Sixteen Things I Would Tell my Sixteen-Year-Old Self by special guest Lita A. Kurth

“Here is the question: If you could talk to your 16-year-old self, what would you say? What advice, warnings, or encouragement would you give your younger self?”


Sixteen Things I Would Tell my Sixteen-Year-Old Self

  1. Do you know how beautiful youth is?
  2. There is more to discover looking out the window than in the mirror.
  3. There’s an intellectual word called “agency” and it means our ability to influence our lives. Some say we don’t have any; others, that the entire responsibility is ours. I claim our agency is small, but powerful.
  4. You’ll be so happy to remember the times when, in the midst of narcissistic agony, you were able to think of others.
  5. One day you’ll appreciate your mother, when the bread you bake is nowhere near as good as hers, and you can’t seem to get your canning jars to seal.
  6. One day you won’t have to worry so much about money. You’ll buy a hundred-dollar pair of shoes (but you’ll never take it for granted).
  7. People don’t learn much from what’s spoken through a bullhorn. It might be necessary to speak through a bullhorn, but that’s a rare occasion.
  8. Promoting good is better than fighting evil.
  9. There are wonderful rewarding lives to be lived below the radar, niches upon niches, webs upon webs. Partake.
  10. The extremely memorable moments are not the ones unique to you, but the universal ones: lovemaking, parenthood, natural splendor.
  11. You’ll want to be a mother someday.
  12. You’ll get to be a mother someday.
  13. Small and beautiful dreams can come true. To be a published writer is not out of your reach.
  14. For fifteen years you’ll be a runner, yes, you, my little bookworm.
  15. Commitment is magical, just as Goethe said.
  16. The ability to work continually and consistently may be one of the greatest gifts a person can have. Persistence leaves genius in the dust.
Sixteen Things I Would Tell my Sixteen-Year-Old Self by Lita A. Kurth

Lita A. Kurth

______________________________________________________© 2012 Lita A. Kurth

Lita A. Kurth’s Bio:  Lita A. Kurth teaches Composition and Creative Writing at De Anza College and in private workshops and regularly contributes to She has published essays, poems, and short stories in NewVerseNews, Blast Furnace, ellipsis…literature and art, the Santa Clara Review, the Exploratorium Quarterly, Tattoo Highway, and Vermont Literary Review as well as erotica (under a pseudonym) in and An excerpt of her novel was published as a story, “Marius Martin, Proletarian,” and appears in On the Clock: Contemporary Short Stories of Work (Bottom Dog Press). A work of nonfiction, “Pivot” appears in the 2012 University of Nebraska anthology, Becoming.  Here are two websites where Lita’s work can be found: The Review Review and Tikkun Daily.   She holds an MFA from the Rainier Writers Workshop.

Letter to Myself at Sixteen by special guest Erica Goss

“Here is the question: If you could talk to your 16-year-old self, what would you say?  What advice, warnings, or encouragement would you give your younger self?”


Letter to Myself at Sixteen

I saw you on the street today

eyeliner planting little black seeds

in your tear ducts.

I picture you reading this

in one of your dreams, a jumble

of banned books, torn paper, frayed

blankets and advertising logos

where you work on your future

every rough or delicate detail

like the pieces in a child’s wooden puzzle:

shaped for incremental comprehension.

In this dream I have

your brief attention:

the past cannot be censored

and my archaeology is your future.

I want to protect you, bony girl

warn you away from what dazzles you

snatch the broken glass from your plate

but I’m just another

grown-up woman, creased brow

and a purse stuffed with middle-age

heading home to a quiet house

where paper sacks

filled with outgrown toys

wait by the door.

Letter to Myself at Sixteen by Erica Goss

Erica Goss

____________________________________________________© 2012 Erica Goss

Letter to Myself at Sixteen by Erica GossErica Goss bio:  Erica Goss is the winner of the 2011 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Contest. Her chapbook, Wild Place, was published in 2012 by Finishing Line Press.  Her poems, articles and reviews have appeared in many journals, most recently Connotation Press, Hotel Amerika, Pearl, Main Street Rag, Rattle, Eclectica, Blood Lotus, Café Review, Zoland Poetry, Comstock Review, Lake Effect, and Perigee.  She won the first Edwin Markham Poetry Prize in 2007, judged by California’s Poet Laureate Al Young, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2010.  Erica is a contributing editor for Cerise Press, and writes a column on video poems for Connotation Press.  She holds an MFA from San Jose State University. Visit her website.

Light Keeping by special guest Signe Pike


Signe Pike’s essay, Light Keeping, has been removed.


Light Keeping by Signe Pike

Signe Pike Bio:  Signe Pike is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Faery Tale: One Woman’s Search for Enchantment in a Modern World. Her recent collection of poetry—Native Water—was a #1 Kindle Bestseller.


Maps by special guest Elizabeth Eslami

“Here is the question: If you could talk to your 16-year-old self, what would you say?  What advice, warnings, or encouragement would you give your younger self?”



I’m supposed to tell you I’d hug her.            

