Monday, December 29, 2008
1) weird object at the center of weird doings
2) weird person claims knowledge of object, but really just has an experience of its effects from the past--doesn't know the why, but fears the how
3) new events mirror past ones, protagonist or protagonist loved ones doomed
The moral being that we must respect the unknown and its unknowability. which is silly, of course. I'm no fun.
Friday, December 26, 2008
oh, and I'm not usually a whiner about these things, but who sends out rejections on christmas day? lump of coal in my email . . .
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
(contest: where would you place the word 'dewy'?)
massive issue with massive people--I'm pretty thrilled and can't wait to read it. but I may have to wait--the holiday is imploding. Mom in hospital, low enrollments, the tax document is hinky ($800 for a title search? really?), and we still haven't worked out the in-law visit.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Psychological horror sucks because in narrative art, psychology is tyrannical: take a pill, get some therapy, have a break-through moment with the parent-fiend, and all the monsters fade away or at least settle down. If not, become the monster. However, Antosca eschews conventional emotional entry and exit ramps, preferring instead to dive right into an environment of terror and staying there, pretty much. We don’t really have a coherent sense of Bram’s BIG PROBLEM prior to the start of his dark adventure, and the overwhelming majority of experiences are interpreted within an alternate realm, using that realm’s rules. My own dramatic expectations are provincial, so I resisted Bram’s immediacy at first (some evidence points to the draft having spent time in first person), and I wanted him to do more to earn my attention. But soon I began to appreciate Bram’s facility: he was designed to channel the sadness of the other characters. Their stories, more showy than Bram’s, are focused and startling. Also inevitable. As soon as we meet Marian, for example, we know what’s in store. Suspense about her fate is not the point.
For me, the novel’s most major accomplishment may be one that no one else cares about: Antosca writes about the influence of nightscapes, particularly those of the rust belt and Appalachia, on the lonesome mind. I am no less than rocked by certain details, like the glow of a distant strip mall, the constancy of which is as troubling and spooky as shadows in the woods. The strip mall is a haunted place—well of course it is.
That’s all I want to say right now. I loved the book, and it surprised and pleased me. I have a lot of questions though, probably because I consumed it in one sitting, with my own fussy dogs harassing me as if they knew how the damned thing ended. If you like dogs, dads, and dead kids, this book is for you.
ps--yes I read a copy that was hard to read. Still enjoyed it though. Big time.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
seriously, follow the instructions on the envelope, no matter how excited you are about getting your hands on a copy of Nick Antosca's Midnight Picnic. Because then you won't get all those packing boogers everywhere like I did when I just ripped the envelope open.
Can't read it tonight, though. I'm on my own with the dogs.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Insane amount of work coming my way via email tomorrow (yeah Sunday), so tonight I hope to write. I don’t know what about, but the title I’m playing with is ‘hey. I have something for you.’
But first, it looks like women are supposed to put recipes on their blogs. Here are the only ones I know. I’m sure they are not original. For the meat dishes, roast in 350-475 degree oven for two to nine hours, and for God’s sake, don’t wander off.
for Christmas day: Mom’s beef stew
2 or 3 packages of stew beef (weight watchers can get away with 1. Makes no diff, all you will taste is salt. yummy,yummy salt)
1 can soup each flavor: tomato, cream of mushroom, french onion, beef broth
hunks of onions, carrots & potatoes (2part onion to 1part each other veg, in the proportion that fits in the pot. do not peel the potatoes, you wuss.)
chopped garlic (cook’s choice)
probably some water (a cup or two? ish)
definitely some cheap intense red wine, like Carlo Rossi Paisano, although I have no idea what you can do with the rest of the jug. It’s pretty nasty.
1 small can corn (Warning: do not ruin this stew with peas)
combine everything except corn and cook until the beef is your bitch—oven or stovetop is fine, but watch the liquid. When done, mix in the corn. Serve with rice first day, over French fries all subsequent days.
New Year’s or your Father’s Wake: Pork Roast and Knedliky
The roast is a no brainer, but you need one of those big pork loin roasts with actual fat on it—not a tenderloin. If you are cooking for someone over the age of 38, please remember that he/she grew up when trichinosis was still a concern, and firm, sliceable pork is repulsive. This roast is not done unless the meat explodes and collapses at the touch of a fork. In fact, to be on the safe side, wait until the meat is so defeated that you can eat it with a spoon.
Garlic , Salt. Pepper
Some liquid, to about ¾ inch of the bottom of the pan—I’m a recent enthusiast for Progresso Hearty Tomato, but you may be getting tired of my canned soup promotion, so water will work fine.
