No Extra Words

one person's search for story


June 2017

Special Episode #15: Feature the Podcaster: my conversation with Jim Szabo of Second Hand Stories


Click on the picture to hear the episode!

I loved my chat with Jim Szabo, host of the Second Hand Stories podcast. We chatted about the inspiration for our shows, how we deal with submissions and what our pet peeves are, how much we love our writers, our recording spaces, and so much more. Here’s some links to the things we talked about.

And the two recommendations Kris gives to podcaster wannabes are:

Happy listening,


Meet Episode 85 Contributor Eivind Nerberg


Of Scottish-Norwegian parentage, Eivind was born, and lives in, Scotland. After spending most of his life teaching history and politics, he returned to his first love, writing. His story was previously published in the anthology Nano2ales by Franc Roddam (director of the movie Quadrophenia), and was one of the winners of a Guardian (UK) competition. A distillation of a year spent in Brighton, it was inspired by the novel he was working on at the time, The Man Who Would Do Nothing Twice. For more on that wonderful year, Googling “Walk A Pavement Once Again” will take you to the blog he wrote for the Brighton Argus’s on-line edition. His first novel, Cries from the Marianas Trench, isn’t set in the Pacific Ocean, but in North Berwick, a small Scottish seaside town. Parts of Cries have been published in an anthology of prize-winning short fiction, Story.Book (ed. Amy Burns), and in Glasgow’s West Coast magazine. He’s a sometime user of Twitter, where you’ll find him beside Brighton beach.

Happy listening,


Being an Ally Writer: Reflecting on Pride

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Last weekend I picked up a paperback copy of I, Emma Freke by Elizabeth Atkinson at my local used bookstore.

Like any book nut with limited shelf space, I have to differentiate between books I want to read and books I want to own. What elevated this book to the latter category is a relatively minor character, the protagonist’s best friend. She’s a nine year old girl with two moms. And what’s remarkable about that is how unremarkable it is.

Most books, especially children’s books, with LGBTQIA+ characters are about being LGBTQIA+. But for LGBTQIA+ people and their families, that identity is just part of who they are. Like all of us, they are nuanced and have many stories to tell.

The most clearly defining feature of the moms mentioned in this book is that they were on the older side when they adopted their daughter. So she and her friend, being typical kids, call them the Gray Moms because of their gray hair. If you’ve read this book and remember these moms at all, that’s probably what you remember. And it’s highly likely many people who have read this book don’t remember the moms at all…because it it is no big deal. But for the kid reading the book who has two moms, or whose best friend does, it’s a way of simply seeing themselves represented. And that’s both remarkable and entirely ordinary.

The good news about LGBTQIA+ representation in literature is that it exists and has gotten better. The Lambda Literary awards are now in their 29th year of honoring LGBTQIA+ literature and writers. And this post from Barnes and Noble shows that books with LGBTQIA+ books that don’t make sexuality their main theme are available…and great. Even though there aren’t enough of them.

The bad news is that recommendations, reviews, and book lists can still be hard to find. Googling “LGBTQ reads for kids” gets you this list from the San Fransisco Public Library. It’s not a bad list, but the median copyright date is 1996 and the newest published was in 2008. While there are certainly classics in this area (and if any historical fiction writers are reading this, I think the market for good historical fiction covering LGBTQIA+ history is ripe,) having this be the first thing would-be readers encounter is problematic. Even more updated lists have problems. This list from PFLAG has just seven fiction titles on it: four for teens and three picture books, no middle grade titles at all. Two of the teen books are from the 1990s. As a resource list, it’s very good…but where are the stories?

So the need is there. But how do I as a heterosexual cisgender female  writer acknowledge it and work on creating a more inclusive literary community?

The number one thing any of us can do to promote diversity in writing is to support diverse writers. My Google adventure made it clear that while these books exist and are fantastic, they are not getting the attention they deserve. You can help by reading them, promoting them, reviewing them, and talking about them. You don’t have to be an LGBTQIA+ reader to appreciate a good story. I was thumbing through VOYA, a trade publication for librarians, yesterday and found an article that sadly is not currently available online about how authentic representations of minorities in children’s literature is in some ways more important for white kids than minority kids. If children of color can easily relate to classic characters like Harry Potter, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the kids in the museum in From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, certainly white, middle class, suburban kids can relate to and learn from Amira in The Red Pencil, Maddy in Bayou Magic, or Naomi in Becoming Naomi Leon providing they have access to these characters. Reading about people different than us is one of the great gifts literature gives us…story is story. Not getting pigeonholed as a reader and reading and sharing stories by a diverse and talented group of authors is something I can easily do.

But can we do more? Can I also include some of these characters in my writing?

This gets to be dicey category pretty quickly. I remember the stir Patrick Jones created when he wrote about being a white writer portraying minority characters for Voya last year. Writers are always told, write what you know, and then one beat later that stepping outside of who you are can be very powerful. But you can step too far too fast and drown out the voices we need to hear. The fabulous website Gay YA keeps a master list of young adult titles that feature LGBTQIA+ protagonists, while at the same time acknowledging that some of those characters and books are problematic. I don’t want to be the well-meaning writer that creates problematic characters. But I also know without the groundwork by writers who created these admittedly problematic characters back in the 1980s and 1990s, there is no Will Grayson, and no Tiny Cooper, not to mention the 100s of other characters celebrated over on Gay YA and that would indeed be tragic.

For Episode 82, I wrote a short story of just 100 words and four of those were the writing prompt. My main character has two moms. You don’t get a lot of backstory in 100 words, but it was an important enough point in this character’s life that I included it. I did it without thinking about it. It wasn’t a defining moment in the story, it wasn’t my intent to make this character a token, she is just someone with two moms, just like the best friend in I, Emma Freke.

