A Valentine’s Day story that you won’t want to miss

Posted in journal updates with tags , , , , , on February 13, 2015 by Tim Elhajj

Take Heart by Mari Casey.

But of course he doesn’t want to hear that truth. I can see it in his eyes. He wants to hear something that makes me forgivable—a sob story with neglect, abuse, foster homes, some chronic disease or horrible injury that required a prescription that got me “hooked,” any story with some mitigating factor. It wasn’t like that. He wants some part of my story to explain how I couldn’t have been as bad as he thinks I was, as bad reality was. He wants an excuse because he needs me to be better than a drug addict to fall for me, and he wants to fall for me. He likes me. He thinks I’m funny. He thinks I’m kind, bless his heart. But I’m not a special type of drug addict, not some innocent who accidentally fell arm-first into a needle. I’m not a bad person, either, just an addict. And I’m looking into his eyes which are searching for excuses I don’t have. I’m not a heroic survivor of tragic circumstances. I don’t know what to say.

Read more on Junk.


Merrill Sunderland Gives Us Stroke

Posted in journal updates on November 20, 2014 by Tim Elhajj

Stroke by Merrill Sunderland.

Few people are ever willing to barter with the boy: to trade a back rub for a neck rub, for instance, or a foot massage for a scalp massage. And those who even occasionally entertain such requests, he abuses without a second’s though. He becomes animal. He nudges and whimpers and lies down for them, his belly flat on the carpet.

Junk is back with new work from Gina Warren

Posted in journal updates on September 29, 2014 by Tim Elhajj

Some Things Calculable by Gina Warren.

“I’m noticing some tension between us,” Mom tells me, leaning forward to look past Dad, cramped into the narrow airplane seat between us. “And I would like to clear the air before our trip.”

Ten minutes until take-off.

Eighteen hours since I found Mom’s stash of Vicodin in the top left bathroom drawer.


Final Notice by Fiona Helmsley

Posted in Uncategorized on March 10, 2014 by Tim Elhajj

New work up by the fabulous Fiona Helmsley.

She dropped off the check that afternoon. It was for $287. My son’s father had died a few months shy of his fifty-first birthday with less than $300 in tangible assets. It was just a number, a bunch of pennies, dimes and nickels, but it still made my heart hurt.

More on Junk.

The Miserable by Andrea Clark Mason

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 14, 2014 by Tim Elhajj

As a young girl, Andrea dreams of revolution.

When Anne Hathaway walked onstage in a pink gown to receive an Oscar for her role in Les Miserables, I remembered the year I had seen the musical of the same name: 1988. I was in seventh grade. I had been happy and well-adjusted in elementary school, but in middle school, my female friends became intimidating, and an influx of hormones meant I suddenly didn’t know how to act around boys who used to be my friends. I turned silent, unsure of what to say to anyone except my best friend, who attended another school, and my family. I took refuge in the story about the French revolution.

More on Junk.


Reading While Driving by Michael Lacare

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 26, 2013 by Tim Elhajj

Because memoir should never be exemplary.

Whenever I drive, I often find myself reading a book. Not an E-book, but an actual hardcover or paperback book. I don’t do this every time I’m driving, nor do I do it if there happens to be someone else with me in the car, but typically when I’m riding solo.

I pry open the book at a stoplight, prop it up against the steering wheel and gaze down at the words. Every sentence or two, I habitually glance up at the light. Once it turns green, I hold the book up with my right hand while I grip the top of the wheel with my left. I’ve become quite adept at the art of reading while operating heavy machinery, and I’m convinced that no one is more skillful at it than me.

More on Junk.


A gallery of junk

Posted in Uncategorized on November 26, 2013 by Tim Elhajj

This is just a little test.

Junk has been Freshly Pressed

Posted in editor's corner with tags on August 28, 2013 by Tim Elhajj


Junk has been freshly pressed by the editorial team at WordPress, which basically just means we’re getting a lot of traffic.


It’s all coming in for Cheryl Strayed’s Heroin/e, a fantastic essay. We’re so proud she let us post it. I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I really don’t know Cheryl all that well. I am one of her Facebook friends because I am northwest writer and we have a lot of friends in common. I hadn’t even met her when I messaged her and asked if we could post her essay, because it fit so well with our journal’s theme. She wrote me back almost immediately. She made it seem as if I were doing her a favor by posting it. She is just that kind of person.

