Posted tagged ‘Nose Dive’

Self-Portrait of Celia Pratchett (NOSE DIVE)

October 27, 2012

The prompt for dVerse Poets Pub Poetics today, hosted by Fred Rutherford, is self-portrait.   Fred writes a really interesting essay about self-protraiture and I encourage you to check out his post.  Nonetheless, I find myself shying away from a direct self-portrait, so I am posting instead the self-portrait of a character of mine, Celia Pratchett, taken from my novel NOSE DIVE (published by BackStroke Books).

Yes, I know it’s prose – but I think/hope it reads much faster than it looks (and it is undoubtedly way more fun than my direct self-portrait would be.)   Thanks much to you who try it!  The drawing below is by the wonderful Jonathan Segal.


From NOSE DIVE, by Karin Gustafson, illustrated by Jonathan Segal

NOSE DIVE   (Excerpt from Chapter I)

(The hills are alive…with the sound of music.)

Maybe. But first period assembly was comatose with the boredom of teenagers. Even people’s yawns stretched out in slow-mo.

(A song they have sung…for a thousand years.) 

Then Brad Pierson sauntered to the podium. A lot of yawns filled instantly with drool.

“Yo Brad,” some girl wailed.

Brad smiled. It was a sheepish, glinty smile, the kind that commercials flash above surfboards.

I looked back down to my Bio notes, trying to cram for my next period test. Brad was in my Pre-Cal class but that was about the only thing we had in common: he was captain of the tennis team and hung out with the cool popular kids while I sang in the school chorus and hung out with Deanna, my one true friend since age five. Deanna was plenty cool in her way, but I wasn’t. For example, the title song of The Sound of Music was just then spinning around my head.

(The hills fill my heart with the sound of music.)  

I really love The Sound of Music—actually, I love the sound of almost any musicbut I wouldn’t mind if it stayed clear of my brain once in a while.

Brad, after gently adjusting the microphone, gave a cute little waist-level wave.

‘ATP stands for—’ I scribbled in my notebook.

“With the help of Principal Eggars—” Brad said.

(My heart wants to sing every song….) 

“—I’m arranging for the spring musical to be part of a new TV reality show.”

The auditorium inhaled one huge “omg.” Even the singing in my brain came to halt.

“The show is going to be called ‘Musical!” Brad went on.  “And the TV people are going to film everythingthe rehearsals, the showeverything.  And it’s going to be way better than all those other high school musical shows because it’s going to be all about us cool kids at Spenser.”

“Braaaaaddd!” someone shouted.

“Just a minute there, Mr. Pierson.”

The plaid jacket of Principal Eggars hovered beside Brad’s arm (Brad’s perfectly tanned, not-too-buff-but-tautly-muscled arm).

“The school’s participation in the TV program is not a done deal,” boomed Principal Eggars, a man who knew how to get the most out of a mike. “I only asked Brad to make the announcement today because his father has been so instrumental in making the show a serious possibility.”

A weighty pause followed as we all pictured a slightly greying, slightly heavier Brad-clone.

“I also wanted to assure you that if the program does go through, every effort will be made to avoid any disruption in your academic studies, which, as always, are the top priority here at Spenser.”

Brad gave a big ‘oh sure’ kind of nod.

“Many details still need to be worked out by Mr. Pierson, Brad’s father…and myself, of course. But if you have any immediate questions—”

Brad scooted his beautiful sun-bleached head to the mike again, “ask me.”

“I guess that’s right for the time being,” Principal Eggars sighed.

“I love you, Brad!” came a wail.

Wow.  I slowly closed my Bio notebook.

I love musicals. Yes, I sing them in my head, but I sing them out loud too. (Ask my older sister!) I am also a pretty good musical singer. (Her name is Maddy.) Not only because I’ve been practicing along with Julie Andrews, Bernadette Peters, and the Little Mermaid since age two (Maddy’ll tell you), but also because I happen to have this really big singing voice. (Man, will she tell you!)

I don’t like to brag, but I think I also have a pretty good singing voice. I had a chorus part in last year’s musical, even as a lowly freshman, with a couple of solo lines too.

As Principal Eggars dismissed us and I waited for my row to move, I remembered how much fun last year’s musical had been. My heart felt like dancing just thinking about it.

(To laugh like a brook when it trips and falls… over stones on the way.)

And then my dancing heart just tripped, only not like a laughing brook.

Because my heart was remembering something else about last year’s show—the clips of it posted online after the first performance.

Which also made me remember Hank.

How could I forget Hank?

Hank was my nose, huge, curved, bulbous, pointed at the tip—the bane of my entire existence.

Okay, maybe not my entire existence, the bane of my existence for the last year.

It seems odd, I guess, but until I entered high school (actually, until I saw those clips of myself in last year’s musical), I had never really thought much about Hank. Oh, I knew he…it was prominent. (My mom’s word was “strong.”) But that had never bothered me. Maybe because Hank was my dad’s nose.

I was too young when my dad died to truly remember him, but when my mom and sister and I looked at old pictures or videos, it had always made me feel proud—sad, but proud—to have a nose almost exactly like his.