Half stick butter
Roast all this forever under a tight lid, but watch it any way. When done, remove roast from pan to platter—this should be extremely difficult if you’ve cooked the thing properly. And the plattered meat will look like a nightmare. But the most important thing is: SAVE THE POT LIQUOR. My grandmother called it some Polish or Czech or maybe even secret nazi term that sounded like vuh-muss-tik. You pour the vuh-muss-tik on the klen-necky. Which I have since learned is actually
6 eggs, sure
one or two boiled mashed potatoes (peels removed this time)
4 to infinity handfuls of flour
teaspoon of baking powder
again with the salt, whatever
milk to work it—1/2 cup?
mix all together and knead until just elastic.
Form into golf-tennis ball size dumplings and boil. They will rise before they are done, so test one before you drain and keep testing until you find a cooked one. These are heavy, chewy dumplings that you cut with a knife and fork. In fact, they will be significantly more authoritative on the plate than the pork roast. I suppose you could serve a veg with this. Dad liked creamed corn. ugh. Next morning cut up the leftover dumplings and fry up with scrambled eggs.
Friday, December 5, 2008
targeting sophomores, non majors. reading scads of short, strange prose for the first half of the semester-discussion, quizzes, short essays and reviews. Then writing/modeling original tales second half semester. small group workshops and blackboard discussions.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Plus, this week's story is by Ryan Crider, PhD candidate in English and Creative Writing at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette--one of the best schools in the world for that sort of thing. Go Ryan!
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Oh well, I can always put her on the Buck Downs postcard list.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
I was weirded out by his interpretation of my characters' actions. Because they didn't have a righteous purpose at all. They were trying to kill a guy.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I’m thinking about dirty words, partly because my current fiction workshop is pretty swear-y, and I’ve taken no steps to control it. To be honest, I hardly notice, except when one of the women in the class makes a face. My class is made up of 4 women, 17 men—the men do all the swearing. The women don’t swear, but they write about rape and childbirth in ways that make the men squirm. I had a filthier workshop a few years ago—again, it was men doing the swearing, but in that instance it seemed obvious that the f-bombs were being dropped as a nervous reaction to the presence of assertive Muslim women in the class. The English major is now more diverse, but not too long ago the presence of opinionated women in scarves scared the living shit out of our usual population of fat athletes, ADHD preppies, and the home-school refugees.
My current class is pretty sweet though, despite the fact that they should not be kissing their mothers with those mouths. For example, they know that phlegm imagery makes me gag, so if the subject comes up (and you’d be surprised how often it does), they substitute specific references with the letter X—as in, “He wiped the X from his face.” I feel guilty about that, but only a little.
Friday, November 21, 2008
About a year ago I learned that my family on my mother's side were Quakers before they became Methodists, which feels so right I can't describe it. I also learned that I had a relative named Boyd Carlisle who tied his horse's lead around his leg because he couldn't find a tree. He wanted to stop for a smoke. At the sound of the match strike the horse bolted, dragging Boyd Carlisle for a long time. It took him about three days to die. This was in 1934 in Indiana. 'Uncle Boyd' has been characterized (by other dead cousins) as a naive speaker and different to the extent that he was not permitted to manage his own money. He was 62 when he died.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Last night we saw Robyn Hitchcock performing his 1984 album I Often Dream of Trains, and it was a great show. I’m not nostalgic, but I do like the idea of albums becoming set lists as a way of reasserting the necessary relationship between songs, even if, and perhaps especially, the songs are performed out of order. If we operate from the assumption that all albums are concept albums, the whole album concert shouldn’t just be about returning to the past.
Hitchcock is still does his trippy patter between songs, having never made the Peter Gabriel transition. Gabriel used to tell weird stories between songs when he was in Genesis, while the band tuned their instruments, but when he went solo he abandoned fantasies for secular parables. I’m not complaining about that. Gabriel’s sermonizing directly influenced the Sun City and Band Aid projects which led to heartfelt embarrassments like Live Aid and We are the World and on and on. However one feels about the nebulous agenda of Live 8, early on in the cycle it did feel like activist concerts provided concrete responses to concrete problems. I mean, Sting cured Apartheid, right? Oh where have I gone with this . . . Robyn Hitchcock never changed the story he tells, and I suppose his political/social influence is nonexistent, but as I listened again to his excellent love songs about transportation and infrastructure I couldn’t help but think how brilliant he would be on the Fairfax City Council.
Hitchcock did not play “Furry Green Atom Bowl.” I think all of the encores were Queen Elvis era and later. I woke up this morning pissed at the Beatles for being such greedy bastards.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
But back to the demystification angle. I’ve never met a successful novelist who described novel writing as anything other than painful. I’ve never met a student novelist who described novel writing as anything other than joyful. I’ve never met a novelist who could tell me how to write a novel. Or maybe they can and they don’t wanna? So we learn by doing, doing, doing. In the absence of any other willing authority, NaNo exhorts us to do, do, do. I know this sets aside the old whiskey breathed chastisement, “A writer writes”—which may be true after all—but that’s not a good enough answer to any question. It’s certainly not education.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
And speaking of writers in dialogue, I’m going to try to go on an HTMLGIANT dot com diet, see if I can’t go the whole weekend without checking in on the laddish banter, which is starting to creep me out and certainly distract me. For example, the Sam Pink urgency may have gotten to the point where they will start posting recipes on how to cook him for Thanksgiving. And now we’ve come to my point: I wanted to put Pink, Fox, and Forche in my labels.