The instant that episode went live, I found myself worrying. Did I portray this character in a way that was offensive? She gets angry at her moms in the story for what they are doing to her and remarks that they aren’t even the interesting sort of lesbians (or something to that effect, in 100 words you have to cut a lot.) Would that be seen as inherently homophobic? I worried a lot about that little story. But all the feedback to date has been positive. I’m glad I took the risk. I’m glad that at the time I took it I didn’t even think of it that way, just as me trying to create the best character I know how to.

I 100% understand that diverse voices need to come from diverse communities and that as I speak from privilege there’s only so much I can say on this issue. But I don’t want writers to be afraid to include the people around them in all their complex glory for fear of offending. I will never forget when a friend of mine discovered that Ezra Jack Keats was a white man. As a child, the characters in his books were among the few she could find on library shelves who looked like her and lived in a world like hers. Her whole life she had imagined Ezra Jack Keats as a loving grandmotherly black lady. Finding out that he was a white man who was inspired by the children in his neighborhood surprised her, but did not offend her. It made the characters no less real and it made their inclusion in her childhood no less important.

I don’t have answers, but it’s good to poke at literature a bit and see what the barriers and who the gatekeepers are. It’s Pride weekend here in Seattle and there are lots of things to read that challenge and inspire the way I look at the world. There are still problems to solve, but more stories are being told. One of many reasons to celebrate.

Happy Pride,












Episode 84: Life After Death

Copy of FLASH

Not what you think. This is what happens to the living that the dead don’t have to deal with.

“The Adequate News Report” gives us just the facts, and just the end. As in all good microfiction, you get to come up with the beginning. By Dan Seiters, copyright 2016, used with permission. Read Dan’s bio.

Paul and Emma have had “A Death in the Family,” and someone has to decide how they tell. By Amanda Staples, copyright 2017, used with permission. Read Amanda’s bio.

No new announcements on today’s episode, but definitely think about contributing your 100 word story to our Instagram challenge and check out how you can support the show. Supporters also get a behind the scenes look at how I used Google to create poems like the one featured on today’s episode “What Happens After Death?”

Dealing with Grandma’s death is one thing. Getting Grandma to her final resting place is something different in “The Ministry.” By Niles M. Reddick, copyright 2014, used with permission. Visit Niles’s website.

Happy listening,


Meet Episode 84 Contributor Niles M. Reddick

Niles first joined us on our 2017 baseball opening day special and is back with a delightful story for Episode 84.

Niles Reddick fishing pic head shot (2)

Niles Reddick is author of a novel Drifting too far from the Shore, a collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in many literary magazines including The Arkansas Review: a Journal of Delta Studies, Southern Reader, Like the Dew, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, The Pomanok Review, Corner Club Press, Slice of Life, Faircloth Review, among others. His website is

Happy listening,


Special #14: Drabble on Instagram: Magic Contained

The second installment in our Instagram challenge series. One minute. One story. One hundred words. Click the photo to hear it. Click here to find out how you can participate.


Happy listening,


Meet Episode 84 Contributor Amanda Staples

Amanda was with us previously on Episode 77 and Episode 81. It’s always a delight to welcome back a repeat contributor.

energy photo

Amanda lives in Bristol and has had various short stories published. She won 3rd place in the Grimsby University International Literary Competition, was published in the anthology by Hammond House, and had a story commissioned by Fantasia in the USA. She has previously been placed in a novel writing competition and is currently long listed for the National Novel Writing Competition (Jan. 2017.) Amanda has a one-act play going in to production later this year. In 2016, Amanda self-published a cook book titled Eating for Energy based on her experience of managing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by diet. She has a novel out with agents and hopes to turn her passion into a career.

Happy listening,


Meet Episode 84 Contributor Dan Seiters

More microfiction for Episode 84, so excited!

As publicity manager for Southern Illinois University Press for more than two decades, Dan Seiters wrote jacket copy for about 1,500 books. He is the author of the novel The Dastardly Dashing of Wee Expectations and the nonfiction book Image Patterns In the Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Among his short stories are “The Killer, Trained and Devastating” in The Viet Nam Generation Anthology “The Untimely Death of the Other Frank Sinatra” in When Last on the Mountain and “Bones and Blue Ribbons” in Front Range: A Review of Literature and Art.

Happy listening,


Episode 83: Losing Sleep

Copy of FLASH

Up late wondering if they know what they are doing to memories of “My Last Husband.” By Mary J. Breen, copyright 2013, used with permission. “My Last Husband” first appeared in The Waterhouse Review in January 2013. Read Mary’s bio.

Today’s episode features a silly campfire story by Kris Baker Dersch. The three guardians of this podcast are Submissions, Promotion, who would like to introduce you to the wilds of Instagram and YouTube, and Support.

Writing spaces for Episode 83 features Steven Mayoff, who was previously with us on Episode 47 and Episode 56. Click here to see his writing space.

Our second Writing Spaces contributor is Rachel Lyon, whose work can be heard on Episode 46. Click here to see her writing space. You can also see detailed photos of the balloon, the lion, the angel, and the novel-in-progress featured in her piece.

It’s always hard to explain a dream. “I Had Children in a Dream” is by Stacy Stepanovich, copyright 2016, used with permission. Read Stacy’s bio.

The Google poem featured in this episode is by Kris Baker Dersch and is the launch of our fundraising campaign on Patreon. You can view the video of the Google poetry writing technique by becoming a Patreon sponsor to the show. The poem is called “Lost Sleep” and is inspired by the stories of this episode.

We’ve all had that middle of the night feeling like it’s “Three in the Morning and You Don’t Smoke Anymore.” By Peter J. Stavros, copyright 2016, used with permission. Visit Peter’s website.

Happy listening,


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