But after seeing those clips last year, everything changed. It was like a veil had been lifted from my eyes, or, maybe, my nose. I could suddenly see it clearly. How could I miss it? Hank was gi-normous.

As a free space opened in front of me, I straightened my backpack over my shoulders, trying to feel more positive.

(I go to the hills…when my heart is lonely.) 

It was hard. Being on TV would be way worse than being on the Internet. TV cameras take close-ups. In focus. Women in those focused TV close-ups do not have Hanks in the middle of their faces, not even women in local weight loss commercials who have lost two hundred pounds and whose noses shouldn’t matter.

I stared glumly around the auditorium. Brad was on the other side. Even on normal days, he stood out like a castle, male turret circled by girl moat. In the minutes since the announcement, the moat had swollen to a girl river, maybe even a girl sea.

The only bright spot on the horizon was Deanna, who waded straight towards me. (Deanna, who is both super tall and a little bit large around the middle, is not particularly fazed by girl moats.) Her hair was dyed silver blue to match a new book bag she carried. It looked like a bag she had made; duct tape crisscrossed its sides in a complicated geometric pattern. Deanna was big on duct tape.

Just now, random strands of hair clung to that duct tape, some straight and blonde, some curly and dark. I tried to let the sight of those hairs, which I was pretty sure were from Brad’s girl moat, make me feel better.

(My heart will be blessed with the sound of music.) 

I shook my head to get the song out.

(And I’ll sing…once… more.)

So much for that.

(Da daa da da daa.) 

If you’d like to know what happens next, get Nose Dive from Amazon, or on Kindle (for only 99 cents!)

8 Mississippi!

October 24, 2012

“Eight Mississippi” From 1 MISSISSIPPI by Karin Gustafson

A day dealing with decisions has left me with little oomph for a new poem or political post, so I turn to…. MARKETING!

Above is a picture from my counting book 1 Mississippi.  If you like counting, elephants and rather watery watercolors, it may just be up your alley (or it might work for a small child you know.)

Or, if you feel like you already know how to count will enough, you may prefer Nose Dive, a very fun young adult book that features NYC, high school, Broadway musicals, phone sex (don’t worry!), and a generational discomfiture with Barbara Streisand.  (By Karin Gustafson, illustrated by Jonathan Segal.)

From NOSE DIVE – by Karin Gustafson, illustrated by Jonathan Segal

Or GOING ON SOMEWHERE, (by Karin Gustafson, illustrated by Diana Barco.)  Poetry, primarily formal poetry (sonnets, villanelles, pantoums.) 

All the books are published by BackStroke Books (my own imprint.) 

Thanks for your indulgence and support. 

“Hands On” (Steering Wheel Poem)

February 6, 2012


Here’s a new poem for dVerse Poets open link night, and also Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads.  (Check out the great poets at both sites.)

Hands On

When I think of why
we are together,
I think of your hands
upon a steering wheel.
The night was cold,
dark (the car seats stiff with it),
but the tendons–had you given me
your gloves?–ran along your grasp
like lifelines, and I needed
a lifeline.
They caught the ambients
from the headlights–inverse shadows
that I could not turn from
as you took
the curves,
then straightened;
as you laughed
about something seemingly
as I laughed too, all the time
watching them

(P.S. And while you are checking on things, check out NOSE DIVE, my comic mystery novel, which has been reviewed with great kindness by Charles Mashburn of Marbles in My Pocket and Victoria C. Slotto of Liv2Write2day on Amazon.)

A Novel(ing) Day – the wonders (?!?) of computers and drafts

January 23, 2012

Yesterday was a day of working extremely hard to meet a noveling deadline.  (A contest.)

It is very difficult to meet a noveling deadline in a single day.

In my case, the attempt was made because I happen to have a few old manuscripts squirreled away.   They include very rough drafts as well fairly polished drafts–a couple are of novels that I once took very seriously, but for some reason or another–i.e. rejection letters–set aside.

Unfortunately, even the once-polished novels have gotten fairly rough over time, as after enough rejections, I would inevitably begin re-writing them and would not always get to a new re-polishing.

I’ve known about the deadline for a while, but could not decide which manuscript I could bear to focus on until 6 a.m. yesterday.  (Revisiting an old manuscript can be a bit like meeting up with an X–quite painful until you settle down and just have sex.)  (Note to husband–this is a joke.)

One of the wonders of a computer is that you can save a zillion drafts, some of which improve your work, some of which may just be little experiments, fits of pique.

Oops!  Did I call this a wonder of the computer?

How about I wonder how this draft is different from that one?  I wonder what happened to that draft in which I did such and such.  Most of all, I wonder why I never stuck to a system for all this stuff. 

Still, I finally got down to brass tacks, and managed, through the course of many hours, to totally fry my eyes. And, yet, not finish the revisions.  (I’m less than half way through.)

I console myself with the fact that I would not likely win the contest anyway.  And then I think, maybe the last half is, you know, fine as is.  (Ha!)