Sixteen and she’s swallowed three seasons of the year by a men’s black wool coat that she thinks makes her look mysterious and androgynous, Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club or Jimmy Smits in NYPD Blue. Bangs to hide her face, soft plum of a chin, then another chin. Her acne’s bad but it could be worse. A couple of months ago, it dented her cheeks like someone held her face too long.

She’s hiding in the attic, reading, always, or writing plays for movie stars that come back – return to sender – accompanied by lawyer stationery, disclaimers. Mr. Martin has not received or read this material.  It’s hard to think with the engine. Outside, her father’s driving a tractor in circles, chopping and spitting weeds. Her mother wants her to drink more milk.

On her elbows so long her hands go numb. There’s no screen in the attic window and the bees get in, fat and wobbly, and fly around the small of her back, their feathery legs dangling.

She doesn’t want a hug, doesn’t want anyone to touch her. She wants to know the future. Is asking me, ghost of thirty-four, of iPads and crow’s feet and trick knees, about the future.  And so maybe I tell her.

I am sorry to inform you that sixteen is the year someone will throw twenty-three spitballs at the back of your head while you’re in the library reading Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire. Twenty-three: you’ll count them. You’ll pretend it’s not happening because you think you deserve it somehow, will wish you were thirty-four and brave and could walk over and tell this person to go fuck himself. But it won’t matter because when you’re thirty-four, you’ll see a photograph of him and he’ll be hunched and bald, wearing sockless loafers, standing on a boat that’s supposed to make up for the fact that his high school years were the best of his life.

You’ll see. Little by little, the bandages will come off.

You’re going to go to college, you’re going to go to New York, you’re going to have sex, you’re going to cry a lot, you’re going to sit on a wet bench smoking cigarettes, watching strangers get married in a park, the bride’s dress sweeping through goose shit. You’re going to talk to your friends on the phone, tell them how miserable you are while snow blows on the foot of your bed. You’re going to put cinnamon in your coffee and you’re going to call your mother and ask her how to make scrambled eggs. You’re going to watch Juliette Binoche in Blue and decide that’s who you want to be, French and beautiful and widowed, wearing a new, more form-fitting black wool coat. You’re going to have a crush on a girl in your D.H. Lawrence class whose cheeks look like apples and cream and you’ll decide you’re a lesbian for three months until you develop a crush on this girl’s boyfriend who has a beard and wears flannel shirts and smells like wilderness. You’re going to be bored and foolish and scared and thrilled. You’re going to, for an indecent amount of time, live on mashed potatoes and bagels.

It’s not going to be what you want because you’re not ready for it. You’re going to be surprised.  This poor girl, she doesn’t even know.

The things you love, the things you hate, will basically be the same in twenty years, give or take. These questions will keep you up at night, irradiating you, a trembling skeleton in the bed. That’s okay, really. Your heart will gush, but you’ll sit up, dip your pen in the blood, and write it all down. You’ll write a whole fucking book.

The things you find funny now – that time rehearsing “Tom Thumb, Tragedy of Tragedies,” when somebody farted, when you squeezed each other into corsets, when you and your best friend were each other’s prom dates, when someone mispronounced a word and it became hilarious in its new incarnation, a word you’d carry around and pull out like a magic trick prompting cackle-laughter and snort-spit – all these things you will forget for a time, scattered and fallow in your skull. But they will come back, buzzing like locusts.

You should thank your teachers. Tell them the truth, that you don’t understand everything – anything – but you know you want to be like them instead of like Juliette Binoche. Stop skulking. Your teachers have given you a gift, and the least you can say is, hey thanks, I’ll remember you. Because you will.

That man you’ve been looking for? You already know him. One day soon, out of the blue, he’s going to call you up and for no reason either of you can understand, you will whisper into the phone for five hours, until your throats hurt and your mother leans through the kitchen and shushes you.  You’ll lose him for a few years, keep bumping into him buying trash bags and talking about books in parking lots. Have you by any chance read – ? Yes. Yes. Yes.  

That your mother was right about the milk.

That terrible things will happen, and beautiful things will happen, and you will live them out but not work them out, for they are the things that pull at you and freckle you and make those parenthesis around your eyes. Dearie, your body is recording your life.

But maybe I won’t tell her any of this, because I don’t believe in straight lines, in inevitability, that there’s a high probability that she will become anyone.  I don’t know what would happen to her, what could happen to her, if she waits five more minutes, takes a different train. There she is now, shapeless and jittery, on a street somewhere, pretending she doesn’t need a map.

Oh hell. Can’t I give her a map?

_________________________________________________ © 2012 Elizabeth Eslami

Maps by Elizabeth Eslami

Elizabeth Eslami


Elizabeth Eslami Bio:  Elizabeth Eslami isMaps by Elizabeth Eslami the author of the novel Bone Worship (Pegasus, 2010).  Her essays, short stories, and travel writing have appeared in numerous publications, including The Millions, The Nervous Breakdown, Matador, and The Literary Review, and her work will be featured in the forthcoming anthologies Not in My Father’s House: An Anthology of Fiction By Iranian American Writers and Writing Off Script: Writers on the Influence of Cinema.  Her story collection, The Hibernarium, was a finalist for the 2011 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. She currently teaches at Manhattanville College.  For more information, visit her website at Elizabeth Eslami