Off to ride my bike along the C&O, then back to the cabin to work on the novel.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Later in the day I met one of those "undecided" voters; I'd honestly thought they were creatures of myth. This person played Bartleby for a while before confessing that the lack of civility in the whole process was too much to endure. I can almost see that.
Monday, November 3, 2008
But in the middle of the day today, I took a break to host a NaNoWriMo write-in (the first of 10), and I have to say that was a lovely, peaceful, and creative 90 minutes. Reject negativity.
Si Se Puede, babies.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Getting interviewed about pinball today, because we own an Earthshaker! machine, and because the Department has hit bottom in its search for interestingness. I blame the election for this desperate effort.
machines I want but can’t have for space & financial reasons:
Cactus Jack (Tex-Mex cantina theme German Cacti exhorting you to throw fruit)
Bad Cats (lady hits cats with broom)
Whodunnit (actually attempts a narrative)
Wipe out (ski theme with surf music)
Funhouse (played this at a noisy festival in Houston, but we’re sure that Rudy [the heckling head] called me a bitch and dean a fucko)
Orbitor (fun with magnets)
World Cup Soccer 1994 (awesome and I don’t suck at it)
Cirqus Voltaire (give you strange feelings)
Sunday, October 26, 2008
anyway, these pieces form an emotional set for me.
Friday, October 24, 2008
In historical order
Wobert (big boy cat)
*DaNiece (shepherd/collie mix, could smile)
*Evil Roy Slade (baaaaad ass black cat)
*Flower (calico cat, hung out with neighborhood dogs, barked)
*Charmin (probably retarded cat, fell down the stairs all the time, from Flower’s first litter)
*Wayne Newton (half feral tortie, ran with bunnies, convinced a young possum to come home with her)
+Sheba (fat doxie, once chased emus around a pen)
*Sue & *Andy (feces eating shih tsus)
Buster (cat, outlaw)
+Tink (cat, snored and chewed scalps)
Monkey (half-feral cat, vocal, almost blinded brother in law)
Fig (terrier, looked funny, pooped on the sides of trees about a foot up)
+Daisey (beagle, best nap buddy, 4k+ in back surgery)
+Newton (Chihuahua-dox, wrestler, angry at leaves)
Einstein (Chihuahua-dox, uulater, wants to sleep inside you)
okay, that’s done.
*named by my mother
+named by prev owner
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Owing to a recent publication in Behind the Wainscot (red-headed stepchild to Farrago’s Wainscot), I now enjoy “SF tidbit” status, linked at sites with names like Quasar Dragon. SF web culture is rapid response and twinkly, and many of the sites are, um, busy to say the least. Also, producers of SF cultural objects still believe there’s money to be had out there, foregrounding distinctions between paying and non paying markets in a way that rattles my dusty academic sensibilities. Maybe I’m quaint. Maybe they are. Sometimes it takes me several years to write a story right. Proper compensation is impossible, so why ask? On the other hand, if you aren’t using that bucket of money . . .
I finished reading Ken Bruen's Priest , and it was stellar, so I'm planning to consume many more Bruen novels ASAP. However, before I can start on those, I must pick up Atkinson's Case Histories again. One of Bruen's publishers contacted me to say, yeah read my guy's stuff, but the Atkinson book deserves another look. And because I have a thing about being obedient to strangers (editors take note), I've gotten far enough into CH that I love it now.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Bought this "Young miss" for one dollar at a junk shop and found this letter folded inside.
It looks practice love letter, given its nonspecific passions. This phantom lover was one lucky pretend boyfriend.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Chris Baty visited mason a year ago to talk about NaNo, and he did a really cool routine about the tyranny of revision impulse and how everyone has a perfect first chapter.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
1) I only read short fiction online.
2) While I may gravitate toward briefer fictions, I end up reading an even mix of long and short-short.
Online fiction is much more vital, engaging, and exciting to me. I become depressed by the preserved aesthetic that pervades stories appearing in traditional lit magazines. (I hear this is changing, though, so I will endeavor to keep an open mind). As for length, it turns out that I will stick with anything that catches me with the title and opening paragraph, and I am less inclined to read anything, no matter how brief, that plods or is muted/coy.
