t a writer anymore, I could be a publisher. That invitation to start 100 Word Story five years ago was pivotal. Early on, we didn’t have enough stories for an issue. I sat down, wrote a trio of Halloween-themed “scairytales” in the proverbial flash, and was hooked. I interviewed masters of flash, who sometimes became treasured friends and teachers, and read thousands of story submissions over the years — seeing what worked and didn’t. Eclectica accepted a largely autobiographical story. Then Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine took another. I got word over my iPhone en route to a family vacation. Instead of tears this time, I gave a whoop of joy.

Stay with the Page

With time, I developed an actual writing life. Before going to sleep or when I awake, I write longhand in journals. (Bed. Again.) Stories are anywhere from 50 to 1,000 words and may take up to 30 drafts. After one is about 95 percent done, I type it up and keep it in my purse or pocket for a while, pulling it out at odd times to reread it and change it until I feel it is finished. I keep a long list of journals, alphabetized from A (The Adroit Journal) to Z (Zyzzyva) and spend a lot of time trying to find the right place for each piece. (I much prefer the age of online submissions, although I recently mailed a story in an old school envelope. Still waiting…) I’m grateful for every publication, heartened by the dedicated, generous writers, editors, and publishers in today’s literary community. I still have so much to learn, but I’m not giving up. At 51, I have a lot to say, fewer years now to say it, and I know what a very long time it can take to awaken the writer sleeping within.


Lynn Mundell’s flash fiction has appeared in Tin House “Flash Fidelity,” Superstition ReviewLiterary OrphansJellyfish ReviewThrice Fictionand elsewhere, with more forthcoming this year in Mulberry Fork Review, A3 Review, and Five Points. Lynn is co-founder and co-editor of 100 Word Story.