Now, because of her generosity, the WordPress editorial staff’s help,  a lot more people will get to read her essay. I’m so pleased to be a part of it. It’s a really good story.

Read it.

Read it again.

You won’t be disappointed.

Junk Talk Interview with Allen Zadoff

Posted in authors with tags , on February 4, 2013 by Tim Elhajj


Allen Zadoff is the author of several acclaimed novels including FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN’T HAVE, winner of the Sid Fleischman Humor Award and a YALSA Popular Paperback for Young Adults and the upcoming thriller series Boy Nobody. He is a graduate of Cornell University and the Harvard University Institute for Advanced Theatre Training. His training as a super spy, however, has yet to be verified. Visit him on the web at www.allenzadoff.com.

Holly Huckeba for Junk Talk: Overeating seems to have qualities that put it in a class all its own as an obsessive compulsion. Rarely do you hear of recovering alcoholics attempting to drink in moderation. How have addicts in recovery for other things influenced your own recovery from overeating? Does it work the other way, too, where your unique insights have been able to help those suffering from other obsessions?

Allen Zadoff: Great question, but I think there’s a parallel between recovery from alcohol and overeating.  Many food addicts like me discover they have alcoholic foods, substances that for whatever reason trigger a mental and physical obsession.  There’s a now-infamous story in HUNGRY where I attack a giant chocolate Easter bunny in a colleague’s office, then find myself returning to that office again and again over the course of an afternoon until the bunny is demolished. Chocolate addiction meets Mission Impossible. At the time, I had no idea I was suffering from an eating disorder.  Let me correct that. I was over 360 pounds, so I was clearly suffering from something. But I wasn’t yet in recovery and I had no understanding of the addictive cycle. Looking back on my Easter debacle, I see that one bite of chocolate triggered a physical reaction that caused me to crave more along with a mental obsession that forced me back to eat it again until I was sick.

I found later that if I abstained from certain trigger foods, alcoholic foods and behaviors that triggered the cycle, I was free from them. My alcoholic friends tell me that if they don’t pick up the first drink, they don’t get drunk. And if I don’t pick up the first bite of my alcoholic food, I don’t get food drunk. For many of us, the journey towards eating moderately begins with getting sober from alcoholic foods and behaviors.

The big difference is that I still have to eat. I have to find a new healthy relationship with food—food as sustenance rather than as anesthetic.  In this way, food recovery might be more akin to recovery from co-dependency issues or sex and love addiction. While a food addict can abstain from alcoholic foods and behaviors absolutely, they cannot abstain from eating. I’ve been very inspired by other addicts and the way they view recovery from their substances.

Junk Talk: The 90/10 model of recovery from overeating that you propose in HUNGRY is simple yet powerful (10% changing how we eat; 90% spiritual and emotional work). What does the 90% include for you, on a daily basis?

Allen Zadoff: Our dieting culture puts enormous emphasis on food and weight, doesn’t it? So 90/10 was a way for me to share that my focus had to be elsewhere. But I think it’s important to say that it starts with the food for me. It’s just that once I put down the substance, I realized the substance was never the problem. I think a lot of addicts can relate to this.  Life is the problem. Or rather, my reaction to life is the problem. It’s the reaction that causes me to need something to soothe myself.

So the 90% is about working on myself so I can find a way to live more comfortably in the world.  These days that looks like twenty minutes of meditation twice a day, prayer, therapy, working with fellow overeaters, reporting my food and behavior to someone who knows me and isn’t afraid to call me on it, reading spiritual literature, doing service in my community.

It’s always changing. And by the way, I do it all imperfectly. I watch a lot of bad TV, too.

Junk Talk: Food addiction can certainly benefit from some PR to override the public and media’s cynicism that it is somehow a moral failure. Do you see HUNGRY as part of that PR? Do you feel the need to educate the public or are you strictly speaking to overeaters in HUNGRY?

Allen Zadoff: I feel no need to educate. I’m just trying to share my experience in the hope it might be helpful to anyone who struggles with food, weight, and his/her body.  As a side note, one of the greatest letters I received from a HUNGRY reader was someone who said, “I gave your book to my husband, and for the first time in our ten year marriage, he said he understands who I am and what I’ve gone through.”  That was really gratifying to me, the idea that friends and family of people with food issues could gain some insight by reading the book.

Junk Talk: Your gratitude for overeating may come as a surprise to some readers. Tell JUNK readers more about how gratitude works for you.

