V-Day 2020: Cultural References and All the Fixins

Huzzah and Hello, weirdos! Today marks the fifth annual Weird Valentine Gift post here at WriterJax, and this year is a good one. It’s almost as though society in general has, somehow, become more accepting of the fringe.

I kid. Still, as we head toward VD 2020, I give you five contenders for holiday gift-giving. Go forth and browse to your heart’s content!

Don’t Torture Yourself, Gomez.

Send your favorite horror-file, or least-favorite-person in general, a bouquet of Dirty Rotten Flowers this year, like The Morticia arrangement below. Bonus: the testimonial page on this website is gold, Jerry. Gold.

You Had Me at Au Gratin

For the pun-tacular person in your life who’s all ears, I give you the Potato Parcel. This item was actually featured on Shark Tank and has been sending spuds around the world ever since, including those adorned with photos of the recipient.

Couple Goals

No one knows ’til death do we part like Jack and Sally. Let’s celebrate that love with gaudy-ass jewelry.

Put Some Pink in your Drink

This is too pretty not to share: pink chai tea from Lee.

The Rest is Gravy

No Valentines Day is complete without something unctuous, and when it comes to unctuous, I always vote gravy.

SKC Page 4: Avocado Dip

Next up: Avocado Dip, which is not guacamole, but could play it on tv.

We had a friend over for dinner recently, and therefore our first outside-taste-tester in the Small Kitchen Cookbook cook-down.

This is also one of the first times in the book  that the reader/home cook is presented with what seems to my late-Gen-X eyes to be a strange either/or combination. As we wrap this recipe, the instructions ask us to finish things off with the (ever-popular) parsley, or instead paprika.

Not for nothing, as my mid-western friends say, but those are some radically different flavors. That said, there are much more drastic choices to come in this book, so maybe reserve your judgement for then.

We start with halved avocados, and Mortellito counsels us that we can hold on to the pits if we are interested in growing new avocado trees. Points for early ecology — however, I live in the Northeast and don’t think I’m in an avocado-friendly environment. So we move on to mashing and adding ingredients. White pepper, another popular ingredient in this book, makes an appearance along with mayo, lemon, and onion salt.

The consistency at first is a bit gritty, but I made the dip the night before serving — at which time it was much smoother. We went with parsley as garnish, because we still have a field’s worth in our home herb garden. Plus, paprika reminds me of Deviled Eggs, and I hate those.

We figured tortilla chips counted as ‘corn or potato chips,’ so as directed,  we “arranged” them in a chip and dip bowl from Homegoods.

I’ll probably make this again; it was gone at the end of the night and it didn’t brown overnight, like guac often does. It was a little bit weird at first in the taste department though, because the tongue is expecting guacamole and, as we addressed, this isn’t that. But like green tea ice cream, it has an acquired taste.

I give this recipe three and a half bunches of jaunty cherries. Let me know if you make it with paprika, and if it was worth it.

HVAC Trading Cards? Sure, Why Not?

HVAC doesn’t sound like the most exciting topic to write about, but it’s actually pretty interesting.

The industry has long been a leader in energy efficiency, for instance. New technologies are always being applied to the development of products, and in the U.S., the “Made in USA” logo truly means something — creating not just exemplary products but jobs and expanding opportunities for those of us who live here.

It’s also an industry that has welcomed new forms of communication as social- and public relations continue to bloom. Part of the reason why is that there’s always new information to share in the HVAC biz, and even better, we have myriad places through which to share that content.

These guiding principles were behind a recent writing assignment I took on in tandem with Winstanley Partners for the KN Series of hydronic, cast-iron boilers. Starting with the idea of a technical brochure that would extol the benefits of the product to its key audiences, we took the assignment a step further, creating pieces of ‘mini-content’ that were even more targeted to core audiences.

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We didn’t negate that first idea of a one-sheet technical brochure, but rather created it to include components that could stand alone, and therefore speak directly to engineers, architects, builders, managers, and others.

As the copy and design started to coalesce, we soon noticed that the end-result was not unlike a set of trading cards.

HVAC trading cards? Well sure, why not? They’re shareable, printable, scale-able, and (yes) trade-able. That’s what we want when it comes to sharing information about a decidedly niche product. Plus, there are plenty of uses for such a thing – from social media content to trade-show giveaways.

These one-hit wonders were designed by Victoria Fiorini — copy by moi.








Writing on the Flip


Writers have come a long way in terms of where their words can be seen. Once relegated to the printed page, now we’re writing for virtual places all the time.

That’s what made a recent — and very tactile — writing assignment so unusual and fun. I was charged with writing a few highlights regarding the Berkshire town of Lenox, which were then placed on the literal flip side of some photo placards.

The placards are just one part of the newly redesigned Lenox Visitors Center, meant to offer information and inspiration to residents, tourists, and business people alike.

A handful of writers contributed to the project; below are a few of the snippets I was able to sneak through.


Placard Photos by Ed Acker.

5 am.







As it’s at the tail end of the period during which saying ‘Happy New Year’ still flies, it’s my last chance to write a little about a poetry challenge I took on earlier this year. Think of it as a wrap-up post and a resolution to write more poetry in 2015 in one.

Back in April — National Poetry Month — I signed on for the 30/30 Poetry Challenge organized by WordxWord. The goal was 30 poems in 30 days, with a different prompt each day and a 24-hour deadline to submit. Full disclosure: I only made it to poem 26 before life took over and I ran out of time. But that’s still 26 new works; some rushed, some thoughtful, some containing flashes of brilliance (dare say I) and some kinda crappy.

Such is the stuff of writing.

Prompts ranged, literally, from ‘Things we Carry’ (April 1) to ‘All she Wrote,’ (April 30). It’s strange to write poetry with the overall goal of quantity versus quality, but as the challenge progressed, I realized this is a great exercise: I was writing on a theme presented by someone else, and stepping outside of my writing comfort zone, which generally lasts longer than a day as I tinker and tweak. I found that ideas would pop into my head, and instead of torturing them into something that I felt reflected my poetic voice and viewpoint, I simply ran with them. The result was a broader selection of styles and topics than I normally tackle, and probably plenty of nuggets that I can coax into something even better later down the line.








One of my favorite poets is the singer/songwriter Mike Doughty, former Soul Coughing front man. he came to mind on April 17, when the prompt was ‘5 am’ and his song Screenwriter’s Blues, largely spoken word over an instrumental strain, started rolling around in my noggin. Instead of trying to get as far away from his words as I could and write something that was totally, uniquely me, I instead merged with his lyrics full force. Call it an homage, call it a mash-up, call it dreck … the point was not to amaze and dazzle. The point was simply to write, and the result is one of my favorite submissions, even if no one else thinks it’s worth a pile of magic beans.

I reiterate … such is the stuff of writing.

It is 5 a.m.

It is 5 a.m.,” (as a matter-of-fact.) “And you are listening to Los Angeles.”

The words are Doughty’s on the mic.
But could I say it better? No matter:
5 a.m. is bleak and hopeful, confusing and stark
the light is gray and piercing

there’s little noise, but what sounds
is deafening.

To drive seems foreign, to sleep natural,
but sleep evades (if we’re recognizing time).

It’s a gloaming when night fades and morning resists
It is 5 a.m.
and my own words don’t come
but those spoken by others
resonate like the snapping of a trap.
~ Jaclyn C. Stevenson (with an excerpt from Screenwriter’s Blues, written by M. Doughty) 2014