I love reading flash. love writing it. But I have zero idea of what I’m doing or what’s good when I’m done. Every time a flash of mine is accepted for publication, I’m stunned.
and no, I won’t read a book about how to write ‘em. However, I might read a flash about how to write flash . . .
My latest technique, and it’s a deeply flawed one, is to watch the blog discussions and try to write with a particular editor in mind. It’s a decent start gimmick that inevitably unspools and gets away from me, and I’ve never sent the finished work to the editor I had in mind.
My flash confidence is in sharp contrast to my confidence in my conventional short stories. I know how to build those, finding the biggest challenge is making them interesting to me. Once I have my own attention, I tend to be able to place the story in a nice home.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Also fixed my time stamp so it no longer looks like I'm posting from the west coast.
Friday, October 3, 2008
I have a new porch toy (yes I know it looks like a sex chair, thanks), and I've worked out some stuff for the end of the book. An outline won't work, hence the indecipherable whiteboard. No I probably won't kill Elvis. Jackie the dog is visiting for the weekend.
I really want to write, but I bet I'll end up reading instead.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I wouldn't have had time to take a picture of my nitwittedness. Just heard that my story will appear in the Nov 15 issue of Storyglossia, which was what I was thinking about when I held the egg carton by the lid, extracted one egg, and dumped the remaining four to the floor. It's as if I had never encountered an egg carton before, and I was unprepared for its physics.
But enough of this grieving over lost breakfast and competence. Go read Paula Bomer's brilliant story, "Reading to the Blind Girl." That'll fix everything.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
There's really no sex in my other novel (the West Virginia book), which is complete but without representation. Probably not smart of me but I wanted to avoid rom com cliches, and write about a mature woman who could have adventures without leaning on a romantic partner. Instead of lovers she has friends who find her independence frustrating, and of course they are always trying to get in her shit.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I read Sweetheart this weekend, Chelsea Cain's (stripper name?) follow up to Heartsick. It was pretty good, much more simply constructed, short, etc. Less torture, more porn, which is always my preference. Cain's wrung her concept dry though, and I hope she moves on. Learn the Dexter lesson--two is great, three is wearying.
I also recommend Erik Secker's "The Red Door," a super neato short story in Farrago's Wainscot. All you need to know is that it features a brain dressed up as a meatloaf. Reminds me of the video for Gnarls Barkley's "Who's Gonna Save My Soul?"
bio note claims this is Secker's first fiction publication--that's great.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
To celebrate my impending world-wide fame, my man took me out to the breakfast buffet to get our thwok on before going to a movie that is receiving disintegrating reviews, so naturally I was looking forward to the front end of the day more than its middle, but did I ever get that all wrong. On my way to the hot cinnamon rolls I was over taken by a mother trying to quick march her kid to a safe zone. They didn’t make it. There’s a reason why mom doesn’t serve you Fruit Loops in chocolate milk at home. The substances, both magical, are highly reactive. The kid got sick everywhere, and colorfully. I quease easily, but kid sick isn’t all that gross, mainly because they don’t chew their damn food. I say this every time: this is my last dance at the OCB.
Then in the theater lobby we were treated to the sight of a man wheezing, sneezing, and hacking all over the butter and salt station. So yay for dry popcorn! Dean had none, so traumatized was he.
Things picked up as the trailers ran, and we were derisive and rude, especially during the promo for “Nights in Rodanthe”—really? Are they serious about this? Rodanthe? Had any of the film’s makers ever been to Rodanthe? Did they think Rodanthe sounded exotic? I guess “Nights in Salvo” or “Nights in Duck” didn’t cut it, and “Nights in Frisco or Avon” would set expectations too high. Dean made shot-gun loading gestures on behalf of Diane Lane’s character when Richard Gere asked, “But who takes care of you?”
And then the movie, “Burn after Reading”—this thing was fantastic, and not just because my breakfast sucked. I concede it isn’t for everyone—remember when Fargo first came out and some people reacted very badly to the wood-chipper scene? I’m just saying that if jolts upset you and you need to know why things are happening when they do, then you may fall into too deep a concern for message.
Friday, September 12, 2008
The "contest" ended today, and I just got word that one of the stories from my Louisiana novel made it!!! When S read a draft he commented: "What a fun way to examine the grotesque desires of humanity"
And while I'm being undignified I might as well spill it--I placed a story in a future issue of Storyglossia as well. It has been a BRILLIANT week for me.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
in other news, crimey writer and friend art taylor has a new blog, wherein (so far) he tackles narrative strategies and rhetoric WITHOUT cursing or invoking the Illuminati. This is a coffee in the morning blog.
I should really set up a blogroll. Maybe I'll do that right now instead of work, yeah?
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Friday, September 5, 2008
In other news, I'm pretty happy with my new set of students and their creative agility, especially as concerns the Flash fic unit we're into at the moment. We read the wigleaf top 50, and at least one student has proclaimed flash as his new fave form, and Garson has written a letter to my class about process. Despite the fact that I feel about as crazed as Dalek Caan, things seem to be off to a lovely start.