(P.S. – in the meantime, please please please check out my last book, fully polished:  NOSE DIVE, a very silly escapist novel available on Kindle for just 99 cents, and in paperback for only ten times more. It really is quite fun, and now has a very kind review from Victoria C. Slotto.)

Rhinoplasty?! If You Don’t Know What It Is–Try Out NOSE DIVE!

December 18, 2011

Drawing by Jonathan Segal (From NOSE DIVE)

Just came back from a wonderfully sweet book launch party for NOSE DIVE, a new novel written by me and illustrated (fantastically) by Jonathan Segal.

I feel very blessed to have contact with so many terrific writers/poets/readers/friends online, but, well, it’s great to actually BE with people, i.e. face to face.  To have them buy a book you have written is an especial thrill.

So thanks thanks thanks to all who came–and a quick message for all of you who were there in spirit:  thanks to you too  (but now get the book!)   (Available in paperback and on kindle–kindle version for only 99 cents!)

Hope you all had as nice a Sunday.

(PS –all rights to NOSE DIVE illustrations are reserved by Jonathan Segal.)

Cheap Thrills? Cheap Anyway! And Worth Way More. Take a (NOSE) DIVE!

December 7, 2011


What is cheaper than a cup of coffee, a newspaper, a pack of gum in an airport, one-eighth of a restaurant glass of wine, 0.5% of the lowest gig oldest model iPhone, half an egg sandwich?

What will cost you way less than a subway ride, and give you a much pleasanter feel of the West Village (a/k/a Greenwich Village), NYC?

What will provide you with (highly censored) phone sex at a fraction of normal per minute rates?

The (virtual) smell of extremely fine cheese with no after-stink?

Lots of little side trips down Musical memory lane?

The answer is my new novel, NOSE DIVE, available now on Kindle for only 99 cents!

99 CENTS!!!!  You could get it in a Dollar Store (only you can’t.)   In fact, you need to go here!

Come on!  Take a chance!  99 CENTS!!!!


(P.S.  For those without a Kindle, print copies are available for $10.00–think 3 or 4 egg sandwiches.)

A Shameless Plug on Cyber Monday–NOSE DIVE

November 28, 2011

I am somebody who generally finds the holiday gilding of the overconsumption lily both unsettling and unseemly.   Patagonia, to its credit, posted an ad today, Cyber Monday, urging customers NOT to buy one of its most popular jackets, because of its heavy environmental cost.  (This, by the way, is a jacket that is made of 60% recycled materials.)

But I am making an exception in the last eight minutes of this online shopping day to make a shameless plug for my new novel.  It’s called NOSE DIVE and is a comic teen mystery set in downtown New York City.

The book has some very silly, but (I hope) fun, elements–Broadway show tunes, phone sex, gouda cheese.  The illustrations and cover by Jonathan Segal are especially wonderful.

So, check it out.  It’s available in paperback on Amazon, and will soon also be on kindle.   (Which means that even if you want to save trees, you can buy one.)

Yes, it’s for teens, but anyone who (i) likes music, (ii) has felt unhappy with their looks, and (iii) has had a friend in a tight spot should find something to relate to.

And it makes a great gift!

Finishing Manuscript/Formatting/Pains of Self-Publishing/Pearl Gets Bored

June 5, 2011

Pearl Doesn't Really Like Formatting Either

I trying today to finish a novel.  Unfortunately, I am not working on the fun part of finishing a novel–i.e. coming up with the last sentence and going “ah” at the end.

No, I’m in the ‘trying to fix all the formatting’ stage of finishing a novel.  This stage has a lot more ‘dammits” than ‘ahs.’

I like to think that my curses are directed at glitches in computer software, but the fact is that most of the glitches are being made by me personally; that is me pressing the wrong key and suddenly undoing everything I’ve done in the previous five minutes.

These glitches bring me to the wonders and head-aches of self-publishing.

I am planning to self-publish this novel.  I will use my own little publishing company, BackStroke Books.  (Yes, it even has a fledgling website–

The novel will be called Nose Dive.  It may not be a great novel, but it’s pretty good–funny, cute, readable.  And it will  have some really great illustrations, done by a fledgling but wonderful illustrator, named Jonathan Segal.

Now, I could (and should) send the novel around and around to independent agents and publishers instead of publishing it through BackStroke Books.

The problem is that route just feels impossible these days.  Especially for a funny, cute, readable–but possibly not absolutely great  or super-commercial–novel that is written by someone (i.e. me,) who is not a film star, fashion model, or reality show denizen, who does not have a billionaire politician father, and who has not been able to fabricate a history of drug addiction.

The up-side of self-publishing is that there is something very satisfying about ‘taking the bull by the horns,’ ‘not waiting for the machine,’ ‘plowing ahead.’

The bad side is, well… true publishers have distribution networks, publicity people, etc. etc.  And, of course, staff that know about formatting.

I have, thankfully, managed to commandeer some extremely good help in the copy-editing area.  But, still, I have to be somewhat involved, especially at this hopefully near-final stage.   (Dammit.)