Contributors Issue 9: “Escaped getting busted. Kept my cool. Stayed out of jail.”

Summer 2016 Issue 9

Theme: The heat is on.

To our contributors, we asked: Tell The Sigh Press about a situation when the heat was on but you kept your cool.


Elena Secci was born in Florence where she attended the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno. She currently lives in the countryside between Pisa and Livorno. Her paintings can be found in many private collections in Italy, Germany, and United States.


The heat was on when The Sigh Press asked this very question. Presently, I am in the middle of grading papers, writing student reports, and holding parent-teacher conferences, but I have to keep my cool and grin.


Ann Lettick is from Connecticut but has spent most of her life in Italy with stints in France and Mexico. She is a long-time lecturer of English language and American culture at the University of Florence. A writer of short stories and poetry, Lettick’s poems are largely based on her autistic brother. Her work appeared in the US in Exquisite Corpse.

The heat was on years back when I walked into a classroom of about 50 immigrants in a Los Angeles night school to teach them English as a second language. Had never taught such a big group before, felt like I was up on stage… Turned out to be my best job, with dedicated, grateful students. A point of pride was that I learned all their names.


Richard James Allen’s ten books of poetry, fiction and performance texts include Fixing the Broken Nightingale (Flying Island Books), The Kamikaze Mind (Brandl & Schlesinger) and Thursday’s Fictions (Five Islands Press), shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry. Australian-born Allen won the Chancellor’s Award for most outstanding PhD thesis at the University of Technology, Sydney. Widely published in anthologies, journals and online for over thirty years, Allen has been the recipient of numerous awards, nominations, and grants, and has enjoyed unique opportunities during his international career as an acclaimed writer, director, choreographer, and performer.

Physical TV
Fixing the Broken Nightingale
Richard James Allen

The “heat is on” for anyone trying to live the life of an artist in the 21st century.  Competing claims argue for your time and attention, challenge your sense of value and the worthwhileness of what you have dedicated your life to, fight to pull the development of your work off its coherent trajectory.  I keep my “cool” through the practice of yoga, which clears the pathways of the mind and body and allows the chaos of the world’s demands for attention to become a pattern, a dance of being, from which I write.

KB Ballentine’s work appears in River of Earth and Sky: Poems for the Twenty-first Century (2015), Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VI:  Tennessee (2013) and Southern Light: Twelve Contemporary Southern Poets (2011). Her third collection, What Comes of Waiting, won the 2013 Blue Light Press Book Award.

KB Ballentine

I teach high school theatre and we had our first dress rehearsal for Peter Pan. I run it just like the show, without interrupting or helping. During the set changes, it was taking them too long to move. I sat (im)patiently during the first two scenes, sweating them out, and finally helped move set pieces without saying anything. It was not a good rehearsal, but it was an excellent production (finally).


Jennifer Rieger is a writer and teacher in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She holds a BA in English, an MA in Literature, and is currently finishing her MFA with a concentration in poetry and creative nonfiction. When not revising, grading, or chaperoning high school events, Jennifer enjoys loving the hell out of the beautiful people in her life.

A blank page is daunting. It’s the writer’s crux of hope and anxiety. We analyze, we ponder, we stare at blank walls, and open countless bottles of wine—anything to invoke the muse that saves us from ourselves. But in the end, my advanced degree in procrastination pulls through, and I’m whole again.


Cary Tennis, prior to his role as advice columnist for’s “Since You Asked,” was a journalist, spoken-word performer, and musician. He studied English Literature at the University of Miami and Creative Writing at San Francisco State. With his wife, Norma, he now lives 90 kilometers south of Florence in Castiglion Fiorentino where he writes, in addition to holding writing workshops around the world. Tennis’ book, Finishing School: The Happy Ending to that Writing Project You Can’t Seem to Get Done, co-written with Danelle Morton, will be published later this year by Penguin/Tarcher.


Cary Tennis

When I was a longhaired hippie in Florida, I was driving across the state in my Volkswagen bug. I had some marijuana in the pocket of a jacket in the back seat. When a Highway Patrol dude pulled me over and asked if he could search the car, I said OK, as I knew he would anyway. As he leaned in to the back seat, I casually picked up my jacket, as if to reveal what was underneath, when the real prize was in the pocket. Escaped getting busted. Kept my cool. Stayed out of jail.