Monday, September 1, 2008
Home in VA now, where I will watch Gustav make a run towards Lafayette, one of my other favorite places. After my husband won a fellowship to take his PhD in Poetics at ULL (back when it was still USL), we left drought parched Ohio for rain drenched Louisiana in a heartbeat. Well really, in a battered Datsun that gave up the ghost shortly after we settled in. I determined that we needed a pick-up truck (we didn’t), and we chugged over to the nearest used lot where I selected a seriously under-powered Ford truck. Because I had made photo copies of Consumer Reports buying guides, I was considered to be the foremost expert car buyer in our family. It’s important to note that I don’t drive. We were encouraged by the approval of our friend, Cole Thompson, then a pre-novelist and drifting scion of an entrepreneurial Texas oil family, because he had a pretty blue Ford truck and declared our engine “nice and clean.”
The tail lights fizzled out before we got the vehicle back to our apartment. Luckily, Cole diagnosed it as a simple fuse issue--the first of many issues. My brothers, Doug and Sam, are both master auto mechanics. It never occurred to me to ask their advice, but if I had I’m sure they would have told me that Ford trucks are well built, they’re just a little cursed.
Months later Cole took us to his family’s 100+ year old vacation home on the Texas Gulf coast, where we got to watch his pretty blue truck slide down an algae slick boat ramp and into Aransas Bay, pulled there by the family fishing boat. That truck filled up to the dash and beyond. The groceries floated. Cole dived down to tie a rope to the truck, and when he came up a big jellyfish (cabbage head or moon) sat on his head like a beret. Cole took a lot of abuse that weekend, from his brothers, his fiancé, and the insurance lady (“well honey, those things don’t float you know”), but Dean and I had a great time. We didn’t have to be the grown ups. There was also quite a bit of southern masculine interpersonal junk--the other guys at the boat launch, the not-very-loquacious guy who towed us home--all of which blew right by us.
Not sure where Cole is now, but the last we heard is that he moved "up north," which is, I guess, a euphemism for landing a university job?
the lady just said category 2. and Anderson Cooper says Ali Velshi is tethered to something in Grand Isle. is that hot?
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Friday, August 22, 2008
- big messy pile of documents into small neat stacks--done
- learned how to use the tech in my classroom--done
Monday, August 18, 2008
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I stop here to remind the world that I am a rabid fan of Poe's unity of effect and all it's repercussions (I can see "S" wincing), and I am religious concerning how a short story is read. Poe tells us that reading a short tale should be an uninterrupted experience. Students often interpret this as an instruction to the reader, but really it is the writer's responsibility to create an object that captures the reader and holds her for the duration--making discipline unnecessary.
--Gischler's prose is immediately riveting. I saw that when I printed the freebie and read the first line. So I saved it for a hostage situation. Waiting room at the doctor's office today. Fox TV blaring. Repulsive sick people. Perfection. I'm not sure one should read this story in any other setting. When the worms kick in the drama really starts to rock. I left the pages in a dog eared copy of Golf Digest.
Tana French's sequel to In the Woods is just out, but Chelsea Cain's Heartsick has already done the job for me. This book needs no promo from me so I'll just say that from a writing pov, I was intrigued that the big hot-sick scene actually happens at the end, and not two thirds of the way through which is the way so many pervy thrillers play out. What that means is that book actually has a cool ending. I never say that. Caveat: whole lotta pawwp psychology goin' on.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
You’ve already seen reviews that tell you what Anthony Neil Smith’s Yellow Medicine is like, so I’m going to focus on my own interests. I just finished this fast paced thriller, and yet the stuff in it—bad cops, terrorists in the heartland, and general all around punkliness—is not as interesting as its complicated narrator, Billy Lafitte. To put it bluntly, BL is full of shit for two thirds of the book, making a lot of claims about what kind of guy he is, trying to invent a belief system to rationalize his nearly equal capacity for love and violence. He’s so consistently full of shit that the characteristic becomes the crucial vulnerability through which his power is filtered—a feature that makes this book vibrate.
Then, on page 167, Billy does something truly horrifying, and does it with an efficiency that is so unsettling I would argue he is insane until the end of the book. His uncertainties and bluster coalesce over an unspeakable transgression, and from that point on he has “no filter,” as the character Drew, the object of his most tender feelings, puts it.
Three craft notes: 1) allowing Billy to tell his own story is a big, bold move. I’m still mulling that choice, because while he is a fascinating observer, he would also be fascinating to observe. 2) Smith gently manipulates chronology, using a bit of film rhetoric that pairs nicely with Billy’s habit of frequently referencing TV and movie models of behavior. 3) Short book, short chapters, wild mix of sentiment and blood. Yes, that’s how to do it.
oh, and I almost forgot--a perfect last paragraph.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Shane Jones wants me to give him about 10 bucks for his new Greying Ghost chapbook, which will have to come out of my donation to the Democratic Party of Virginia. Hope he’s happy about that. So if VA goes red again, blame Shane.
People I have terrorized in the past have been quietly promoting my stories, much to my pleasure and shame. Thanks Mike and Ryan. Sorry about those MWF schedules. I will strive to become a better person.
And finally, Barry-I'm-not-a-monk-Graham says he loves me, but he also says he loves this chick, so I'm not picking out china patterns yet.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Eager to read it, but there is a down side to reading fiction by any of the PWG alumni. I start talking like I just walked out of an episode of Deadwood, which is, as anyone can tell you, unbecoming of a layyy-deee.
Didn't manage to write a lot while we were away, and you can tell because I have a tan. For shame.
Friday, August 1, 2008
So, obedience. Blake Butler wants us to write more, read more, write about what we’ve read. More. Will do. This morning:
Barry Graham’s “Cats and Dogs; Like Rain” from Thieves Jargon. The story violates my ban against substituting animal vulnerability for human complexity, but I loved it anyway for three reasons. 1, the image of a dog eating scalloped potatoes from the trash, 2, the noisiest character has the most to hide (I fall for that trick every time), and 3, the larger idea that negligence is so incredibly violent.
“Smoke and Mirrors,” kindly sent to me by the author Paul Byall –this story placed first in the New South fiction contest. A really fine piece of work that doesn’t summarize well, but it describes that condition of investing too much in a hollow relationship. You know it’s gonna be sad, substantial, and possibly-but no guarantees-redemptive, but what keeps me reading is the voice-a narrator who is all “I’m in control for ninety percent of this journey.” This tale is a heartbreaker, complete with a Crystal and a Kevin and a kitchen table scene to make you howl.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
But what we also witnessed, over and over, was an almost perfect miscommunication between fathers and daughters—men, bright eyed and grinning with excitement (lookit them stallions fight!) while their little sweethearts lost pink plastic sandals in the muck. A lot of tears, but not a lot of sympathy, not even from me. OMG Ponies indeed. Books are always better than the real thing. At least that’s how I feel right now, cooling my well scrubbed heels in a waterman’s cottage that looks like Dr. Caligari’s vacation home.
Having an awesome time, writing a little, reading even less. The naps are powerful, profound.
Friday, July 25, 2008
got a big, cold rejection yesterday, but one that occurred at the same time that I received a really swell attaboy from a reader, so the picking-up-and-dusting-off process went very smoothly.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
done finished that Down River. not as much action as King of Lies, lots of painfully revealing discussions, and then a bunch of neat stuff at the end. one character I thought for sure was going to die, but it didn’t happen. so that’s cool.
bookmarks. I will no longer use uninteresting bookmarks, like bookstore receipts or pieces of paper or leather designed to be bookmarks. I have a pack of drink coasters with British sports and beer logos, and those work great.
bookmarked in this photo--Christy Zink's story, "Taking Cover," from Electric Grace; Still more Fiction by Washington Area Women, and page 23 of ANS's Yellow Medicine. no, i do not plan to read these books simultaneously.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Too bad so many people are rising to The New Yorker’s bait. New Yorker cartoons can’t provoke for the same reason they fail to amuse. They’re just too obvy.
My resentment for the New Yorker goes a long way back and has everything to do with its influence on literary fiction, especially during the ‘80s. Someone once gave me a stack of New Yorker mags (hey you write fiction, you’ll like this pile of white man sorrow), and one of the issues had some music doodad insert that tweeted out a holiday song, like a musical birthday card. On New Year’s Day (we may have been under the weather) the chime went off on its own, so naturally D grabbed a large knitting needle and pounded it through the stack like a stake through a vampire’s heart. That’s my favorite New Yorker story.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
urrg. the writing is coming slooooowly, and by slowly I mean three to five word clumps. not even sentences. I think the problem is that I’ve entered a very plot-ty area and I am resisting its obligations.
so I write a bit, then take a break and read a little of John Hart’s Down River. Don’t ask me how the book is, you can’t trust my opinion. (So far the main character is having a lot of cryptic convos with old men. Oh, and he’s recollecting his painful youth) I read Hart because I noticed while reading his breakthrough novel King of Lies that I make a lot of the same writing choices he does, so much so that I can almost predict what the main character is about to notice or reason out. Content wise, I have nothing in common with Hart. And his characters are incredibly humorless and daddy-conflicted. But there is something eerily familiar about the rhythms, the imagery, and the attention. Maybe I’ve read all the same writers he has but came away with a sunnier disposition. Flannery O’Connor was funny, man.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Friday, July 4, 2008
4 or 5 years ago response to my fiction was a little more serious, a little more practiced, a little more practical. More about what I’d accomplished than what the reader experienced. Even my rejections are more gut level: an editor recently wrote that my submission “just didn’t do it for me. I don’t know why.”
I’m working on a theory, and it doesn’t have much to do with me.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Saturday, June 28, 2008
I’m not sure I want to write about this because I’m feeling both insecure and excited about the Louisiana novel, but I don’t want to be superstitious and I don’t want to forget this moment. Earlier this week I was overcome when I realized several parallels between my plot and that of Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven. I had to do the inventory a few different ways before I convinced myself that the similarities were not so substantial—after all I’ve never even read LoH. What followed then was a rush of new ideas, all of which are careening into the absurd, and as far from serious science fiction as I can scramble. What am I talking about? Well, for starters I’m bringing back Elvis and I’m giving women a third eye. Wish me luck.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
Okay, this question is for the world's workshop: That title?!?! What does it do to your reading?
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Also, two trade paper copies of Anthony Neil Smith's novel, Yellow Medicine, showed up on the Mystery/Crime shelves at my local. I'm going to buy one today. Pretty book, and being named Smith places it in very close prox to Martin Cruz Smith, which has to be a plus. Plot summary on the jacket is almost unintelligible. Cool. Maybe it's a Joe R. Lansdale kinda thing?
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Also, just finished reading Tana French's In The Woods. Dang, it's good, even if . . . sorry, no spoilers here. But I will say that the narrator is a flirty, charming Irish detective who enjoys giving foot rubs to his partner.
Friday, June 13, 2008
I learned this week that Hobart online has accepted one of my stories. Don’t know when it’ll go up, but I’m thrilled. The story is about Belize, Guatemala, and the perilous romance of travel. Stay tuned.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
These feel like related issues in that they flirt with superstition and mystic irrationality but really speak to the fact that my psychology hates me—
1) I dreamed about the West Virginia novel being published and immediately turned into an indie film, and conditions I thought were crucial had been altered with no loss of effect—main character male not female, the setting was a village in northern England not rural West Virginia, things like that. The dream bugs me because I’m always harassing my students to make sure, even in their so called genre or pop writing, that their choices are always essential, in-extractable and un-swappable.
2) I’m going back through the first 100 pages of the Louisiana novel and I’m really surprised and pleased at how naturally it writes itself. Even when I don’t want to write, I know that I can open up the file and it will change my disposition.
Check out youtube clips of Derren Brown’s stuff. It helps.
Monday, June 2, 2008
The myth of theme as anything other than an open container for intelligence has always interested me. I love arbitrary organization as long as it remains permeable and aware, and the best literary collections tend to be the ones that play with their own assumptions of content or push the extremity of formal restriction. The theme is interrogated from page 1.
At the same time, I’m deeply attracted to narrower venues that promise certain emotional outcomes, as in permanently dedicated horror or crime collections. I wish I could claim to be a reliably “Noir Writer,” but my dark fiction is more opportunistic than it is seriously crafted for excitement.
I have earned other labels though, as I’ll have a story in an anthology for Washington Area+Women Writers. Delightful, but these are two identities I don’t really inhabit or understand from an aesthetic point of view. I know what DC means in terms of food and interior decorating, but beyond that I’m clueless/curious.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Gravity Dancers: Even More Fiction by Washington Area Women, due out in Spring 2009. This is the 4th volume in the series, put together by Richard Peabody, whom you know as a poet, fiction writer, teacher, and editor of Gargoyle Magazine since its inception in 1976. Here he is in a WETA interview about the series.
How this kind of thing happens: on the recommendation of The Happy Booker (aka Wendi Kaufman), RP invited me to contribute, and he did say something to the effect of "if you're invited, you're in," but I'm always expecting takebacks. Now, did he like the story I sent him in January? Or is he gonna ask for something else?
it has been a cool weekend, yeah?
Friday, May 30, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
I also need to bite the email bullet, but before that happens I must scrub the sand and salt out of my chiweenies.
Friday, May 23, 2008
This, with emphatic finger pointing.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
meanwhile, back home where the ocean is just an idea and the mattresses are not so lumpy, my most sentimental student is trying to arrange a BBQ for his classmates. the semester concluded last week, and I am afraid he is about to learn that summer break is more powerful than comradeship.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I miss Kathe Koja, the horror writer. She used to write gruesome, sexual, psychological dark fantasy novels with artists as main characters, and the books were all pretty much the same, but each sort of lurched the argument—whatever it was—forward in giant, sloppy, steps. I think of her as splatterpunk’s Flannery O’Connor, in that she seemed to be writing the same problem over and over again. I guess that’s why she had to stop. Now she writes for the “Young Adult” market and her website doesn’t even name check those lost novels, The Cipher, Bad Brains, Skin (I think the critical favorite?), and Strange Angels (when she overstayed her welcome.) A collection of short horror, Extremities and an erotic novel Kink (unreadable) capped off the 90s and her work for an adult readership.