Allen Zadoff: It’s a great irony that the thing that almost killed me ended up saving my life and opening my eyes. There’s a lot to hate about the years I spent overeating. As my body got bigger, my life got smaller until there was almost no life to speak of. On the other hand, food kept me sane and comforted me during a troubled adolescence and young adulthood. It worked until it stopped working, until the cure became the poison.

Eventually my total collapse around overeating opened the door to a new life for me—a life of community, spirituality, and emotional growth. I don’t think addiction is the only way to get a new life. But in my case, I ran out of options at 28 years old, and I had to change or die. Today I’m grateful for that.

Junk Talk: Where do you think HUNGRY fits in the literature: Self Help? Memoir? Diet book? Would a mere problem eater benefit at all from reading your book?

Allen Zadoff: I like to think of it as a funny memoir with a serious message. I hear from many problem eaters who write to say, “I don’t have it exactly like you had it, but a lot of what you said made me think, and some of the techniques you describe in the book are helping me.”

Junk Talk: You’ve written an award-winning young adult novel, FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN’T HAVE, about a fat kid in high school. How much, if any, of this story is based on your own experience in high school? Do readers often ask you this question? Do you think young adult readers expect more transparency and honesty from authors than adult readers?

Allen Zadoff: I’ve written three funny young adult novels now, but I’ve got a new dark thriller series starting next year called BOY NOBODY. An exciting departure for me.

About young adult readers, I think they have a great sniff test. If you lie, you lose them. Being authentic emotionally is very important in young adult literature, but that’s not the same thing as being factual.  My book FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN’T HAVE is based on how it felt for me to be big as a teenager.  For example, seeing the world based on the size of the chairs. I wouldn’t go to restaurants with booths because I might not fit. I avoided plastic and wicker because they were flimsy and I could break them. In my experience, there are not a lot of 15-year-olds obsessed with wicker. I don’t think you can fake a detail like that. It comes directly from experience. Those are the kinds of things you’ll find in my novels.

Junk Talk: You’ve got a splendid sense of humor, and laughter definitely helps to deliver the painful messages in both your fiction (FOOD, GIRLS) and non-fiction (HUNGRY). FOOD, GIRLS won the Sid Fleischman Award for humor, and HUNGRY is #3 on the Amazon non-fiction e-book list, so obviously plenty of readers enjoy your sense of humor. Do you ever get feedback that your self-deprecating humor hurts or offends some of your readers? If so, how do you respond?

Allen Zadoff: Most people find it refreshing. I try to approach very serious topics with humor and perspective, but it’s humor born out of a lot of pain. I was 325 pounds by the time I was a junior in high school. That didn’t exactly make me hot stuff on the dating circuit.  But my humor isn’t for everyone. And if it offends, I’m probably not the writer for you. I encourage people to find a writer whose voice speaks to them.

Junk Talk: You quote from WINNIE-THE-POOH throughout HUNGRY, which, in addition to your humorous style, brings levity to a tough subject.  But JUNK editors want to know: Is Pooh Bear really a food addict or is Milne’s lovable creation a caricature of an overeater? Or is more going on here?

Allen Zadoff: I quote only because representatives of the Milne estate were kind enough to allow me to do so! I don’t know about Pooh, but I fear his food issues are a bit more serious than he lets on.  Here’s the difference between us. I got to the point where food and weight were making me miserable 100% of the time, and Pooh seems to delight in his eating adventures.  Based on that standard, he’s just fine.  Cartman, on the other hand—That dude has a problem. We should talk.

A Bagel Never Jumped into My Mouth by Allen Zadoff

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15, 2013 by Tim Elhajj

For the new you, in 2013: Allen Zadoff and his inspiring story of self discovery with the eating disorder that was threatening his life.

Here is a little “taste.”

“One day in 1995, I was walking toward a McDonald’s on Eighth Street in New York’s West Village. My plan had been to buy healthy food at the grocery store and make myself a nice lunch, but the moment I stepped onto the street, like so many times before, my good intentions were tossed out the window for the siren song of fast food. I started to cry as I walked, knowing I was about to do the thing I didn’t want to do, the thing that had been hurting me all my life. Now at more than 350 pounds, this thing was getting near killing me.

“Suddenly, I stopped in midstride and turned back toward Washington Square Park. I’d never walked away from a binge before, and I had no idea why I was doing it then. Maybe I wasn’t really walking away. Maybe I was going to hijack a pretzel cart. I couldn’t be sure.

Read the rest in issue 10 of Junk . . .

%d bloggers like this: