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I met Isaac Asimov many years ago at a science fiction convention called EveCon. In one panel discussion (where he was not on the panel, but in the audience), an impassioned young woman was asking the writers on the panel to create a new word for a female hero. She thought heroine was a lesser word, and read a list of words she’d come up with that were more suitable. I was about to respond (having been recently introduced at a poetry reading as a poetess rather than a poet), when Isaac raised his hand.

“Young woman,” he said, “why not just use the word, hero? I see no need for a separate word. A hero is a hero no matter the gender or species.”

My feelings exactly! And after Isaac Asimov’s wonderful answer, there was no need for me, or anyone else on the panel to respond.

Here’s a quote on writing from Isaac Asimov: “What lasts in the reader’s mind is not the phrase but the effect the phrase created: laughter, tears, pain, joy. If the phrase in not affecting the reader, what’s it doing there? Make it do its job or cut it without mercy or remorse.”

I, like many writers, need to heed these words, and thoughtfully edit my stories before presenting them to readers.

 

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Today, at Washington National Cathedral, the USA said good-bye to astronaut Neil Armstrong (Aug. 5, 1930 – Aug. 25, 2012). High above the crowd of people there honoring a true American hero in one of that cathedral’s stained glass windows is embedded a moon rock the Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, gave to that church.

Real heroes are hard to come by. The men who traveled to the moon, especially those pioneers aboard Apollo 11, are heroes. And they left a plague on the surface of the moon that reads: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

I never got to meet Neil, but from all accounts he was a reluctant hero. He and his fellow astronauts have always been heroes to me. I wrote a poem years ago about my experience that fateful summer night when Neil left the first footprint in moon dust which was included in River of Stars, one of my books of poetry. I’ve posted it here for all to read:

Apollo 11

On July 20, 1969,

at the Manor Care Nursing Home

in the second floor television room,

two gnarled women and I watched

Buzz Aldrin land The Eagle.

I held my breath

as Neil Armstrong descended

the lunar module’s stairs,

as his left foot stirred the dust

of The Sea of Tranquility.

It was 10:56 P.M. —

long past patients’ lights-out,

my nursing aide shift almost ended.

But none of us left.

“That’s one small step for a man,

one giant leap

for mankind,” Neil exclaimed.

“Humankind,” a resident corrected

as she leaned closer to the TV,

raised an arthritic hand,

“Humankind.”

Beyond the set,

through thermal-plated windows,

I contemplated the moon

and knew that 240,000 miles away,

three men looked up into the black sky

at a blue-green sphere

with the same longing.

Copyright 2002 Vonnie Winslow Crist, River of Stars, Lite Circle Books.

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 Today, I saw Issue #20 of Faerie Magazine on the magazine rack of my local bookstore. The cover promised work from Neil Gaiman, Charles Vess, and Myles Pinkney inside, and I knew Brian Froud would have his usual “World of Froud” essay and illustration included. But would my article share the space with the work of such talented writers and artists?

With shaking hands I opened to Contributors — and there I was, the fourth writer down. Then, I turned the page and checked Contents. Sure enough, Tussie Mussies, my article on “Talking Victorian Bouquets” was listed as being on page 51.

Faerie Magazine’s beautifully illustrated pages seemed stuck together as I leafed through the publication. I sat down on a nearby bench and held back tears. The same joy I felt years ago when my first poem was printed in a local newsletter washed over me as I saw my article and byline on page 51.

This publication credit merits a phone call to my mom and sisters. “Go to a bookstore,” I’ll say. “Ask for Faerie Magazine and read my article on the language of flowers.”  Fans of gardening, all things British, and magazines that are easily acquired at bookstores — they’ll be excited for me. My only regret? My dad died before I was able to push his wheelchair into a Barnes & Noble and pluck a magazine with one of my articles or stories in it from the shelf.

Not especially in to faeries and flowers, my dad would have been even more thrilled over today’s other news: my poem about a Celtic warrior, Before the Battle, will be appearing on July 1 in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. Dad was proud of his Scottish, Irish, Welsh, and English ancestors and served in the US Army in World War II. He was a Celtic warrior, the recipient of a Bronze Star, and he would have been 84 this month.

So thank you Editor Kim for including me in Faerie Magazine Issue 20. Thank you Editor Dave for the Heroic Fantasy Quarterly acceptance. And thank you, Dad, for being my hero.

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