Lia Matera is one of them there lady-lawyer-writers. What I specifically miss are her Laura Di Palma mysteries, which were super-short and power packed. And they somehow managed to make an iffy cousin-love situation kinda hot.
I haven’t made many entries lately because I’ve been sick for almost two weeks now, and every shred of focus is going into comments on student writing. I’ve got my grades in, but with the novelers, grades are almost insultingly meaningless. My friend S said, when I mentioned a colleague picking up the bar tab for a group of writers: “I know students are strapped, but they really want your time and attention much more than they want your money.” Grades are like money, to my mind. And the whole thing reminds me that this was a very tough semester, beginning with me un-hiring a boatload of excellent instructors because enrollments were too soft. It was a frustrating time, and we weren’t getting accurate information or appropriate support from the administration, but when I tried to explain myself to the incoming chair he misunderstood my rant/wail as a threat. Wanted to know if I wanted more money. I told him I wanted more time, could he get me some of that?
Thursday, May 8, 2008
In addition to teaching my conventional short fiction workshop, I’m also piloting an online novel writing workshop for eight students, most of whom are continuing projects begun in f2f seminars I called “Imagining the Novel.” ItN was all about giving undergrads permission to try what was really in their heads and to expose them to what it feels like to write in the long form. I also wanted it to be a genuine workshop wherein the writing was discussed as it was produced. From what I’ve heard, many novel workshop sessions are about writing and not necessarily about the writing. By the end of term, each ItN participant had written a stack of 80-100 pages that had been read and remarked upon. A handful of those writers really felt they were onto something, and so the online continuation was set up. The course was designed for collaborative teaching, but my partner hasn’t been able to participate, which is a drag. However, the energy of the writers has been outstanding, and they are reading each other’s works with voracious passion. I am officially exhausted.
It’s not that I am in any way qualified to teach novel writing to groups of undergrads, but I’m the only one in our prestigious program who is willing. I came up with the workshop scheme after meeting so many recent freshmen who claimed to have written one or more novels already. Which lead me to wonder, just how do we learn to write big books anyway? And does that process have to be more private than short story writing? And why offer the opportunity for serious community only to grad students?
Yeah I know the answer to that last question. So there are a lotta ponies and wizards out there. Big deal.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
I did get mom an awesome blouse for mother's day. I think it's way better than a tempurpedic pillow.
crawling off to croak now--
Friday, May 2, 2008
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
First impressions, a little grumpy--James Terry gets a nod for "Weed Man," but not for "Orgasm," a much more sophisticated, less exploitative story. And by exploitative I refer to the main character's limited dramatic agency. In "Orgasm," everyone has all the critical tools they need, it's an even field. I feel the same way about "Mammals," by Nick Antosca, but in this case I'm just being a big ol' squeamish girl.
I have no horses in this race--haven't published in a couple of years since I've been working on the novels (how's that for a presumptive excuse?), but I did make the list three times before. It's a great feeling, and my congratulations go out to all the authors and eds!
oh wait--"Orgasm" was published in '08, so not eligible. note to self: remember for next years nomination . . .
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Someone likes twenty four words I wrote—thirty nine with title plus “by Laura Ellen Scott.” (More on that the realer it gets.) But in the mean time I’m reminded that fiction writers can get hung up on quantity, an illusion of substance that inevitably leads to anxiety. The poets I know don’t fret about limited resources and commodity with regard to things made out of words. But with every semester I meet batches of new writers trembling under the weight of something—is it foggy careerism? So I ask them to embrace two notions, even if it’s just pretend: 1) it’s okay to be a big-letter-A “Artist,” and 2) you will never run out of stories.
They believe one of these things but not the other.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
"Diversion," and publish it in FRiGG.
Also enjoyed "Young Frankenstein," but it made me weepy (just back from New Orleans which always amps up the 'mones). No heart to read "Ditched," just yet.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
We’re going to Jazzfest this weekend, and that makes me quite happy. We go to New Orleans at least twice a year, and our favorite music spots are Snug Harbor to see anyone and The Spotted Cat to see The Jazz Vipers. My current novel project is set in New Orleans, as are two short stories that I have out for consideration. Wouldn’t it be cool if StorySouth organized link lists of their stories sorted by locale for us desk-chained tourists?
This pic was taken last August during Satchmofest. The statue is called "Old Man River." He was fully naked on Friday, but he was draped with a sheet Saturday morning. A tourist from Minnesota enlisted my help ("That's not right, that's art"), and while we attempted to disrobe him, her husband looked on. We failed, managing to yank the sheet even lower, making OMR look pretty hot.